There are many tolerant Australians out there. But there are many racist Australians too. That's something most Caucasian people aren't aware of in this country. But in fairness, if you're not on the receiving end all you've got to go on is the tourism advertising which promotes Australia as a multicultural paradise. It's not. I just watched this video and it got me thinking:
We've toured Australia 5 times, including plenty of rural touring. As a Brissie-born Aussie with Sri Lankan parents you'd be surprised how often I get "nigger", "go back home" and "monkey" time comments thrown at me, even at shows. My brother gets it regularly too- teenagers shouting insults from cars as they pass. Two of my ex-girlfriends' fathers' first comment to them was about my colour. There was a string of violence against Indian international students a couple of years back (they pay for their tuition- the racist attacks lost universities a lot of money).
Our band has toured Europe for the last 3 years and couch surfed the entire time, so we've met lots of real Europeans. From personal experience the UK, France, Netherlands and Scandinavia are much more progressive, multicultural and racially tolerant places than Australia (although still not perfect by any means). Germany has it's problems but they're not worse than Australia's- just different. Eastern Europe has been a bit rougher but to be fair they're still new to multiculturalism.
We Aussies shouldn't forget that in 1998 the nationalist One Nation party (who's entire campaign was pretty much built on racism) won 9% of the federal vote in the federal elections. In other words, 1 in every 11 Australians voted for a openly racist, nationalist party. In state of Queensland where I was born that figure was 22%. That was only 15 years ago.
In the US, slavery and the struggle for civil rights are taught extensively as part of American history and constantly discussed in the news, on the net, in politics, in movies and on TV. Sure, the US has ongoing racial issues but no-one is unaware of the magnitude or importance of them. Post-war Germany is extremely aware of its past and comes down on racism HARD. Their anti-discrimination laws should be an example to the rest of the world. Which is why both of these countries are making more progress than Australia racism. However, these countries do have the advantage of larger minority populations and it's much harder to ignore the voices of several million people...
Australia has some dark elements in our past that we gloss over far too quickly. When you brush over history, you don't learn from mistakes and the lessons are too easily forgotten. The indigenous people of this country were not just treated badly, they were treated appallingly. Most Australians don't know that slavery existed here (eg. Aboriginal divers for the pearl industry). And then there's a whole generation of indigenous children who were stolen from their parents. Those kids are adults now, yet between 30% to 50% of Aussies were opposed to our Prime Minister officially apologising to them in 2007. The White Australia Policy on immigration only ended around 1975. If we were more aware of the reality of what happened in our own back yard it would change the public's general attitude and give our kids a whole different kind of passion for equality at school.
Unfortunately we don't have many non-Caucasian celebrities or politicians who can bring these things to the attention of the masses. Nor have we have any riots forcing us to deal with them head on. So we need to make this happen for ourselves:
A) Actually recognise the problem exists
B) Better education
C) Encouraging kids to travel to other countries and experience other cultures
At the end of the day, I've never meet an educated backpacker that was also a racist. We're all on this little blue dot together so it's about time we shared the love and ditched the hate. So share this with some friends, spread some awareness and together we can change things for the better!