So, racism. This could go several ways.
I could write a left-wing moan about how the unwashed bogan masses in the suburbs are so racist and how we’ve never really moved out of the 50s.
Or I could go for a right-wing diatribe about how the left paint us all as moral monsters when really Australia is a decent place and any issues we have are values-based, not racial (a la Andrew Bolt).
Or I could write that I am white, my entire family is white, nearly all my ancestors are white, I have a white circle of friends in a white-dominated country and so it’s not my place to talk about racism.
Or I could tell my story.
I was never a big fan of cars, as a boy. I was a big fan of books. So when it came for me to learn how to drive, I had no idea what I was doing. Dad, Mum and a friend all gave me good informal lessons, but I simply couldn’t pass the driving test. There were no professional instructors in the area. It’s rather embarrassing to admit but I failed it three times. Very unmanly of me I know.
I heard that a professional driving instructor was being brought up from Perth by an Aboriginal organisation so naturally I phoned up to book some much-needed help. I was willing to pay for it. The poor man at the other end of the phone was very nice about it but he said, and I quote as accurately as memory allows:
“I know this is going to sound kind of racist but I can’t book you in because you are Caucasian.”
It wasn’t his fault. In fact, he had booked some Caucasian students (i.e. white) last time the instructor came up and got a slap on the wrist for it. The Aboriginal organisation (which is funded by the government) had paid for him to come up and teach Aboriginal people how to drive to help them get a job. I was happy to pay my own way. But no. No white people allowed.
I state emphatically that the problem was not that I was rejected. In fact, their basic idea was fantastic. If an organisation wants to pay a driving instructor to teach people from low socio-economic backgrounds how to drive so that it’s easier for them to get a job then they certainly wouldn’t accept me. And in my town most of their students would be Aboriginal. And I would be fine with that.
The problem was that that’s not what they actually did. What they were actually doing were accepting people based on race, based on the colour of their skin, based on who their forefathers were. This was the basis of their funding, this was the basis of access to the instructor. That’s apartheid, that’s a genetic aristocracy. And that’s wrong.
We should treat people based on their needs, not their race. It’s a fact so blindingly obvious I’m surprised I have to say it in the 21st century.
It’s so blindingly obvious because race is entirely arbitrary. The colour of our skin is simply a biological phenomenon involving the chemical composition of our skin cells determined by our genetic ancestry. Hardly a relevant criteria to determine suitability for driving lessons, welfare, seats on public buses and marriages.
Alternatively, our living situation, our culture, our lifestyle, our socio-economic status, our needs and abilities are relevant. Some people need help because they are sick, or poorly educated or abused. Some people need help because they cannot drive, and some need help because they can’t get a job. When we want to help, these are the factors we need to consider.
Granting money, social privilege or driving lessons based on your race is nothing less than a genetic aristocracy where you get the better slice of the pie because of who your ancestors were, and what colour their skin was. And that makes no sense.