Friday, 28 June 2019

People do prefer their own kind but are they racist?

This week I’ve had two conversations on Twitter that hinged on the issues of tolerance and belonging. In one conversation someone tweeted a clip from an article by academic Clive Hamilton that in part pointed toward John Howard’s hefty increases to the immigration rate and how that had changed the feel of Australian cities. “Is Clive Hamilton saying he agrees with the view that (non-white) immigration has made cities ‘feel alien’?” this person said. In response to this, another person, who I follow, tweeted, “This is literally the definition of xenophobia.”

I thought this was a bit extreme and I said, “Especially older people in some suburbs, who rely on shopping outings to supply them with social interaction, can feel excluded when most of the shops are occupied by, say, Chinese or Korean operators.” “Diddums,” was the reply. “They’re only choosing not to make friends because of racism.” A bit put out, I responded again saying, “Well, often it's because the shop staff don't speak English very well. This was chronicled in Campsie when I lived there, by the local paper. They ran stories about it. Personally I loved living in Campsie.”

I had uncovered a morass of bad intentions and typical progressive intolerance of differing opinions. The person I was talking with in this case is a journalist who specialises in technology. He is very forthcoming on Twitter and has a lot of followers. I let the matter rest.

The second conversation began when NME, the music magazine, tweeted, “Morrissey: ‘Everyone ultimately prefers their own race … does this make everyone racist?’” Someone I don’t follow tweeted, “(1) No we don't. (2) If you do, yes it does.” Again, I thought this was a bit preposterous given the tendency of people from the same cultures to congregate in certain suburbs, and I pointed this out, saying, “So why do migrants congregate in specific suburbs in our big cities? Ever been to Hurstville or Lakemba?” The conversation that resulted from this exchange turned out to be quite long and rambling and hinged, on the part of my interlocutor, on the difference between cultural background and race. He insisted that what I was talking about wasn’t about race but about cultural affinity, which I thought was splitting hairs and I said so. In the end he thought I was supporting his theory when I gave him some basic facts about the Chinese, who we had ended up focusing on to prosecute our arguments.

These conversations showed me two things. One is that if people feel strongly enough about something they will do anything in their power to avoid acknowledging the truth of a fact that contradicts their belief. Any stray or elusive piece of information that even tangentially supports their position will be marshalled in an effort to prevent the edifice they are trying to keep intact from falling apart. You see this from governments and you see it in the behaviour also of individuals. Nothing is too recondite or rarefied that it cannot be turned into concrete proof of what they have just said or affirmed in the ongoing argument. And we wonder why it's so hard to get people to accept difficult ideas like global warming. We are hard-wired to be stubborn for in persistence lies survival.

The other thing that became clear to me is that people on the left are willing to accept racism (or xenophobia or chauvinism) when people from other countries practice it, for example Chinese people who live in one of the places in Sydney where there are lots of Chinese restaurants and shops that cater to this nationality, but they are absolutely unable to accept it when people of their own kind practice it. The double standards are stunning and clear to see. It’s fine to be bigoted if you are a Muslim and will only live in Auburn among your own kind but if you are bigoted and Anglo then you are persona non grata.

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