Discrimination also lies at the heart of many injustices closer to home. The over-incarceration of Aboriginal peoples and widespread violence against women cannot be remedied if we refuse to recognise and respond to anything other than one-off violations of individual freedoms. Anti-discrimination laws are sometimes denounced as “social engineering”… Society is already engineered. Women earn less than men, people with disability are disrespected and disbelieved in criminal proceedings, and job applicants with foreign-sounding names are less likely to get interviews than equally qualified Smiths and McKenzies. If the goal is to rid society of the distorting effects of social engineering, then addressing discrimination is not a hindrance, it’s essential…
Recognition of the importance of non-discrimination is one of the great contributions of the modern international human rights framework. Unlike some of the legal, political and philosophical traditions that preceded it, you don’t have to be white, a man or a landowner to claim human rights protections.
Strip equality from human rights and we’re left with a world where all humans are free, but some humans are more free than others.
– Rachel Ball, on proposed changes to Australia’s anti-discrimination law, specifically racial vilification in the media. Ball is the director of advocacy and campaigns at the Human Rights Law Centre, Australia. For an example of why racial vilification laws are necessary, read my discussion of Indigenous writer Anita Heiss’ case against media personality and bigot Andrew Bolt. Bolt, a White Australian man, used his media platform to question the authenticity of Indigenous leaders based on the fact that they were not “Black enough.” He did this to both discredit Indigenous leadership, but also to slur Indigenous Australian history of colonial violence, dispossession and removal of children from their communities.