Understanding Racism in Social Context

Race is a social construction. This means that biological or phenotypic traits are classified in ways that reinforce inequalities benefiting majority groups. Hence “race” is understood differently across nations, depending on history and culture. White people have a tendency to see racism in subjective and relativist views: White Canadians think that racism is less of an issue in their country than in the USA; White people in Aotearoa New Zealand think racism in Australia is far worse than in their own backyard; and Australians think racism in Australia has “gotten better,” and that we are better off than the USA. These comparisons are one way in which White supremacy is maintained locally. Individual observations about so-called “worse” racism in other countries only serves to maintain racial injustice. Let’s now see how this plays out in everyday discussions of racism.

Continue reading Understanding Racism in Social Context

Stop Forced Adoptions

Protesters gather out the front of the Parliament of New South Wales. A lage Aboriginal flag hangs over the gates. An Aboriginal man is signing translation in Auslan. There are camera crews and photographers.

Today marks the 11th anniversary of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s Apology to the Stolen Generations. From 1910 to 1970, up to one third of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (100,000 children) were forcibly removed from their families and sent away from their communities. They were classified according to their skin colour and put into Christian missionaries where they suffered abuse and neglect, or they were placed with White foster families who did not understand their needs. These children were forced to forget their language, culture and spirituality, and in many cases they were not told of their Indigenous heritage.

The Bringing Them Home report of 1997 gathered evidence of the impact this cultural genocide had on Indigenous Australians, showing that it led to intergenerational trauma, poor health, and socio-economic issues. The report made 54 important recommendations to end the cycle of violence against Indigenous Australians.

Twenty years later, Indigenous children are being removed from their families up to four times the rate.

Join the Grandmothers Against Removals, protesting forced adoptions law in NSW. Their ethos is that: ‘The best care for kids is community.’ Below are my live-tweeted comments, beginning at the Archibald Fountain in Sydney.

Continue reading Stop Forced Adoptions

Whiteness, Racism and Power

Here’s a typical example of how White people exercise and maintain racism. Kerri-Anne Kennerly flies into a rage about Saturday’s protests, led by Aboriginal people, seeking to change the date of Australia Day and establish systemic reform that includes a Voice to Parliament and Makarrata (treaty). Kennerly taps the table angrily, ‘Has anyone of them been out to the Outback where children, babies, 5 year olds are being raped. Their mothers are being raped. Their sisters are being raped. They get no education. What have you done? Zippo.’

Here, Kennerly evokes the same strawman argument that politicises rape and child abuse that has been used since colonisation to deny Aboriginal people rights. She could be referring to the Northern Territory Intervention, where the army went into remote regions to justify removals of Aboriginal children. The Intervention was NOT based on evidence – that’s already been proven. It has been catastrophic for communities. Continue reading Whiteness, Racism and Power

Visual Sociology for December 2018

Visual sociology for December 2018! I bring you back some of the final sights from my secondent to the Central Coast. We delve into the political and health upheavals in South Africa from the past half-century.  We then mosey over to the zoo, on a super hot day, and see that elephants know how to throw a good water party!

‘We are breastfeeding friendly’

I loved this sticker at a cafe in The Entrace, Central Coast of New South wales! 2 December 2018.

Continue reading Visual Sociology for December 2018

Sociology of Indian-Australians and the Diwali Festival

I’ve been away for work for awhile now, and hope to bring you more on this soon. For now, I thought I’d share with you a post I had planned to  publish weeks ago, but haven’t been able to finish until now. Let’s talk about the sociology of Indian people in Australia, with a case study of the Hindu festival of Diwali in Melbourne.

Indian migration to Australia has a long history, dating back to the 19th Century,  with early records showing the British brought Indian servants (noting this may have included forced servitude). At the time of colonial Australia’s first Census, there were 1,800 Indian people in Australia. Today, Indian-Australians represent our fourth largest migrant group and they are also the biggest growing migrant group next to China, with their population doubling in the past decade, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

In the most recent Census of 2016, over 455,000 Australians were born in India, corresponding to 1.9% of our population, though this does not include the second-generation (their children born in Australia).  Together with Nepalese-Australians, Indian people make up 76% of the Hindu population in Australia (noting that Hindu people make up only 1.9% of our national population).

Indian families gather at Diwali: Indian Festival of Light Oct 2014. Federation Square, Melbourne, Australia
Diwali: Indian Festival of Light, Federation Square

Continue reading Sociology of Indian-Australians and the Diwali Festival

We Have All the Time for Diversity

Disfruta – our visual sociology of October-November 2018.

Unemployed philosophers

Our backup career has been taken by The Unemployed Philosophers Guild. 1 October 2018.

We have all the time for…

The Bank, a local pub in Newtown, New South Wales, greets everyone with respect. Except racists, sexists, transphobes, direspectuful people and dickheads. Useful policy for our weary days. 2 October 2018. Continue reading We Have All the Time for Diversity

Art and About

With handmade goodies, llamas in Newtown, a Mexican mural, and weird commemorative plates, this visual sociology for September 2018 is a doozey! Let’s start with the highlight John Mawarndjul’s work.

Highlight: John Mawurndjul, Lorrkkon 1985-2008

John Mawurndjul, Lorrkkon (1985-2008). These are ceremonial logs that have been hollowed out and painted to honour the dead. 22 September

Continue reading Art and About

Don’t Ever Forget Where You Come From

Our visual sociology for August 2018 gives us the gift of union-inspired art, 130 years of contemporary works and a blue zebra.

State of the Union

Exhibition at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, about student and workers’ industrial action (mostly at Melbourne University and local industrial rights movements). Very interesting look at social protest and solidarity across groups. Banner art has been a staple element of the union movement, but eventually waned. The artform rose once more in the 1980s. One of the quotes is by Melbourne Union alumni, Christos Tsiolkas, who was the first in his Greek migrant family to graduate from university. His uncle pointed out that his working class labour made the university buildings possible. He warned his soon-to-be successful nephew, ‘Don’t ever forget where you come from.’ 9 August

Continue reading Don’t Ever Forget Where You Come From

The Social Construction of Migrant Youth Deviance in Public Spaces

Silhouette of figures wearing baseball caps with the sunset in the background

This cartoon below by Charles Barsotti is a good illustration of the social construction of group deviance in public spaces. This cartoon points out how some social groupings can be given negative labels, such as a “cult.” The beliefs or the practices of particular socio-economic groups can are treated with suspicion by a dominant group where they do not conform to society’s norms, values, behaviour or appearance. Non-conformity can lead to the creation of stereotypes; that is, labels that simplify specific qualities of some people as typical of the group they belong to (hence the cartoon, where one wolf says to another, “We’re a pack, not a cult.”).

In most circumstances crowds that “blend in” and meet society’s standards of “acceptability” escape the stigma of social deviance. Cases where “ordinary” groups might be negatively labelled by authorities might occur during times of civil unrest, such as during political protests, or due to other political cycles, such as the lead up to an election.

Racial minority youth are often labelled as deviant simply for being in public. In the case of Aboriginal youth, even something as routine as being in a shopping centre is mired by harassment by security (Perry 2018: Powell 2018). In another example, Muslim girls have been forced to leave a school excursion at a public exhibition centre because other visitors felt “uncomfortable” (Foster 2017).

Let’s take a look at this problem of stereotyping racial minority youth in public spaces, focusing specifically today on migrant minorities. We’ll examine how labelling these youth as “deviant” keeps society from paying attention to pressing social problems, such as structural inequality and interpersonal gender violence.

Continue reading The Social Construction of Migrant Youth Deviance in Public Spaces

Vivid Festival 2018 and Other Delights

The Vivid Festival, which lights up the streets of Sydney over June, is a big feature for this month’s visual sociology for June-July 2018. We marvel at the wonder of an enchanted Cinderella-esque Sociology of Trolleys. We meet a cool watermelon and other creatures along the way. The highlight of the past two months is Dark Emu. Guess who had front row tickets to this vanguard work by Bangarra Dance Theatre?

Dark Emu

Based on Bruce Pascoe’s wonderful and important research into Australia’s pre-history – the agrarian and aquaculture innovation by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people prior to invasion is the focus of this beautiful dance performance.

“This work cultivates a physical and visceral response to Uncle Bruce Pascoe’s book and our deep Australian knowledge. Whether we embrace it or not, we are this country – we are of the land, the water, the stars & the dark in between. As Australians awaken from a kind of collective amnesia, these are stories, ideas and practices we should all be able to access, learn from and respect… I feel like Australia is ready…. Dark Emu is a sense that we are part of something greater.” – Yolande Brown, co-choreographer.

“We’re told every day that the world is falling apart around us, but maybe if we just gripped onto something that was there before all this, it would ground us a little. Dark Emu reminds us to take a breath and cling to our piece of land.” – Daniel Riley, co-choreographer.

You must experience this work. The choreography and music are stellar. The dancers carry large props to phenomenal effect – from large rocks, to wood that is rearranged into shelter for the women and later fences to entramp them. A dizzying sequence centres on blow flies representing the contempt of the colonisers for the traditional custodians and their land, which they tried to destroy.

Played in Sydney until 14 July then touring nationally.

Continue reading Vivid Festival 2018 and Other Delights