Is Australia a racist country?

It is a question that is going to yield different answers depending on who you ask, where they live, their background, experiences, and a whole host of other factors.

Ahead of the launch of news.com.au’s Great Aussie Debate, we asked 2000 Aussies a series of questions about their opinions on a broad range of topics.

One question they were asked is whether they believe Australia is a racist country.

The results found that men were almost twice as likely as women to believe that we are not a racist country.

Where the respondents lived also seemed to have an impact, with regional Australia’s 40 per cent more likely to believe Australia is “quite” or “very racist” as a nation than those in metro areas.

People aged between 30 and 39 were most likely to state Australia is “not racist at all”, with 21 per cent choosing this option in the survey.

People in this age group were 35 per cent more likely than the average Australian to hold this view.

Another question that Aussies were asked is how they felt racism has changed in the past 10 years.

People living in metro areas were more likely (50 per cent) to believe Australia has become less racist in the last 10 years, compared to those living in regional areas (42 per cent).

Taking a look at everyday phrases and sayings used by Aussies gives an indication of some of the small change

There is no doubt there have been changes across the country in the past decade, with many phrases and sayings that used to be commonplace since being exposed for their sinister origins.

Here is a list of some of the words and phrases that are no longer acceptable in our society.

1. Chinese whispers

Ten years ago, the majority of Aussies you asked would have remembered playing this game as a kid.

It involves passing a message along a line of people and seeing how it changes from start to finish as it is passed along.

The game is derived from dark origins, evolving from a racist idea in the mid 20th century that Chinese people spoke in a way that was deliberately unintelligible.

With the majority of people now realising the derogatory nature of the name, the game is mostly referred to as the telephone game.

2. Eeny, meeny, miny, moe

It is a common nursery rhyme that is often sung to or sung by children. It can also be used by kids to make a decision, for example, choosing a person to be “it” in a game of tag.

The accepted version of the song goes: “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe. Catch a tiger by the toe. If he squeals, let him go. Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.”

But, as many would know, there is also another, deeply offensive version of the song that traces back to the United States.

Prior to the 1950s, when the kid-friendly version of the rhyme became popularised, a common variant of the song that used the N-word in place of “tiger”.

3. Wog

Only in the past decade has the conversation about the offensive nature of the term “wog” really ramped up.

In Australia, the term was used to refer to people with South European ancestry. Historically, it was used as a slur to refer to the influx immigrants from the area who moved to Australia in the wake of World War II.

While there are those Aussies from South European decent that have come out defending their right to use word as they see fit, there are still many people who find it deeply offensive.

4. Peanut Gallery

You’ve likely heard the phrase “no comments from the peanut gallery” in reference to commentators or hecklers.

First evidenced in the 1800s, this phrase referred to the cheapest and worst seats in the theatre.

People who sat in this area were often stereotyped as rowdy or uncouth. This is where the racist and classicist undertones of the phrase come in as these seats were often reserved for or made up of African American patrons.

5. Indian/Chinese burn

Many Aussies will probably remember having this painful trick played on them, where a person would place both their hands on your arm and twist, creating a burning sensation and often leaving a red mark.

However, the term is widely perceived as racist and born from negative attitudes to Chinese and Native American people.

There are those that suggest the etymology is meant to refer to the historically perceived brutal methods of torture used by these groups.


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By Rahul

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