Posted on March 19, 2019

The Christchurch Shootings Should Implicate All White Australians

Rachel Withers, Slate, March 18, 2019

Who is responsible for the terrorist attack that killed at least 50 New Zealanders as they prayed in their mosques? {snip}

{snip} It’s not unreasonable to place some measure of blame on those who have stoked the international spread of white-supremacist ideology.


I’m a white Australian. I know that blaming myself and my cohort is illogical, but I can’t escape the feeling that all of white Australia is implicated in the deaths — a white majority that has fomented and let foment hate. Though he may have labeled himself a European, 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant was an Aussie through and through, growing up in a country town north of Sydney, steeped in mainstream Australian racism and our particular national brand of Islamophobia. He grew up in the same Murdoch-controlled mass media environment that the rest of us did — one that recently trashed Islam 2,891 times in a single year — and under the same governments, with prime ministers who have repeatedly stoked anti-Muslim sentiment for votes, with one major party making it central to their electoral strategy.

I grew up steeped in the same environment, just two years younger than Tarrant, and when I was a child the omnipresent racism seemed, well, normal to me. Australia was a proud multicultural country, I was told, but this also seemed to encompass race riots and the turning back of boats filled with brown, black, and Muslim refugees. Publicly demonstrative racists like Australian Sen. Pauline “Please explain” Hanson were a national joke, not a national threat — the refugees were the threat, apparently. These days, as one local from Tarrant’s hometown told the New York Times, “There is still a lot of racism around the place. It’s usually sort of hidden a little bit.”

You could say the same of federal politics, with its coded appeals to white, racist fear — it’s only hidden until suddenly you can’t avoid it. Indeed, many white Aussies will tell you that the persistence of racist tropes is mostly harmless, as many did after the Serena Williams cartoon incident. Australians: We’re just a bunch of fun-loving, cheeky larrikins, right, mate? Well, we can now say that one of the deadliest hate crimes in history was perpetrated by a white Australian. But not just by a white Australian: As Amy Remeikis at the Guardian put it, the massacre was “carried out in the name of white Australia.”

I’ve long felt that racism is Australia’s most serious problem, our “festering sore. {snip} But did I do enough to stop the ideology’s spread? Did I condemn hatred loud enough? Did I fight white supremacy every day? I did not pull the trigger, but it does not feel right to say I bear absolutely none of this national burden.


{snip} In 2008, the nation officially apologized to Indigenous Australians for its extreme mistreatment of them, in particular the horrendous policy of taking Indigenous children from their families — “a great stain [on] the nation’s soul,” said the prime minister at the time. Australians have also taken collective responsibility for more local tragedies. {snip}


White Australians must no longer tolerate those mainstream voices who give white supremacy a platform and megaphone. Instead of brushing aside the racism in our homeland, or pointing instead toward Trump and the United States, we must call out dog whistles in our own government, in our own backyard, every chance we get. We must condemn hate speech not just when someone like Anning goes “too far,” and we must deny visas to alt-right figures who come to our shores expecting a friendly welcome not just in the wake of right-wing terror attacks, but always. We must fight the normalization of Islamophobia. And above all we must accept responsibility for the hatred we have normalized. Rather than go easy on ourselves, we must go hard. “Resist the urge to blame,” wrote Quillette founder Claire Lehmann. On the contrary, this is exactly when we need to be assigning more blame and scrutinizing the racist swamp from which Tarrant emerged. {snip}