When hasn’t it been OK to be white?

DIVISION: The right to free speech does not exempt the likes of Senator Pauline Hanson from criticism. Picture: Alex EllinghausenIs itOK to be white? Isolated instancesaside, when has itnot been?

Much like sexism, having someone point out that you, as a person of European descent, may have benefited from the pre-existing way of things is hardly persecution.

The AFL and NRL recognising the significant contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander footballers with dedicated Indigenous rounds? It’s not “reverse racism”.

What about a national day dedicated to raising awareness about the considerabledisadvantages that Indigenous people still face in regards to things like health and education? Nope.

Pharmaceutical subsidies to help address genetic predispositionand soaringdiabetes rates among Aboriginal people? Not really.

No longer being able to tell racist jokes that may have been considered “funny” when you were growing up? Please.

In the case of Pauline Hanson –who recently failed in an unnecessary attempt to have the Senate pass a motion declaring in part that “it’s OK to be white” – having people callyou out on your constant efforts to divide society into “us”and “them”cannot be equated with discrimination.

Yes, people like Ms Hanson and Sydney’sshock jockshave aright to free speech.

However, thatdoesn’t exempt them from criticism of their blatant dog-whistling, or questions about how responsible it is for them to use their platform in such a way.

When asked for specific examples of anti-white racism,supporters often provide vague examples of an Islander boy getting picked ahead of their cousin’s friend’s sonfor the school rugby team, or a deliberately inflammatorypage being removed from Facebook.

They also complain that if they celebrate “being white” – whatever that is –it’s automatically considered racist.

Really? Who’s picketing the Beechworth Celtic Festival in Victoria’s north-east? Is anyone calling for the Dutch n Society in Wollongong to be shut down?Andwho exactly complains abouta bit of Oktoberfest?

Any reservations about Day, meanwhile, tend to be more to do with the appropriateness of the timing, not the occasion per se.

There is a big difference between celebrating the culture and customs of your ancestors and putting yourself beside a mish-mash of extremists whom another politician fond of using the divide and conquer method might declare to be“very fine people”.

Indeed, “it’s OK to be white” has long been a catchcry of the white supremacist movement globally.

For many people around the world, they don’t even have the luxury of knowing exactly where their roots liedue to the horrors of slavery and large-scale dispossession.

In , Indigenous peopleare still dealing withintergenerational fallout after families wereripped apart as a result of decades of official government policy.

Our nation may have finally granted them full citizenship and made strides in the reconciliation process throughthings like the national apologyand land title reforms, but there’s a long way to go.

Recently, migrants from Africa and the Middle East, many fleeing real persecution,have enduredaccusations and even public abuse about their religion or customs, as well as the involvement of a minority in crime.

In some places, young peoplehave been further marginalised by misleading reporting of incidents involving “new” ns.

Some media outlets have shown themselves willing to scream about “African riots”, but whenlarge groups of Anglo-Saxon youths fight on a beach it’s painted as merelya party that got out of hand.

Sadly, despite the broad success of multiculturalism – not just in metroareas, but in many regional centres – ns have sometimes exhibited a fear of the “other”.

From the slaughterofIndigenous tribesby some settlers and the widespread vilification ofIrish and Chinese miners during the gold rush, to the long-running White Policy and scare campaigns about an impending takeover by Asians, as a nation we’ve had our low points.

Of course, there’s reason for hope, too.

Today, Bendigo’slinks to Chinese culture playa central role in the town’s annualEaster Festival.

Initially ostracised by some, the post-war Italians and Greeks who came to areas like Griffith inNSW and north-east Victoria helped laythe foundations ofa booming food, wine and coffee culture that’s the envy of many around the world.

Havingan appreciation of other people’s customs –and defending their right to maintain them –in no way denigrates your own.

Similarly, acknowledging the wrongs of the past and striving for a more equitable society – for everybody– doesn’t mean it’s somehow not OK to be white.

Our childrenwill go on to revel in whatAfrican and Middle Easterncultures have to offer.

And perhaps their Indigenous friends will one dayhave a literacy level and life expectancy like their own.

But wouldn’t it be better for our nation if we all–whatever our background – did our best to not make them wait.

Matt Crossman is a Fairfax journalist.