Discuss How the Concepts of ‘Race’ and ‘Ethnicity’ Perpetuate Inequality in Australian Society.

Topics: Ethnic group, Race and Ethnicity, Australia Pages: 6 (1917 words) Published: January 8, 2010
Australia is known for its multicultural society, but race and ethnicity are a huge factor of persistent racism and inequality in this country. The driving force behind this is the strong belief that some of the population still hold against people who appear different to themselves. To gain a clear understanding of this sensitive topic one must look at the origins, forms and effects of racism. This essay will look at how the concepts of ‘race’ and ‘ethnicity’ perpetuate inequality in our society, a brief history of Australia in relation to racism and how people experience these inequalities today in a society that we call multicultural.

Modern Australia was established as a ‘region of recent settlement’ in 1788 which was a small part of a larger process of European colonisation (Bessant & Watts, 2002, p. 219). They had a set of ideas, values and beliefs and assumed that aborigines had no system of land ownership, agriculture, animal husbandry. Indigenous people have been in Australia for more than 100,000 years (Bessant & Watts, 2002, p. 222). The White Australia Policy in the 20th century encouraged immigration only from Britain, but didn’t allow ‘Asians’ and ‘Non-whites (Economou N, 1998, p. 363). By 1950’s people from all countries were allowed to migrate into Australia to help post war reconstruction. The colonial immigration saw a mass migration of European people mostly from Britain to Australia. It is said that between 1788 and 1852 approximately 170,000 people moved to Australia, and the gold rush era after 1851 made it a highly desirable country for migrating (Bessant & Watts, 2002, p. 231). By end of World War two, as war forced Australia to get closer to other countries, which resulted in the first significant weakening of the policy in 1951. Later in the 1950s and 1960s other parts of the White Australia Policy were gradually dismantled. By the 1970s the federal government had removed all racial restrictions from its immigration law (Bessant & Watts, 2002).

Various writers have contradictory approaches and ways of looking at racism, making it a complex topic. It takes many different forms, ranging from physical violence to derogatory language. A person or group’s belief that their race is superior or inferior, or their moral and social traits are predetermined, based on biological differences can be termed ’racism’. A group of people sharing the same skin colour, same values, coming from the similar backgrounds may constitute as ’race’. One of the most common forms of racism found today is Institutional Racism, which stems from established corporations, and other powerful forces in society, thus making it hard to question and faces less public condemnation. Examples include housing, employment, businesses, education, religion and media (Healey, 2002). Typically, the basis of this type of discrimination is from irrational fear of people at the receiving end who belong to a different culture or ‘race’. Although, there have been ongoing debates about racism all around us for centuries, it is an assault on human rights as it methodically refuses people of different caste, colour, race, sex or their country of origin basic values underlined by Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which states that human rights are everyone’s birthright and apply to all without difference (Healey, 2002).

Common perception of shared origins, culture, lifestyle and traditions amongst a group of people or society is the universal definition of ethnicity (Bessant & Watts, 2002). People can share the same nationality but have different ethnicities. A few writers have put forward fascinating explanations of ethnicity. Edward Shils in his ‘primordial approach’ argues that he believes everyone has a primordial attachment to their motherland, people and religion which brings out strong emotional ties by socialising, which further gives rise to the need to have a separate identity and belonging. Then the ‘Mobilisationist...

Bibliography: Aspin, L J 1996, ‘Social stratification and inequality’, Focus on Australian society, 2nd edn, Longman, Melbourne.
Australian Bureau of Statistics 2009, Australian Bureau of Statistics, viewed 28 November 2009, < http://www.abs.gov.au/ >.
Bessant, J & Watts, R 2002, ‘Neighbours and nations: ethnic identity and multiculturalism’, Sociology Australia, 2nd edn, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, NSW.
Bolton, S & Peterson, C 2009, Indian students speak: Stop the racist attacks!, viewed 28 November 2009, < http://www.greenleft.org.au/2009/798/41083>.
Economou, N 1998, ‘The Politics of Citizenship: identity, ethnicity and race’, in Alan Fenna, Introduction to Australian Public Policy, Vol 1, Addison Wesley Longman, Melbourne.
Healey, J 2002, ‘Racism: Beyond Tolerance, A Fair Go’, Racism in Australia, Vol 180, The Spinney Press, Rozelle, NSW.
Van Krieken, R, Smith, P, Hobbis, D & McDonald, K 2000, ‘Migration, ethnicity and Australian Aboriginality’, Sociology: themes and perspectives, 2nd edn, Pearson Education, Frenchs Forest, NSW.
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