The Mixing Pot

What I think about the mixing pot? Geeze, try another loaded question, teach. Where do I even start? It's a right mess, after all. The settlement. The stolen generation. Then the wave that was supposed to brighten the place up, only it really hasn't.

Confused? Well, my Grandma says this and it just kind of sticks: "the country's only gotten blacker with time, girl, and don't you kid yourself otherwise". Most people say it's multiculturalism: different cultures, different languages, different religions, different ways of life... Grandma's old enough to remember the times when the British folk came from across the sea and put themselves above the natives. "It's not necessarily the British now," she says, "but all this multiculturalism? It's a joke. We're as supremacist as we always were."

Sometimes, once upon a time, I'd ask her why. She'd rant for hours afterwards in explanation. Other times, Mum just put on a random movie and we'd settle onto the couch and watch. Most of them prompt rants too. But there's this one called Rabbit Proof Fence, and I'm always amazed at my Grandma for this, 'cause she never says a word through the whole movie.

It's awful. It's a good movie, I mean, as far as those gut-wrenching and human nature revealing movies go. But it's Australia. It's the country we live in, and the people who were our predecessors, our ancestors, and they were awful. I mean, taking kids away from their parents and dumping them in a whipping school? Trying to program them like they were CDs or hamsters? Not even letting them talk their own language - and then dump that on today's society where every second person, or more, are second or first generation Australians, or not even that. I mean, the amount of people who are here on those fancy visas: the ones only here to study, to work. And then the tourists. They're not hear to see those farms they threw kids into. They're here to see the Great Barrier Reef with all its coral, or the twelve Apostles down the Great Ocean Road, or the Grand Canyon somewhere in the centre.

It's not a dirty little secret though. It's dirty, yeah. The prime minister - a few prime ministers ago, since we've run through the last ones pretty quickly and I wonder if half the people even know who the current one is - made a public apology to those parents that were long gone. It was nice, in a sense. The general sort of sense that said Australia, as a country, was taking responsibility for the wrongs of its past instead of just brushing it under the carpet like the writers of history tended to. But my grandma, watching that, just shook her head and said it again: "it's only gotten blacker." And she still says it.

A few years later, I kind of see what she means. Sure, it's not necessarily the Aboriginals that get the hammer, but there's still that superiority between cultures. The "you don't belong here" attitude that grabs some unsuspecting passerby as she or he gets on the bus or train, just so they can get home from school or work or whatever. Hassle-free trip, yeah? Except it's not because someone sees darker skin or different colour hair or clothing styles and just call it out. Even the people who find it exotic, find it cool - it's all racism in the end, just painted with sparkles to make it seem like a good way to show it off. After all, not everyone's gonna like you going up them and saying: "oh, wow, your almond shaped eyes are super cool; I wish I was born with them" or "your skin is so dark; it probably never goes blotchy red in the sun like mine". I know I hate it when people look at my hair and say "wow, you're a natural blonde? See, I had to dye it and it never comes out quite that good." Honestly, your problem. I'd rather you don't look at my hair roots that closely, thank you.

Well, I guess you have to, being the homeroom teacher and all. Making sure we're in uniform and not breaking school rules know, I'm not sure if dying your hair entirely one colour is against the rules, but I remember a girl had highlights last year and she got grilled. But you do look to make sure we're not wearing patterned socks or socks of the wrong colour instead of plain white...but see, that's different. It's not because of how exotic we look, or how different. It's because we're in school and there are rules and you're making sure we've followed them.

Maybe society is a big school, except the rules have gotten all muddled up. Maybe that's the expectation our ancestors came in with, and they tried to tidy up a wild country and then just let it run off the road, or something. When did they shift from all white European to the mixing pot, anyhow? Not that the mixing pot's a bad thing. The bad thing is how the world prances around saying: "Australia's a multicultural country. See how accepting they are?" when we're not. We're really not.

Acceptance wouldn't have seen Indians in Australia purged in 2009 - or maybe purged is the wrong word, because there's a good number still here, but if it's bad enough that they feel the need to protest in New Delhi halfway across the world (or thereabouts; you know I'm pants at geography and that's not what we're graded on anyway). Acceptance wouldn't see all these 457 visas floating around either. Honestly, they get paid peanuts and suck the opportunities away from locals (who require more pay and on that merit alone are less likely to get the job) - that's not fairness. That's not equality. And that's a pretty small subgroup, when you consider the people who came over permenantly and who have neither experience working in Australia or the advantage of a 457.

And then there are the newer developments geared to some of the sub-populations that make up our diverse multicultural country. Things like the Understanding Indigenous programmes in some degrees at some universities - great for understanding the Aboriginals and where they're coming from, but there are a whole lot of other cultures equally (or perhaps more, depending on where in Australia you are) common that you don't get pants about. And then all these interpreting services you think are bridging the language gap? Sure, that mean it's not like Stolen Generation times where everyone has to learn english and you're not allowed to speak another language (and never mind that english has adapted words from other languages into itself because that's what languages cultures and the whole shebang do). But you notice how languages are always missing? Sometimes, it's the common stuff everyone knows exists as well. There was a hand washing sign over the sink last week and no greek, no urdu - and this is Parramatta. A lot of people speak urdu. Sure, a good number of them speak english too. My neighbour (the lady one), doesn't. Then there's the lady who couldn't get her learners because the RTA didn't have the test in arabic.

Call it lack of resources. Whatever. I'm not an adult, or a politician, or in charge of the world (and if I was any of those things, I wouldn't be giving a doing an off-script speech in front of you and this little here tape recorder, will I?). I don't see the big picture, just what's in my face and this is it. So yeah. I do kind of see what Grandma means. Racism and supremacy is a whole lot messier than it was back in the day, and if it was clear and stark and white back then, it's the murky turp and paint-mixed black now.

Ah, should've mentioned accents in there somewhere too. Too late now; you did tell us not to use the backspace button. Should've cut down on the commentary too, maybe. At least we don't need references. Though grandma might find that funny. Her, a footnote.

Then again, Australia has a lot of diversity, and most of it winds in the footnotes. The people who can't find interpreters at government buildings, at hospitals, for school and work and the things in between. The lack of places to buy halal beef in Sydney's second city - ah, but that's not really a racial issue, is it? That's religion. A whole different ballgame - but not so different. But I'm not supposed to be talking about religion, right? Just culture and race and all that stuff.

Writing Challenge Contest (The Review Game), February 2016, prompt: "When Highlanders were in a boat at sea, whether sailing or fishing, they were forbidden to call things by the names by which they were known on land. Thus the boat hook should not be called a 'croman' but a 'chliob'; a knife not 'sgian' but 'the sharp one' ('a ghiar'); a seal not 'ròn' but 'the bald beast' ('béisd mhaol'); a fox not 'sionnach' but 'the red dog' ('madadh ruadh'); the stone for anchoring the boat not 'clach' but 'hardness' ('cruaidh')." - Sir James George Frazer's "Taboo and the Perils of the Soul", vol. 3, "The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion"