Trigger warning for racism and verbal abuse.
I have been in Melbourne this past weekend, mainly in order to attend the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular on Saturday. (It was truly spectacular. I was in raptures most of the time.)
Melbourne is very pretty, with such a different vibe to Sydney, the other major city I’ve been to other than Brisbane. I was looking forward to seeing some of the multiculturalism Melbourne is meant to display. Sadly, what stuck in my mind most was an incident on the tram that was definitely not what I was looking for.
I was sitting a couple of rows down from a man who could have been coded as stereotypically Australian – white, thongs, board shorts. Across from him was a non-white man, probably assumed to be from India or somewhere in the area. Without any warning or provocation (not that it would excuse his behaviour in any way), the white man suddenly starts verbally abusing the other man, getting louder and louder, grabbing his bag and then pushing him into the window of the tram. The other man gets up to go the other end of the tram, as does a young Asian woman sitting behind him. As he leaves the white man shouts “yeah, that’s right, fuck off, you fucking wog. Get the fuck off this tram.”
I was appalled. The only thing I wanted to do was set that racist bigot straight and yell at him for an hour. Which I wasn’t about to do, because I probably would have ended up with a black eye or worse.
Is this really what our country means when it says that it’s multicultural? I know that I shouldn’t judge a country on the actions of one idiot, but it’s everywhere: just look at the whole “boat-people” rhetoric that comes up again and again in government and media. Look at the way that people are constantly complaining about “Asians stealing out jobs” and “those damn Muslims taking over our country.” There’s still a pervasive way of thinking that constantly reduces Australians to the white people who came here from Great Britain in the 1700s and 1800s. That everyone else has no right to be here, especially not if their skin is a different colour or if they practise another religion.
Australia calls itself multicultural but it feels to me like we’re sliding backwards to complete White-Australia standards at an alarming rate. If there ever was something better to go backwards from.