Academic journal article International Journal of China Studies

Explorations into White Australia's Sense of Superiority over Chinese

Academic journal article International Journal of China Studies

Explorations into White Australia's Sense of Superiority over Chinese

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

A literature review reveals that most studies and news coverage about Australia's ethnic issues about Chinese people and culture looked into racial discrimination, but few focused on the feeling of Australian superiority over the Chinese (Belot, 2015; Berman and The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, 2008; Booth, Leigh and Varganova, 2011; Cal, 2012; Coorey and Walker, 2014; K.M. Dunn, 2003; Kelley, 2011; Loosemore and Chau, 2002; Mak and Nesdale, 2001; Miller, 2011; Teo, 2012; I. Walker, 2001). One empirical study (S. Li, 2013) raised an alarm bell. It involved a group of 13 Australian high school teachers of Anglo-Celtic background who took part in an in-country language and culture program in China for three weeks in 2011. Of their 11 reflective diaries required as part of their assessments and given consent for research purposes, only two admitted the existence of benevolence to some extent, in particular in an established friendship, nine expressed a feeling of superiority over Chinese people, with one saying "on the whole the Chinese give the impression of being rude and noisy", and another announced that "the Chinese are a rude race" (p. 38). As current and prospective Chinese language teachers in Australian schools, the impact of these teachers' attitudes about Chinese people and culture on the young generations of Australians whom they will be educating cannot be underestimated. It could be judgmental to claim this is typical of all Australians, but the reasons behind their attitudes towards the Chinese need to be identified, described, and explained. Prior to examining the feeling of Australia's superiority over the Chinese, it is necessary to first distinguish the difference between racial superiority and racial discrimination.

Racial superiority is the ideological root of racial discrimination, while the latter is an enactment of the former, together they form the two integral parts of racism. The latter often draws most public attention and can be unveiled and judged by law. Examples of racism include assault, verbal abuse, and lower pay rates or employment benefits. Racial superiority is an attitude, characterised by contempt or condescension, which draws little attention from researchers and public media in light of its veiled nature and the legal difficulties in proving that an offence has been committed. This feeling of racial superiority may manifest itself, for example, by looking at a Chinese person in a contemptuous manner; being condescending or talking down to them as if they are of different intellectual level; or not showing them the same courtesies accorded to other White Australian. Due to the nature of racial superiority, unveiled and legal if not enacted into racial discrimination, this kind of attitude can be equally humiliating spiritually and on a much larger scale. As racial superiority in Australia is traceable back to the White Australia Policy, White Australia's superiority should be a proper term for racial superiority in the Australian context.

Despite little research and few news reports on White Australia's superiority, it is reasonable to assume that the number of people who hold such attitude without manifesting them is conceivably larger than those who have enacted it. A telephone survey in 2003 provided such empirical support. The telephone survey of 5056 residents from different ethnic groups in the states of Queensland and NSW revealed that 83 per cent of respondents admitted racism is a problem in Australia. Twelve per cent of Australians admitted candidly that they were racist (K.M. Dunn, 2003). Evidently, from crime figures, most of these self-confessed racists have not committed an offence, or perhaps these have not been reported. They may not have had an opportunity or lack the courage to commit a crime. Thus it can be concluded that White Australia's superiority is more widespread than racial discrimination. Of course, White Australia's superiority does not specifically target Chinese people. …

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