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Racial Discrimination in Australian Society Essay (Critical Writing)


Introduction

In the modern Australian society, we believe that we are living in a society where racial discrimination is no longer practiced. However, recent studies show that our Australian society is still characterised by racial slurs that pose a serious threat to our national cohesion. According to Javen, Juad and Nazli (2012), it has been proven in many parts of the world, from the United States to South Africa, that racial discrimination has no benefit to the perpetrators and the victims. To the perpetrator, this may bring short-term satisfaction, especially when the intention was meant to make the victim feel inferior. However, such racial slurs cause a deeply-rooted scar on both parties that limits their trust towards each other. It creates hatred and a desire to engage in a physical duel as a way of fighting for the rights of the oppressed. In our Australian society, new pejorative words are finding their way into our spoken language, sometimes without our knowledge. When this occurs, it becomes almost impossible to have a united community where trust and love reigns over other divisive practices. It is on this background that I decided to conduct a research on the problem of racial slurs directed at indigenous Australians. In this section, I present a reflection of myself and my proposal based on an interview I had with a local social worker regarding my proposed research.

My Ability to Draw My Participant’s Opinion

I interviewed Mr. John Smith, a social worker in the local community of North Melbourne. Mr. Smith was an engineer at one of the leading telecommunication firms in the city of Melbourne for over ten years before he decided to quit his job. He opted to serve the community in fighting for the rights of the minorities. He did not engage in the activities of the civil rights groups, but was keen on listening to the plights of the minorities and finding a way of helping them in a non-political approach. He was a native Australian and had experienced the wrath of discrimination as he climbed the corporate ladder to become one of the most celebrated engineers in the city. He was, therefore, in the best position to offer guidance to this research and propose ways in which it would be successful in identifying factors fuelling racial discrimination and how this problem can be addressed. His opinions were very important.

I had to find a way of drawing my participant’s opinion about this study. Within the first few minutes of our interaction, I noticed that Mr. Smith was emotional towards the issue racial discrimination. The way he explained his personal experiences as a student and junior engineer at various firms within this city showed that he went through discrimination that hurt him in many ways. In order to draw his opinion, I had to identify with him. I had to find a way of making him feel that I share in his pain and belief that our Australian society should find a way of overcoming racial practices, including racial slurs. However, there was a big challenge I had to overcome. I belong to the White majority, the population that had been accused of instigating racial practices in the society (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012). Before him, I must have been a representative of the perpetrators of racial injustices. To get his sincere opinion over this issue under investigation, I realised that I had to win his trust. To do this, I had to dissociate myself from members of the society who have engaged in racial injustices because they form the majority of the population. I explained how we have fought racial slurs and other injustices at school since the time I joined college. I did explain to him that my proposed research project was meant to identify the racial slurs and other phrases which are hurtful to the Australian aboriginals living in North Melbourne.

My sincerity and conviction on the issue of racial slurs convinced him that I was a champion of human rights, especially the rights of the minorities in the society. Through me and through this research project, Mr. Smith saw an opportunity to talk to the society and inform them of his opinions about racial slurs. I did succeed in getting my participant’s opinions and interest to participate in this study.

My ability to reflect on my interview performance and how it was successful

My interview with Mr. Smith was a big success. He explained why he left one of the best employers in the city after working there for over ten years to become a community social worker. He explained his opinion over the issue of racial slurs and other pejorative words that many people use either to hurt others or without knowing that these words hurt. One of the main reasons why the interview was a success was because of the age difference. Even though I belong to the White majority that is accused of perpetrating racial discrimination against the minorities, Mr. Smith viewed me as a young man capable of bringing change when it is most needed. To him, I was a younger brother who shared in his pain and views about the need to have a united community closely knit in a fabric of mutual respect, care and love for one another irrespective of our skin colour or social background. Our shared networks, especially our desire to fight derogatory statements and words in our community of North Melbourne also contributed to this success. It is in this region that Mr. Smith has been working to help the weak and those who a socially disadvantaged.

My questions and wording of the questions also played a major role in enhancing the success of this interview. According to Liu and Liu (2014), the choice of words plays an important role in evoking specific emotions in people. I was very keen on the issue of diction because I was already at a disadvantaged position given my ethnic background. My questions demonstrated my willingness to participate in programmes that would help transform the society into a better place for all of the Australian citizens. My questions were very specific and I had very clear intentions. This meant that the participant did not have to guess the actual intention of the questions and the research study. Another reason that promoted the performance of the interview was the choice of the participant. I chose someone who had been a victim of racial slurs and other social injustices in our local community. This participant had been successful in life despite these injustices and had become a social worker trying to help people going through harsh realities of racial discriminations. He saw an opportunity to push for his agenda through this research project. He believed that this project will be of help in communicating to a section of the society about the need to embrace justice, respect, and love for one another irrespective of racial backgrounds or any other demographical differences that may group us into smaller units other than a united community.

My ability to successfully explain the ethical requirements of the research project

According to Islam and Jaai (2013), ethics is very important when conducting a research project. It plays part in ensuring that the research is valid and reliable. It was important for me to explain the ethical requirements of this research to the participant. In order to do this successfully, I organised for a face-to-face meeting with the participant. I started by explaining the reason why I decided to participate in the study. I then went ahead and clarified why I had chosen him to participate in this research. I told him that his experience and recent activities as a social worker in the community of interest were some of the principal reasons why he was chosen to be part of the research project. I informed Mr. Smith of my ethical responsibilities as a researcher. This involve protecting his identity as a participant, engaging him on how to apply the information extracted from the study, and the need to destroy all the voice records after completion of the project. I also informed him that he had the liberty to demand that the interview materials be eliminated as part of the research.

The respondent was entitled to having a copy of the final report when it was finally completed. I told him that ethical concerns could not be ignored because of the nature of the research. People are hurting due to derogative words used by a section of the society members against the minorities. On his side, I explained that he had some ethical responsibilities to observe. I explained to him that he had to be truthful and objective in all his responses. To find a solution to this problem that is threatening to tear apart of social fabric, we had to be truthful and objective in this study. It was the responsibility of the respondent to give answers that will be part of the solutions other than vilifying a section of the society. The respondent appreciated my concern for ethics in this study and promised that he will remain objective and truthful at all stages of the interview. That was the reason why this was a success.

My ability to explain to the participant relevance of the proposed research project

In order to participate in the proposed research project, it was important to ensure that Mr. Smith understood the relevance and importance of the study. I had to put to context the relevance and importance of the research project. In the history of humanity, Liu and Liu (2014) say that it has never been recorded that social segregation benefits members of the society. It may have short-term gains, but its long-term effects may sometimes be devastating. A brief overview of the incidents where racial injustices brought neither peace nor prosperity may help validate this claim. In German, Hitler’s Nazi Party convinced German citizens that all their socio-economic problems were as a result of the presence of the minority Jews in their community. The party claimed that the Jews were using supernormal means to prosper in the German community at the expense of the Germans. The result of the racial incitement led to the massacre of millions of Jews in what has been referred to in history as Holocaust. This never solved the problems the Germans had even after most of the Jews fled out of the country. In fact, the economic problems of the country worsened. In South Africa, the Dutch embraced social segregation, defining what the Blacks could or could not do, places they could or could not go, and social amenities that were specifically meant for the Blacks.

In that society, the Whites were considered superior to the Blacks. The irony in this case was that those who were segregated against were the Black majorities (Australian aboriginals, 2015). This led to a series of violent protests that affected business operations. Those who were affected the most were the Whites. Their shops were looted, cars burnt, and some were killed in mob attacks. It brought suffering to all members of the society. In the United States, there is a long-standing history of racial segregation against the minorities, especially the Blacks. However, this earned no one benefits. The violent protests accompanied by vandalisms, arbitrary arrests, police brutality, and the deeply-rooted mistrust among the community members only succeeded in making the community more insecure and less manageable. These are characteristics that we cannot withstand in our Australian community. Our country is one of those that are very secure and stable politically. We want this to never change. To achieve this, it is important to eliminate the elements that may bring divisions. We need to eliminate pejorative words, racial slurs that may create a feeling that we all belong to different social backgrounds. That is why this research is very important. This explanation I gave to the participant convinced him that this was an important research project that seeks to protect our delicate social fabric.

Reflection of the Participant’s Comments

According to Fullan (2014), when conducting a research, it is necessary for the researcher to be very keen on the comments made by the participants. Some of the comments may be made consciously, while others may be made while one is in a subconscious state. In this study, the comments made by the respondents had to be recorded for a further analysis. One of the most important elements noted from the comments was that the participant was emotional. Although he perfectly managed to prevent his emotions from clouding his judgments, it could be seen that he was talking out of personal experiences. He turned his emotions into passion, explaining why it is important to fight racial slurs and other practices that may make a section of the society feel that they are second class citizens. His comments were candid, and he was objective, especially when offering advice on how the vice of racial discrimination can be fought. This made it easy to trust his comments and the advice he gave. He was also very specific in his statement, always ensuring that he focused on the questions asked instead of giving a broad answer that may be confusing.

Assessment of participant’s opinion

It was important to assess the opinion of the participant in order to determine how to apply them in the study. At first, I became concerned when I realised that he had actually resigned from his engineering job because of his past unpleasant experiences. I thought that he had deep mistrust against the Whites in this community. However, as we got along in the interview, I realised that Mr. Smith is an open-minded person without any hatred towards the people who had mistreated him. In fact, he stated that one of the former fellow students who were very mean to him in high school became one his best friends they are currently working with to liberate this community from any form of social injustices. His choice of words, pronunciations, and the flow of his sentences demonstrated that he believed in every word he said.

The non-verbal cues he used during the speech, especially his facial expressions and body language was a true reflection of what he said. He never hesitated when answering the questions. In fact, it appeared as if the questions asked directly related to things that had been troubling his mind. In some instances, he answered the questions using rhetoric questions. However, this was in no way meant to be a rude way of answering the questions. It was meant to make me better understand some of the practical events in the society that make racial discrimination very dangerous if measures are not taken as soon as possible. He identified normal words that are currently being used pejoratively such as aborigines, strait islanders, coloured, blacks, Stone Age among others. These were once very normal and non-derogative terms in the Australian community. However, they are now used to denote a sense of despise and lack of respect to a section of the community. Sometimes the tone used, non-verbal cues, and even the pronunciation demonstrates lack of respect and love towards some members of the society.

My Ability to Present Detailed Reasons for My Reflection

In this reflective analysis, it was important to define my ability to draw the participant’s opinion and reflect on his comments. The reason why this was important was to get non-subjective information that strictly focused on our area of research project. The participant had been a victim of ethnic slurs when he was climbing the social ladder. He was in the best position to explain these slurs, their original meanings, and the new contexts under which they are used derogatively against the Australian aboriginals. He was also able to explain non-verbal cues that are used in isolation or together with the slurs specifically to hurt the minorities within this community. It was also equally important to conduct a reflective analysis of the responses given by the participant to ensure that his thoughts were not clouded by his hatred towards the Whites who are accused of being the perpetrators of these slurry words. The participant had to be truthful and objective in his comments in order to make them relevant to the study.

My Ability to Relate My Reflection to Relevant Research Literatures

It is imperative to relate my reflections to relevant literatures that will be used to support our research project. According to Atkinson and Heritage (1999), language is currently one of the major tools used to perpetuate racism and other acts of social discriminations. In many countries around the world, including Australia, the war against racism is bearing positive fruits. In the United States, the African Americans were of the lowest caste in the social setting of the country. However, the current president is an African American, a sign that the country has made positive strides in addressing the issue of racial discrimination. In Australia, the aboriginals were treated as second class citizens in a country that was dominated by the White immigrants. However, this has changed as the society struggles to ensure that there is peace and unity. According to Perez (2008), the government has enacted laws that prohibit discriminatory practices, especially those directed against the minorities. Many people believed that the Australian community was waking to a new dawn where race, religion, or social background played no role in defining one as a citizen of this country.

According to Apple (2004), a new form of racism is arising from the use of language in our society. The Australian English is getting modified in a way that terms that were previously considered normal are now becoming pejorative in nature. For instance, Wulf (2013) identifies the English term goggle which has been used for many years in normal contexts. However, many people are currently using the term to describe aboriginal’s large nostrils that resemble goggles. For this reason, the term is abusive in nature when used in some contexts. Another Australian English term that has found a new derogative meaning is boomer taken from the word boomerang. Most of the aboriginals take offence to the use of the term Abco because it is stereotypically used to mean that aboriginals are alcoholics. According to Hargreaves, Lieberman, Fullan and Hopkins (2014), these slurry words also cause mistrust, hatred, and divisions in our society. These literatures support our reflections above. It confirms the comments made by the participant that these derogative words or phrases only destroy instead of building a strong fabric in our community. The literatures will play an important role in the development of this research project. They will provide basic information that will be used before the actual process of data collection.

Transcript of the Interview and Signed Consent Form

Transcript of the interview

Investigator: What are the key changes that have occurred to the denomination of the native Australians among the rest of the denizens of the Australian population, and what social changes do these linguistic alterations can be the signifiers of?

Mr. Smith: Over the years, the Australian spoken English has changed as a section of the society members find new slurry meanings to normal words. These linguistic alterations have a negative impact on our social setting. The words are now used derogatively to denote negativities against the aboriginals.

Investigator: Does the racially insensitive denotation of the native Australians tend to be geared towards the negativity of the words that used to be the elements of people’s everyday vocabulary, or are these words subject specific?

Mr. Smith: It is true that the racially insensitive denotation of the native Australians is geared towards negative distortion of the words that were elements of people’s everyday vocabulary. Currently, they are used in ways that are hurtful to the aboriginals.

Investigator: What are the key tendencies in the development of the racial slurs used towards the native Australian residents of the North Melbourne community?

Mr. Smith: One of the key tendencies in the development of racial slurs commonly used in North Melbourne community towards the natives is negative coinage of meanings from normal words. For instance, the term goggle is used stereotypically to mean that all the native Australians have large round nostrils that resemble goggles. Another tendency is the use of new terms with the same sound as commonly used terms. For instance, the word Abco is a stereotype which means that the aboriginals and alcoholics. Other terms such as gin are also offensive when used to refer to female aboriginals.

Investigator: What principles is the process of creating the racial slurs directed at the native Australians based on and what concepts, both social and vocabulary related ones, is this process founded on?

Mr. Smith: The principles upon which creation of racial slurs directed to native Australians are based are stereotypical in nature. They are generalised beliefs that native Australians are alcoholics, ugly, swim in public, or like stealing red cars. Of course, these social and vocabulary concepts are founded on the basis discrimination and the desire to hurt the native Australians. They lack truth in them

Investigator: Is there a way to stop the process of the creation of ethnic slurs in the Australia English vocabulary?

Mr. Smith: Yes, there are ways in which the process of creation of slurs in our language can be stopped. It requires members of the society to understand the need to have a strong social fabric based on mutual respect, love, and concern for all Australians. This is a national problem that cannot be confined to North Melbourne community. Addressing the problem in this community and ignoring it in other parts of Australia will not bring a lasting solution. We all need to appreciate that we deserve respect. To be respected, we have to start by respecting others. Creation of slurs is a sign of lack of respect that should be avoided at all cost.

Signed consent form

I, John Smith, have read and understood the participant information sheet and consent form, and any questions I have asked have been answered to my satisfaction.

I agree to participate in the research project, realising that I may physically withdraw from the study at any time and may request that no data arising from my participation are used, up to four weeks following the completion of my participation in the research.

References

Apple, M. (2004). Creating difference: Neo-liberalism, neo-conservatism and the politics of educational reform. Educational Policy, 18(12), 12-44.

Atkinson, J & Heritage, J. (1999). Transcript Notation – Structures of Social Action: Studies in Conversation Analysis, Aphasiology, 13 (4), 243-249.

(2015). Racial Slur Database, Web.

Fullan, M. (2014). Positive Pressure in Second International Handbook of Educational Change. Chicago: Sage.

Hargreaves, A. & Fullan, M. (2012). Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School. Norderstedt: Books on Deman.

Hargreaves, A., Lieberman, A., Fullan, M. & Hopkins, D. (2014). Second International Handbook of Educational Change. New York: Cengage.

Islam, A. & Jaai, P. (2013). Do immigrants save less than natives? Immigrant and native saving behaviour in Australia. Economic Record, 89(289), 52-71.

Javen, J., Juad, W. X. & Nazli, J. (2012). Etymological analysis of the English language words. Language in India, 12(10), 580-592.

Liu, W. & Liu, W. (2014). Analysis on the word-formation of English nets peak neologism. Journal of Arts and Humanities, 3(12), 22-30.

Perez, R. M. (2008). Exploring the moderating effect of linguistic acculturation and context on the subjective well-being of Hispanic adolescents. New York: ProQuest.

Wulf, D. (2013). Speech acts and the truth-conditional analysis of temporal expressions. Philosophy Study, 3(2), 97-112.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Racial Discrimination in Australian Society." January 24, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/racial-discrimination-in-australian-society/.

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