A double standard has always been placed on those from minority communities such as Indigenous, religious, disabled, and culturally and linguistically diverse communities. Recent events have highlighted the ‘minority inequality’ rampant in views of the Australian public, both through the higher standards that minorities have to live up to in order to be seen as equals, and through whole minority groups being blamed for the actions of a few.
With the recent Olympics and Paralympics, we came to see the power and nuance of identity, and the high standards imposed on minorities that are not imposed on others. Whilst joining the chorus of celebration for Peter Bol’s achievements at the Olympics on behalf of Australia, as a Sudan-born refugee, Nyadol Nyuon emphasised that Bol’s successes cannot be ‘the standard one must attain to be accepted into society’ . Similarly, whilst the world was absorbed in the incredible achievements of the athletes at the Paralympics, Madison de Rozario took the chance to remind us that ‘people with disabilities shouldn’t have to be exceptional in order to be accepted’ .
On the other hand, the past year of tough Covid-19 restrictions has brought many people’s prejudices out of the shadows and onto social media. Where people from minorities have broken lockdown laws or been the suspected source of an outbreak, the public has been quick to label them according to their religious or cultural background, making it impossible to escape the racist vitriol thrown in their direction . There has been a feeling of collective shame and collective punishment amongst minority groups . In contrast, the discourse is confined to accusations of individual selfishness and stupidity when those flaunting their breaches are without features to distinguish them, in one way or another, from the Australian majority.
Prove you’re a good Jew, a good Muslim, a good Asian, a good refugee.
Separate yourself from anyone who makes a bad decision and is part of your minority
Because it can’t have been a mistake, or a bad decision of their own
They represent you all; the act can’t be seen alone.
Society will ‘confirm’ old suspicions
If someone from your community makes a mistake.
Regardless of your own beliefs and moral positions,
The downfall will be for you all to take.
Language matters, despite what you say -
Tell me, how do you decide if they were a terrorist or just a white man having a bad day?
If they are representative of the rest or one who ‘got away’?
Yet, on the other side, those who excel in society are wonderful people.
Oh they’re a wonderful person of colour, a wonderful immigrant, a wonderful Druze, a wonderful minority!
They exemplify our truest values - inclusion and diversity!
It is true... you like us when we benefit you.
But dare I ask, will you still like the Jew in me if I’m not a scientist, academic or olympian too?
Will you like me if I am: just a Jew?
We like to make people into what we want to see -
Peter Bol - the Australian Olympian! Peter Bol - the refugee!
The question is - will Australia let him be both of these identities?
It is, no doubt, exciting for those who are also refugees - to see someone like them, on TV, representing the Australian community
But then it begins - “look what refugees can do! Look what they can be!” “This is why we should accept them - look at how they can succeed!”
The bar is set so high. Oh, so, so high, you see -
If you have to be phenomenal to be accepted, it is not true acceptance
But, rather, minority inequality.
Someone born here need not prove their worth.
Yet someone who has put in everything to be here... it seems to matter for nothing,
When Australia was not their country of birth.
Mentally ill or terrorist? Reckless teen or thug? A silly person breaking covid rules or someone who should be sent back ‘to their country’ because they don’t share our ‘core values’?
This love is not unconditional;
It is predicated upon a discriminatory worldview.
“But we are giving praise, is this not good?”
Such comments of faux admiration made,
Without realising the harm they can do.
We who are minorities take pride in those from our communities who succeed.
Our ancestors fought and suffered for opportunities we now receive.
We become excited to see someone from our own community in Parliament, or on TV.
It might not be exciting for others, but it is for me.
And yet, I hang my head in shame when I know a criminal’s name.
Goldberg, Muhammad, Cheng - society lumps each together with its predicted source.
There are no exceptions allowed when it comes to minorities of course.
Smith, Peters, Lark, Jones - it is not treated the same.
Because, of course, the person was acting alone in their name.
And so - I go to bed grateful to live in Australia. My grandparents arrived only 70 years ago, the horrors of the Holocaust embedded in their soul.
My country is proud of my minority - when we make a discovery or win a goal.
But when we fall short of Australia’s expectation -
It’s like we were never really welcome at all.
Natalie is a fourth year Law/Arts (Human Rights) student, determined to contribute to a more inclusive society. To this end, she has helped to facilitate two Interfaith programs and has engaged in numerous mentoring programs, with the dominant purpose being to bridge communities and promote belonging and friendship between those who may not usually have the chance to connect with one another.