Are we sometimes confused about what racism is?

QUESTION: Father Brendan Lee asks if society has double standards, "or are we sometimes confused about what racism is?"
QUESTION: Father Brendan Lee asks if society has double standards, "or are we sometimes confused about what racism is?"

PADDY’S tasks on a cargo ship were basic, but somehow he always messed them up. The captain intervened “Paddy, the crew are saying you’re more dangerous than Black Beard! But I’m going to give you one last chance. 

“An old Englishman died last night from C Deck, George Grant III, and his dying wish was to be buried at sea. Go down to C Deck and from the second room on your left, pick up the body and throw it overboard.”

Paddy’s gone for hours, and the Captain is worried. Finally, Paddy turns up on deck all bruised and sweating like a pig. “Well Captain,” says Paddy, “I’ve finally buried George Michael II from the third room on the right on D deck!” The Captain screams: “Paddy! I said George Grant III from C deck, second room on the left!” The Captain, trying to stay calm asks: “Paddy, this George Michael II you threw overboard … was he dead?” Paddy replies proudly: “Well Captain, he said he wasn’t. But you know these English, they’re terrible liars!”

Is that joke a crack at the English, Irish … both, or neither? Am I allowed to tell it because I’m of Irish and English descent?

When I was at university, I hung out with a group of about 20.

My nickname was Skip, short for Skippy, as I was the only Caucasian in our group.

I was never offended by my nickname; I rather liked it. However, somehow I knew never to give them a nickname in return based on their cultural background.

Is it a case of double standards, or are we sometimes confused about what racism is?

Just earlier this month, the Royal Adelaide Show was forced to remove three award-winning golliwog dolls from a display after an outcry on social media. Clearly, that debate is still ongoing.

If you cry “racist”, you’re almost guaranteed to discredit your opposition, even if the subject you’re debating is totally unrelated.

The ongoing debate to phase out live sheep exports within five years, passed Monday in the Senate, has had Liberal Senator David Leyonhjelm calling animal welfare advocates racist for wanting to end the trade to the Middle East.

This already uncomfortable debate has nothing to do with racism.

Sometimes, accusations of racism are blanket. Earlier this week, British Labour MP Chuka Umunna accused his own party of becoming an institutionally racist organisation through its failure to deal with anti-Semitism.

If you try and keep abreast of British politics – and I admit that this is no small feat – you might know that British Labour views itself as an anti-racist party.

It’s the very reason why Umunna, of Nigerian and English-Irish background, joined Labour.

Then there are those who are called racist because they’re hated anyway.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on the weekend that under President Donald Trump, the US economy is experiencing the lowest levels of black unemployment and Hispanic unemployment in its history.

Even so, I’m confident President Trump will continue to be called a racist.

On the other hand, perhaps it’s good to be ever-vigilant, given how easily racism can arise and spiral out of control.

We should never forget the Cronulla riots of 2005 when a group of Lebanese youths physically clashed with lifeguards on the beach.

It’s almost unbelievable now, but within a few days a crowd of 5000 people had gathered near the beach.

Two people were stabbed, numerous others were assaulted and travel warnings were issued against travelling to Australia by some countries.

Racism is ultimately ignorance and true racism forgets Australia has a black past in more ways than one.

Indigenous Australians lived here for tens of thousands of years and our white ancestors committed the ultimate act of racism by stealing this land from them.

Of course, Australia has far more to lose through racism than almost any other country in the world.

We are a small country and a melting pot of races.

And our future can either be an example of strength and freedom through peace and tolerance to the nations of the world, or an example of immorality, fear, ignorance and intolerance.

Remember, we all came from the same place.

Twitter: @fatherbrendanelee