These questions require complex answers and to simply state yes or no to either of them does not do this complexity justice. In this brief blog I want to direct you to a couple of papers that have attempted to answer these questions (including one recently written by me).
Like everything else, there is evidence to indicate that Australia is a very tolerant country and at the same time, we see evidence that racism is at the core of our society. I remain quite optimistic, however, and believe that we are on the whole a very tolerant society but sometimes our fears and concerns are manipulated and misdirected.
There are some excellent research papers in this area but none more than a recent paper by academics Barbara Bloch and Tanja Dreher that looked at everyday diversity and everyday racism in Southern Sydney.
Published in the Journal of Intercultural Studies and available here (Volume 30, No. 2, May 2009, pp.193-209), this presents pilot research on community conflict resolution conducted in a local government area in southern Sydney in 2006.
What the study reveals are the somewhat contradictory attitudes that exist. That is, we simultaneous see the presence of high levels of cross-cultural mixing which includes an appreciation of the area’s culturally diverse population, while at the same time some strong prejudices specifically aimed at Arab and Muslim residents and visitors to the area.
We have to wonder why many respondents who actually support cultural diversity in the area see Arab and Muslim Australians as an exception and threat to harmonious community relations. What is often sighted is anxiety and anger because of their apparent large numbers that are seen to swamp public spaces.
Barbara and Tanja attempt to explore the contradictions in these findings in light of other contemporary Australian research – and they identify some complex and difficult issues to be addressed by research and by local government regarding everyday racisms and prejudices, as well as everyday multiculturalisms.
There are no easy answers to these questions, but it comes down to communication and policies on ‘place-sharing’.
What also makes this an outstanding paper is that they also link these issues with Indigenous sovereignties – something many of us have failed to do.
I recommend a read – it is both inspiring and concerning – especially if you have an assignment on multiculturalism.
Linked to this is a paper that I recently wrote responding to the question whether ‘multiculturalism is dead’. I do not think so and attempted to articulate why in a paper published in the Punch here…
While I received some really great feedback, some of the comments made me shake my head in wonder…
I hope you enjoy both these papers and, as always, appreciate your feedback.