So I’d like to start this first proper post by saying that, although I am a Lebanese-Australian, I have never ‘truly’ grown up in a Lebanese community. This means that I talked Lebanese with my dad and uncle – both of whom live in Australia – and when we went to Lebanese restaurants. I didn’t have the opportunity (and yes, I’m well aware that it’s a dangerously sharp double-edged sword) to grow up surrounded by people who shared this same background as I did. Thanks to my dad, I grew up proud of my Lebanese heritage, but thanks to the culture I grew up in, I grew up never understanding what it really meant to have access to two cultures.
For me, in a mainly majority white school in a majority white suburb, I loved saying that I had food that actually had some taste, and music that was literally poem made song. I was so proud of my Lebanese-ness in that it made me different, but it took me years to simply be Lebanese. I remember how when I went to Lebanon, I was just Lebanese, but also that I could never seem to take that feeling back home with me.
As I grew older, I realised that this is due in no small part to the overwhelming whiteness of the culture that we are surrounded by daily. Especially in Australia, the omnipresence of white culture and its apparent inability to provide support on any sort of meaningful level to minority cultures is so apparent as to be a joke: the First Peoples of Australia are not recognised in any form of constitutional law (and the recognition debate is one we can go into another time); the rising popularity of the One Nation/Rise Up Australia/Sustainable Australia groups is as disturbing as it is rapid; the almost complete separation between ethnicities among the suburbs. It’s all very well to say that birds of a feather flock together, but the Australia that I grew up in is expert at pretending that all of these different birds are flocking as one to further our beautiful country.
The truth is that the government does nothing to provide racially diverse role models in the public sphere, and some members will actively neglect to bring their ethnicity to the fore. Joe Hockey, born to a Palestinian-Armenian father, rarely mentioned his Arab heritage (and do correct me if I’m wrong), and was so in part slightly shielded from the rising wave of racism occuring in Australia. I say racism because most of the world seems to have a tendency to conflagrate “Muslim” and “Arab”, when in fact less than half of the worlds Muslims are of an Arab background.
And here we come to the title of this piece. (Especially) In a country where the majority is white, lack of support is tantamount to a conscious erasure of minority culture. Quietly subsuming these cultures into the ‘Australian attitude’ is not at all an acceptable excuse for cultural assimilation. Again, words are important to me, and so integration would be preferable, but this would entail an active dialogue! Oh no! Sweeping something under the rug and not talking about it until it goes away – which, by the way, it certainly doesn’t look like it’s going to do, due to a large portion of these ethnic communities not being able to speak English – does not a solution make.
I’m not saying there’s anything easy that the government can do, and I hope there’s not. This should not be something easy. The government should own up to what they’ve done, own up to the blatant discrimination that they endorse with their silence, and start actually caring about Australians as well as Australia.