While I was covering the conference as an eChamp I had to report on what was going on to people who were interested in the debates and were not present. All the presentations that I could watch were really interesting but Prof. Ghassan Hage’s presentation and some of the discussions during the Q&A session in special made me think about a few things.
I am Brazilian and, in Brazil, we say that our country is a mixture of colours, races and creeds – meaning that our country has received many immigrants over the years and now we have all “blended” and we are only one nation with a rich culture and many different faces. It doesn’t matter your skin colour, your religion, your heritage – we are all Brazilians. Nobody questions the fact that all people living in the country is part of the country – whether you, your parents, grandparents have been in the country for one, two or 100 years, you are still Brazilian.
I was thinking about this when Prof. Hage said that we should turn into “routine” the fact we are all Australians and this should be beyond question. And I believe that this is what he means and that’s what I see in my home country. However, it does not mean that all once you reach this point everything is ok and there are no more problems. This is just the beginning and from this point to debate has to move forward to other challenges.
Discrimination is one of these challenges. Prof. Hage in his speech talked about the fact that racism in Australia is turning into something very subtle. “Australian racism suffocates you slowly and you don’t know what it was that has hit you” was what he said and this is true. And this, unfortunately, also reminds me of how some forms of racism in Brazil. Obviously, you can find examples of explicit forms of racism in both countries, but that is easy to go against it if you know what is happening. However, when it comes to something that is hidden, it is hard to talk about it and to discuss it openly because it is difficult to perceive.
How do you we fight against something that is hard to see? I do not have the answers, but I think that strengthening our communities at local level is one way of trying to come to terms with what is happening and think collectively to find a solution. When I say community, I am talking about a something bigger than only our own cultural or linguistic group – I think we should involve all the diverse groups that are part of our local community and the Australian society. What did we during the two/three days we spent in Launceston was good and if we could do that when we come back home, I think it could be a start.