Eliminating White Racism, in Melbourne, Australia

The following are excerpts from some reports on an eliminating-white-racism workshop led by Anne Barton, in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

This year’s White Privilege Conference in the United States helped me to understand that my worldview comes from how Western societies have been shaped by Christianity. I got to see how the structures and concepts we in the West take for granted have been the foundations of Christian societies for 1,700 years. They are also used to support the ideas and institutions that dominate our present societies—such as war and militarism, individualism, humans’ dominion over the environment, the “invisible hand” at work in free markets, dualism (good/evil, and so on), hierarchies (god/human, man/woman), there being only one truth, and time being linear.

The “white” identity we were coerced into adopting as little ones embodies these ideas. Support groups based on religious heritage can give us a clearer picture of how confusing and terrifying this was. They can help us see how hurtful it is to take on1 a “white” identity and how separate it is from our humanity.

Recently I have been discharging on the idea that Australian heritage could include the heritages and identities of all the people on the continent. To think about this glorious cultural inheritance that is waiting for me to respectfully and humbly acknowledge it has brought deep discharge.

In 1901 Australia was founded as an explicitly white nation. This national identity swept away the interconnectedness, complexity, and relationships of our rich history. It was like a “whitewash” over these legacies. Our many different stories and our understanding of ourselves as a collection of peoples became “white.” We deported people, who had been here for generations, because they were not “white.” Until the 1960s we called Britain “home.” All of this was a devastating loss for us. I suspect it’s behind how we white people are silenced and silent about much of our history and how we struggle to back2 each other and show how deeply we care.

The theme of the Saturday evening class was “Hello, let’s eliminate white racism!” At previous workshops we discharged on making eliminating racism central to our lives. In this class I wanted to see if I could get around the “white” business of taking this on3 as a big, hard job. That insidious attitude permeates wide-world anti-racism work. To keep our heads out of it takes discharging on the reality of what we are doing here: building relationships. How fun and easy! It’s what we know how to do. We know about discharging our restimulations about people. We know about deciding, acting, and discharging. I used Tim’s article on relationships in the July Present Time4 to talk about how our internalised oppression can play out5 between us when in reality we are the treasured partners of our eliminating-white-racism dreams.

One of the great things about the White Privilege Conferences is the number of resources that are brought together in one place. I always bring back books that help me discharge and think about eliminating white racism. One of them described white privilege as constant affirmative action6 for white people. If we white people think we have gotten to where we are by hard work, intelligence, persistence, and merit, we will struggle with the relationships we need to end white racism. It will also be hard for us to see how we have been tricked into believing that Aboriginal people are broken, that the land is past saving, and that the situation here is hopeless. The real situation is that some damage has been done but Aboriginal Australia is so huge, profound, complex, and resilient, it is unstoppable.

In the last class I revisited concepts from Christianity to talk about the economic system and its relationship to care of the environment. In classical economic theory, the environment is viewed as an “externality” (thus environmental degradation is not seen as a cost when calculating value). This stems from Christian ideas of humans’ dominion over the earth and links with the concept of the “invisible hand” of the free market. Within this theory, degradation of the environment is acceptable. It is also shored up by our sense of entitlement as white people and the myth that white Australians struggle to survive in a harsh, empty, inhospitable land.

There is so much—particularly the world-changing, revolutionary resource of RC—to make us hopeful and ever more determined to end white racism. I get glimpses of another world, past the white patterns, where we are a joyous humanity at one with our little planet.

Anne Barton
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Anne insisted that I work on being a hundred percent Australian, which means that I have a sixty-thousand-year-old history. This allowed me to connect with a sense of belonging to the universe, being a pulsing part of it.

Roslyn Cassidy
London, England

Eliminating white racism is easy! You just have to break it down into chunky bite-size pieces in order to discharge it effectively. Also, breaking down racist patterns into a series of historical events makes it much easier to fully claim the position of being the agent of oppression.

Bruce Clezy
Northcote, Victoria, Australia 

I liked hearing that ending white racism is about relationships. Suddenly it seems like something I get to do with other people, for me.

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

I used to think that Australia was a country established for and populated by white people. I was surprised to learn that this was not an accurate picture. In fact, many different people from many different lands—for example, Chinese and South Sea Islander peoples—settled in Australia. We not only killed the Indigenous people (genocide), we deported people of ethnicities that did not conform to the white stereotype.

It was good to be reminded that white people are a relatively small part of the overall population of the world. I appreciated the new term for people of color: people of the global majority.

Bartley McGowan
Port Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Australia has always been a diverse, multicultural place. Indigenous people from many different language groups, nations, and clans were joined by refugees from England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Some people were captives; others were captors. Most were workers and/or poor. Later, economic refugees from all over the world arrived to hunt for gold and land.

When Australia became a nation, many of us white people were completely unaware of the rich and complex social, philosophical, and political systems of the Indigenous people. Or perhaps in the absence of sufficient discharge, it looked like our need for land was in conflict with their deep and powerful relationship with this country.

White racism rejects relationship. Eliminating it requires deep relationships among white people. It requires us to regain our ability to listen effectively to each other and to get and stay so close, and be so good to each other, that we never feel like victims or act out our oppressor patterns again. This can allow our relationships with people of the global majority to flourish.

For me this means continuing to teach Co-Counselling to raised-working-class people and people of the global majority. “The future is in our hands”7 means that we raised-working-class people get to use what we know about the world and the goodness of all humans to create a world where white racism becomes a distant, esoteric historical study.

Stephen Costello
Thornbury, Victoria, Australia

It was important to me that we started the workshop with a sense of who we were before a wallpaper of messages taught us how to be “white.”

Discharging a profound lack of physical closeness from very early on seems key for many of us white folk.

The class on “whiteness” and all the things that construct us as “white” was helpful. For me, one part of being white is being mean and cruel to others if they break my rules.

I think we made some headway on being less mean to each other.

Sometimes someone says something to us and we take offence and are ready to defend. Deciding to give the person some room will immediately give us more room, too.

Lisa Rasmussen
Northcote, Victoria, Australia

I moved strongly in the direction of acting self-loving and powerful and away from comfort seeking, and what came up immediately was anger. I didn’t let myself dramatize it. I just stuck with the direction and was able to discharge with small noises and movements and hot sweat.

I decided to stop acting on feelings of embarrassment and discomfort in choosing which relationships to pursue, in and out of RC. I also decided to stop acting on the belief that if I feel uncomfortable, have upset feelings, or need to think about how to relate to someone from a different background, there is a problem. There is no problem. I’m in a position of privilege and entitlement if I don’t do things because I feel embarrassed, scared, or like I don’t know what to do or how to do it.

By acting powerful in a session and using my full mind (not just being a “good girl” and taking a direction), I was able to actually discharge anger rather than simply feel angry, powerless, and victimized. Throughout the workshop I found myself singing and skipping spontaneously.

Karen Rosauer
St Kilda East, Victoria, Australia

Anne reminded us that our relationships in RC will trigger old restimulations. I need to discharge these restimulations, knowing that I am now safe and loved. In fact I was always loved, and there were times when I was safe.

Anne encouraged us to use our RC relationships to practice principled behaviour. She gave an example of a behaviour that lacked integrity—not telling a workshop transport person important information in a timely manner—and encouraged us to “clean this up.” It was lovely and hopeful to see people following her direction.

Relationships are how we’ll eliminate white racism.

Anne reminded me of the importance of not leaving a client without a contradiction,8 even if that means feeling like I might make a mistake. As Harvey9 put it, “Welcome upheaval.”

Yehudit Koadlow
North Caulfield, Victoria, Australia

Deserving is another concept embedded in the oppressive Christian/capitalist construct. It has nothing to do with why things happen and who has what. I can see how it’s used in the media to sell everything and link that to “goodness” and God.

I had many sessions this weekend on what feels like utter and irrevocable isolation. “I don’t have people” sounded in my mind. In the past when I have felt this, in desperation I have often wanted to blame the counselor and lash out with my tongue. Over the weekend I was supported to repeatedly put my mind on discharging the feelings. By the end of the weekend I could tell10 that I have people who want to hang11 with me through the tough stuff. Deciding that I am loved, that I won’t give any credit to my recording,12 and that I won’t blame anyone for my difficult feelings is indeed a great step forward in eliminating white racism.

Rachel Steinmann
Brunswick East, Victoria, Australia

Unbeknown to me, I have been living inside a “white mystique.” This invisible-to-me problem has had a big influence on me and those around me. It has had a crippling effect on my ability to function as a cooperative, reasonable, fair-minded person.

It has taken much conscious effort and leadership to bring me to this awareness. It has taken a whole gang of us all willing to do this together. It has required a light, positive tone; an uncompromising direction against comfort-seeking and victimhood; good information about history; and plenty of hard-won free attention.

I thank my white leaders, and the RCers of the global majority who continue to be our allies in this vital project.

Rowan White
Fitzroy North, Victoria, Australia
Reprinted from the newsletter 
of the Melbourne, Victoria, 
Australia, RC Community

1 “Take on” means assume, adopt.
2 “Back” means support.
3 In this context, “taking this on” means undertaking this.
4 “Relationships” by Tim Jackins, on pages 3 to 5 of the July 2013 Present Time
5 “Play out” means be acted out.
6 Affirmative action is an active effort to improve the employment and educational  opportunities for members of oppressed groups, such as people of color and women.
7 From the RC commitment for working-class people
8 Contradiction to the client’s distress
9 Harvey Jackins
10 “Tell” means notice, perceive.
11 “Hang” means stick, stay.
12 Distress recording

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00