Is there an Australian race?

Maybe that is not as absurd as it seems.  Leftists seem to regard Muslims as a race so why not? Any criticism of Muslims is routinely denounced as "racist".  So I clearly have the angels on my side in arguing for a flexible definition of race.

And the fact of the matter is that Australians do talk as if they are a race.  It's probably politically incorrect by now but for many decades Australians have spoken among themselves as in the following example.  "She is herself Chinese but she is married to an Australian" -- where both persons concerned were born in Australia -- so it was obviously race that was being referred to.

So a person of Northern European or British ancestry who was born in Australia is an Australian.  Australians are a definable ethnic group.  So "Australian" can be either a nationality or a race. In the example above both persons would have been readily acknowledged as Australian citizens but only one was an Australian.

And note that NOBODY in Australia refers to themselves  or anybody else as "a person of Northern European or British ancestry born in Australia".  It would be far too cumbersome.  People so identified  are simply Australians.

So is the usage just a piece of shorthand for a longer descriptor or is there more to it than that?  There clearly is more.  Australians have quite a strong national consciousness.  They see themselves as quite distinct from even closely related groups such as the British or Americans.  When they are thinking of "a person of Northern European or British ancestry born in Australia", they are also thinking of personal characteristics.  "A person of Northern European or British ancestry born in Australia" is expected to be "fair dinkum", no Dobbo and someone who does not "bung on an act", for instance.

Those three examples are much-loved pieces of Australian slang and, like most slang are not entirely translatable into standard English.  But an approximate translation would be: "A genuine person, a person who does not incriminate others to the authorities and a person who is not pretentious.  I say a bit more about that slang and its origins elsewhere.

So, yes.  There IS an Australian race.  And there are other races that are similarly defined.  Mexicans, for instance have had it instilled into them that they are one race:  The famous "La raza".  The reality of Mexico is a whitish elite who run everything and a large, poor mass of people with brown skin. But  we mustn't knock "La raza", must we?

The English rarely refer to themselves as a race but they do to an extent tend to see themselves that way.  The regional divisions in England are severe.  People who live South of Watford see people from North of Watford as an odd and rather uncouth lot.  Watford is the last outpost of civilization when travelling North. But no matter where you live in relation to Watford Junction, you are still English.  And being English has certain expectations attached to it -- enormous expectations, in fact.  The expectations are well laid out in what is probably the funniest book I have ever read: "Watching the English: the hidden rules of English behaviour" by Kate Fox.  Australians have some of the same rules, as one would expect.

In fact, Australian-ness is better defined than English-ness.  Australia may be the only country without significant regional divisions.  A person who lives in Brisbane lives thousands of miles away from a person who lives in Perth but any difference between inhabitants of those two cities is very hard to detect.  That great giveaway, accent, has only the tiniest differences in  the two populations.

One has only to think of Northern Italian attitudes to "meriodinali", of Bavarian suspicion of "Prussians" and, of course, enmity between Eastern and Western Ukrainians to see that divisions between national populations are the norm.  The USA even had a civil war over  it.

There is none of that it Australia.  So by international standards, the case for Australians being a race is unusually strong.  And they are a race that has an entire continent to themselves!  Nice!

So being an Australian is NOT "inclusive" except in the sense of nationality.  For that reason some younger people do avoid the usage.

I think they are mistaken, however. Everybody does not have to be included in everything. Because there are some lepers does that mean that we all have to get leprosy? Australians are just another ethnic group -- and we all allow that those exist. Nobody minds referring to Jews as Jews yet, with their many internal schisms (Ashkenazim, Sephardim, Mizrachim etc) Jews have a rather lesser claim on an ethic identity than the very homogeneous "Australian" population has. And we even have our own commandments!

1 comment:

  1. "... So I clearly have the angels on my side in arguing for a flexible definition of race."

    You have the angels on your side because the English word 'race' has *always* had a far wider meaning than that of current usage.

    Consider just these historical uses --

    * The English race

    * The French race

    * The Jewish race

    * "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life"

    * The race of fishmongers

    The fact is, the English word 'race' is not primarily about biological relationships, it is a term for distinguishing one group of entities from other groups of similar entities based on some characteristic of the former, which characteristic can be *anything*.


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