Some people may still argue that Peter Dutton isn’t demonstrably racist until someone finds a video of him in a white hood. They could be right. Maybe he’s just a sociopath who relies on the racism of his constituents to justify his abusive policies.
Dutton’s disdain for refugees and Pacific Islanders has been well-documented with a long list of political gaffes over the last few years. This week he found a new group of people to target with his divisive comments, asserting that mistakes were made allowing Lebanese migrants and refugees into the country nearly 50 years ago.
He justified these comments with the statistic that 22 of the last 33 Australians charged under counter terrorism charges are from Lebanese Muslim backgrounds. Unsurprisingly this elicited a powerful reaction of outrage from many sectors of the community.
In response to the public anger, Dutton did walk back a little bit and try to give the context that Fraser’s mistake had not been in letting so many people in, but in not providing enough support to the new arrivals, but the damage was done. An entire minority group of Australians had been painted as terrorist sympathisers, while the alt-right neo-Nazis had just been given a new statistic to parrot.
But if you use statistics are you still being racist?
I friend of mine posed this question and I think it makes for interesting discussion. One criticism of progressives recently is that we make it hard for people to raise certain topics without being labelled as bigots. And some topics are hard to talk about as I found recently, writing about terrorism and Islam.
It seems a no-brainer that the use of statistics ahead of hyperbole would seem a vast improvement (consider Dutton’s previous statement that refugees would be illiterate, innumerate and take Australian jobs), yet when the Minister uses them he is still widely castigated for it (not by our piss-weak Prime Minister though). And I would say fair enough too.
If they are from a robust sample size (33 is rarely considered such) and not cherry-picked, using statistics is fine, but they are still only as good as the agenda they are used to push. I understand he has to court the One Nation vote, but in tarring a group of some 200 000 people with the actions of two dozen, Mr Dutton’s agenda was insulting, divisive and unhelpful to efforts to prevent further radicalisation.
As I mentioned earlier, we sometimes focus overly over whether something is racist or not racist. We should perhaps worry more about whether it was right or wrong. So whether or not you think these words prove Dutton is racist, what seems unarguable is that they were terribly chosen. Unless for some reason he wanted to ignite racial tensions within our country. But why would he want to do that?