Here’s an awkward and uncomfortable question: So just why isn’t blackface a big deal in Australia?
Tl;dr, the first reason white Australia is super racist basically because it’s been too effective at quashing anything approaching a mainstream Indigenous1 political movement.
More interestingly, however (and only glossed over in the for-US-audiences article), is that narratives around anti-Black racism in Australia have been “Americanized”. Which is to say, because anti-Blackness here doesn’t look the same as it does in the US, i.e. slavery2 and segregation3, a lot of white Australia seems to have the idea that we’re “beyond racism”.
Which, yeah. Nah, mate.
- “Black” in Australia primarily refers to Indigenous Australians, since Australia hasn’t historically had large African migration. [↩]
- Specifically, the whole “take one group of people from one place and transport them to be slaves in another” thing. Particularly since it’s the history of white Australia that more closely matches that narrative–i.e. deportation, and the fact the British effectively used the prison labor of the Irish poor to build their colony–than anything that occurred with Indigenous slavery. [↩]
- Arguably, Australia’s second big run at anti-Blackness manifested in the “opposite” of segregation, what we call the Stolen Generation, which was essentially the government attempting to “breed out” Indigenous populations by raising them “white”. It’s not that simple, of course–the Stolen Generation was still functionally segregated, for one–but the point is the common white perception of the legacy of the Stolen Generation is that “we tried but the Blacks just don’t want to integrate!”, as opposed to the American variant. [↩]