If you were not already convinced that Australia’s humanities departments have truly lost their way, the latest research project from the faculty of arts and social sciences at the University of Sydney should get you over the line.
Resurgent Racism is the seventh “flagship” theme of FutureFix, a program devised by academics at the university to show taxpaying Australians their money is being put to good use. Resurgent Racism will “address the emergence of new forms of racism manifesting as national populism and far-right extremism”. Researchers will “seek to explain the logics of emboldened white racism in Western liberal democracies”, which they predict “will be applicable to majoritarian racism elsewhere”. These self-appointed sages have looked into the crystal ball and have seen a future blighted by white supremacists.
But we can be pulled back from the brink of this dystopian nightmare if the team at the faculty of arts and sciences is permitted to spend taxpayers’ dollars, and the next few years, “mapping the changes of racism, including anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and white supremacism” in Australia.
That Islam is a religion, not a race, seems not to matter because a great many academics have shifted from focusing on what is real to what is not — in this case an imagined crisis of endemic racism. They are knee-deep in the quagmire of identity politics, that most dangerous and divisive of ideas that insists on distinguishing individuals by their differences rather than by their similarities.
Like so many in the humanities, they view the world through a Manichean lens, in which everything can be explained as a struggle between the forces of good (light) and evil (darkness). Everything they think about, write about and talk about in their capacity as historians, sociologists or political scientists must support the belief that Western civilisation is a white male patriarchy that wields power over, and oppresses, women and racial minorities.
Last year, Sydney University invited American professor, author and “renowned anti-racism educator” Robin DiAngelo so she could tell all the white people attending the launch of What Does It Mean to be White? Developing White Racial Literacy just how terribly, but perhaps not irredeemably, racist they were. According to DiAngelo, white people live in a racially insular bubble that renders them quivering wrecks when it comes to talking about race, a phenomenon she calls “White Fragility”. “Why does race seem to be the hardest word for white people?” she asked.
If she were to take a closer, impartial look at the Australian university sector, she would encounter many white people who have no problem at all with the word. Many academics are not only not afraid to talk about race but they talk about it so incessantly that if it weren’t for gender — the other great preoccupation of 21st-century academe — it would verge on monomania.
Of the 30-odd staff employed at the uni’s department of history, for example, 10 make a point of mentioning race or racism as a research interest. When Greg Sheridan, whose column appears on this site, criticised the Australian National University for rejecting the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, one Sydney University professor, Dirk Moses, compared Sheridan to Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik.
Since 2002, the department has received almost $9m from the Australian Research Council to fund 18 historical studies research projects that focus on racism, in one form or another. These included The Construction of Race and Racial Identity at the Antipodes of Empire, 1788-1840 (costing $231,000); Southern Racial Concepts: Comparative Histories and Contemporary Legacies ($2.4m); Immigration Restriction and the Racial state, c. 1880 to the Present ($359,000); Enterprising Women, Race, Gender and Power in the Revolutionary Atlantic, 1770-1820 (‘$323,000); and The Racial Century ($94,000).
The Resurgent Racism squad comprises, among others, former race discrimination commissioner Tim Soutphommasane, seen by some to have encouraged complaints to the Australian Human Rights Commission following publication of a 2016 cartoon by Bill Leak in this newspaper. Last year Soutphommasane gave the keynote address at the university’s National Centre for Cultural Competence, launched in 2013 to the tune of $5.6m of taxpayers’ money. It claims its mission is to “roll out cultural competence across the university and broader local national and international community”, but in reality it is a concerted effort to convince us Anglo-Celtic white culture is bad.
When vice-chancellor Michael Spence suggested questioning the existence of Chinese influence on his campus was akin to the White Australia policy, he was simply ensuring next year’s income. Last year the university pocketed $884m in international student fees, a generous portion from Chinese students.
The Resurgent Racism team is spending taxpayers’ money to tell Australians how racist we are. It is evidence the racism industry is flourishing on our university campuses, which are no longer in the business of producing objective and impartial scholarship that will edify, inspire and educate future generations of Australians.