‘Dog whistling’ is a term used in politics to refer to when something relatively innocuous said explicitly carries with it an implicit message designed to be interpreted a certain way by a sympathetic audience. Racist dog whistling plays a huge part in 21st-century politics — politicians will speak to the fears and desires of racist voters by using terms like ‘western values’ and ‘cultural compatibility’ as stand-ins for ‘we only want white people to come here’. We’re in a climate now where the whistling isn’t even exclusively audible to dogs, with senator Fraser Anning openly demanding an immigration system that selects for ‘European Christians’.
A phrase like “it’s okay to be white” is innocuous enough on its own terms, if a little weird. White people have never been a persecuted minority in this country. Both our parliament and the TV over here are blindingly white. No one is facing any adversity in this country solely as a result of being white. So why would a fair chunk of our Senate just vote in favour of a motion saying just that?
The phrase might ring a bell for you from when in July this year Canadian alt-right figure Lauren Southern (who is associated with a number of white nationalists and ‘white identitarian’ groups) rocked up to Brisbane airport wearing a shirt reading “IT’S OKAY TO BE WHITE”. Is Canada a nightmare hellscape of reverse racism where whites suffer extreme disadvantage due to the colour of their skin? No, of course not; Southern is asserting the ‘okay-ness’ of being white for the same reason Pauline Hanson and everyone who voted for her motion is: racist dog whistling.
The phrase started as a 4chan meme and was picked up by alt-right groups, with the idea being that it’s something of a golden gun rhetorical tool. The thought is that if you agree with it, you are endorsing what is implicit in it, but if you take umbrage with it, you are essentially saying that it’s not okay to be white, therefore reinforcing the narrative they are trying to push that white people are being persecuted. It operates on the same logic as ‘straight pride’ — the dynamic where straight people (and white people) already hold the balance of power in society makes an assertion of pride read like a declaration of supremacy, not as one of solidarity in a struggle.
Going on the public record in support of a specific phrase deliberately employed by neo-Nazis like David Duke seems like a pretty weird move, but it’s one that 28 of our senators were perfectly comfortable doing.
The motion failed to pass, thank fuck, but by a narrow margin of only 31-28, seeing votes in support from both the Liberals and the Nationals, including prominent figures like Michaelia Cash, Matt Canavan, Simon Birmingham, Eric Abetz, and Mitch Fifield. Unsurprisingly, big time fuckwits David Leyonhjelm and Cory Bernardi also voted for the motion.
Greens and Labor both voted against, with Greens leader Richard DiNatale quite happily pointing out that it’s a white supremacist meme:
It’s not just okay to be white in Australia, it’s actually a ticket to winning the lotto. It’s a ticket to winning the lotto. Just look around this chamber and see how many faces you see that aren’t white.
Have a look in the privileged positions of Australian society, people who occupy these seats of the rich and powerful. How many of them are not white? Last time I checked it’s the privileged white Anglo community that are the ones occupying the seats of influence.
The reality is this ‘it’s okay to be white’ slogan has got a long history in the white supremacist movement where both these clowns get most of their material from.
You can watch a clip of that right here:
If you wanted to look at this without an ounce of critical thinking, you could gloss over it as something pretty trivial. Otherwise, it’s pretty fucked to see this sort of fringe far-right rhetoric parroted in our parliament and endorsed by our government.