Cultural stereotyping and the generalisation of groups enhances people’s ethnocentric tendencies. Racial conflict is prominent within Contemporary Australian society this is the result of Cultural stereotypes and an increase in ethnocentrism based heavily on the theory of orientalism as discussed by theorist Edward Said. By examining the causes and reasons for cultural stereotyping and ethnocentrism ultimately a conclusion can be made about how this contributes to racial conflict throughout Australian society.
Palestinian professor at Columbia University, Edward Said, was predominately known for his book written in 1978 called “orientalism”. Said’s book questioned the pattern of misrepresentation that the non-western world holds against different ethnic groups, Said argues that the “Europeans divided the world into two parts” and that the “Europeans defined themselves as the superior race compared to the Orientals” (SOURCE 13). Said’s theory, orientalism refers to an entrenched structure of thought, a pattern of making certain generalizations about the part of the world known as the ‘East’. Said’s theory of orientalism relates to the concept of cultural stereotyping due to the generalisation which occurs throughout society (Orientalism, n.d.).
Culture can be referred to as a blue print for society, it influences the majority to interpret reality through a particular cultural lens (cultural stereotyping, 2017). While every culture is inherently different to another, when there is a lack of knowledge for other cultures, cultural stereotyping becomes a clear factor for conflicts which may occur. Cultural stereotypes used throughout society creates a sense of having a privileged identity, this stereotyping is present throughout much of Australian society. stereotyping creates a reduction process in a person’s mind, this leads to the generalises of cultures and often gives a misleading representation of diverse groups (stereotypes, 2015). When society reverts to stereotyping this leads to social categorization which then results to prejudice attitudes towards particular groups (Cultural Stereotypes, or National Character?, 2012).
A clear example of cultural stereotyping can be seen when the Cronulla Riots occurred on the 11 of December in 2005 in Sydney due to a confrontation between Lebanese youths and a group of lifeguards in the beachside suburb of Cronulla, the riots were influenced by an SMS text message which managed to make its way around not only the whole of Sydney but also other states throughout Australia. The initial conflict which began on the beach in Cronulla spread over the next few days and began to target a broad range of people who were of ‘middle eastern’ appearance rather than the group the confrontation began with, the outbreaks of mob violence revealed the minute section of Australians revealed the prejudice views of Australian society. The riots were influenced by the SMS text message which managed to make its way around not only the whole of Sydney but also other states throughout Australia the riots also revealed the negative impact that media has on society and how this influence is dire towards societies.
Popular radio influencer, Alan Jones (SOURCE 4) revealed that “it would be worth the price of admission to watch these cowards scurry back onto the train for the return trip to their lairs” when discussing the Cronulla riots, Jones announced that “Australians… shouldn’t have to put up with this scum”. Jones has a significant following throughout society, through Jones’ following he is permitting clear ethnocentrism and stereotyping towards the groups that were targeted at the Cronulla riots. Therefore, Jones’ prejudice views are influencing the public eye.
In addition, Ethnicity refers to one’s nationality and links in to culture, people come from different ethnicities around the world, it is a word used to describe where on is born or raised and the culture that an individual identifies with (Ethnicity and Nationalism,2002). When a group is ignorant towards another ethnicity it becomes an issue relating to Ethnocentrism, which describes an individual or group’s tendency to see their own group or culture as superior compared to another group (introduction to Australian Society,2007). Attitudes towards other groups are shaped during early childhood, ethnocentrism is transferred from generation to generation through socialisation within culture). Ethnocentrism can occur in small but significant ways. When cultural stereotyping and ethnocentrism are mixed it forms racist tendencies, racism is a belief that human beings can be divided into various races, and that certain races are inferior to others (Ethnocentricism , n.d.).
Ethnocentrism can be seen throughout the issues with the Sudanese culture throughout Australia due to the previously perceived views that contemporary Australian society has towards the Sudanese gangs that influenced the ethnocentric views. While a small minority of Sudanese people are creating conflict throughout Australia, the majority are being blamed for the terrorising that has occurred because of these gangs, this leads to the belief that different ethnic groups can be categorized into ‘us and them’ as highlighted by Said in his theory of Orientalism.
A survey constructed (SOURCE 5) immediately after the attacks in September 11 of 2001 revealed that “two-thirds of those surveyed believed that humanity could be sorted into natural categories of race” as well as “the majority feeling that Australia was weakened by people of different ethnic origin”. This represents that while a small fraction of a group had attacked American society, it is prominent that the ethnocentric views and generalisation of other ethnic groups had taken more of a toll due to the fear and resentment that these attacks had placed upon society. The survey provides insight into the fact that prejudice views do not disappear they only move and grow. In relation to the Cronulla riots, this provides insight into the ethnic stereotypes that Australian society holds.
Former One Nation leader Pauline Hanson was refusing to sell her home to a Muslim buyer because Hanson believed that they are not “compatible with our way or life, our culture” and “we are going to have problems with them in this country further” (SOURCE 2). This exhibits clear ethnocentrism as well as racism towards a particular group’s culture due to the individual’s tendency to believe their culture is superior. Due to Pauline Hanson having a significant following throughout Australia, Hanson’s views are influencing the public eye.
In conclusion, racial conflict within Contemporary Australian society is the result of Cultural stereotypes based heavily due to the prejudice views influenced by a lack of exposure to other ethnic groups as discussed by Edward Said.