Denial of racism and its implications for local action

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Discourse and Society, 2013, 24 (1), pp. 89 - 109
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Literature on modern racism identifies denial as one of its key features. This article examines the discourses of denial that feature in the talk of local anti-racism actors in Australia, and asks what drives these discourses. The research draws on qualitative interviews undertaken with participants involved in local anti-racism in two case study areas, one in South Australia and the other in New South Wales. This article explores the way local participants in the case study areas deployed four discourses to deny or minimise racism: temporal deflections; spatial deflections; deflections from the mainstream; and absence discourses. Place defending and the desire to protect one's local area from being branded a racist space is discussed as a driver of those local denial discourses. Local denial of racism is also linked to national politics of racism and anti-racism. In particular, the Australian government's retreat from multiculturalism, and the preference for 'harmony' rather than 'anti-racism' initiatives, was linked to the avoidance of the language of racism within participants' responses. The way denial discourses narrow the range of possibilities for local anti-racism is discussed, as is the importance of acknowledgement of racism, particularly institutional and systemic racism. Public acknowledgement of these forms of racism will broaden the scope of local anti-racism. © The Author(s) 2013.
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