Source 5

An article from the Morning Post, 13th June 1919. Catalogue Ref: HO 45/11017/377969







(By an Australian correspondent.)


Dominion citizens of the Empire see one benefit in the troubles which the Mother Country has at present with a small negro population, brought into the country by the war. Great Britain will now understand better the “White Australia policy” and Western Canada’s objection to unrestricted Asiatic immigration. Talking with a visiting Bishop of the Church of England many years ago in Sydney, on his statement that “he could not understand” the objection to coloured immigrants, I quoted a cable in that day’s papers reporting the burning of three negroes at the stake in the United States, a horror which was witnessed by hundreds of approving men and women. It was to avoid that sort of thing that we wanted a White Australia.


It is a fact – an unfortunate fact, perhaps, but still a fact – that the coloured races and our white race cannot live together on terms of equal freedom. There is no need to argue as to which is the “superior race” if a coloured people feels aggrieved at a racial bar. It is the insuperable [impossible] difference that has to be recognised. The heritage of Grecian and Roman thought, with twenty centuries of Christianity imposed upon it, has given us ideals and standards which the coloured races cannot share nor understand. So we cannot admit them to share our citizenship.


One of the secrets of good British colonisation among coloured races has been the instinctive recognition of this fact by the British man, as soon as he goes abroad to help to administer a coloured colony. He does not mix with the natives, though he governs them justly and mercifully as a rule. (European Peoples who do not “draw the colour line” so strictly do not succeed so well.) But the British citizen at home has not always seen things in the same light, and he’s been inclined to follow the cranks and the enemies of the Empire, who object to any “race distinction”. A negro problem in his own home will convince him, far more quickly than any abstract argument, that you cannot give full privileges as “a man and a brother” to other racial types without accepting them also as brothers-in-law; and that path leads to racial degradation [decline].


It is the sex question, indeed, that is the marrow of the matter. The coloured man so soon as he is treated as an equal aspires to be the mate of the white woman. That is the real test of equality for him, and it is a logical enough test. But all the instincts of our white race refuse that. Thus we come to the practical conclusion that coloured immigrants cannot be accepted as citizens of a white country on terms of full equality. A dominant white caste can govern a black race to the good of both. But it cannot be on terms of race equality.


« Return to 1919 race riots

Look at source 5.

  1. What is the date of this article?
  2. Why is this date significant in relation to the 1919 race riots?
  3. Comment on the language and tone of this article.
  4. What reason does the writer give for Australia’s objection to unrestricted non-white immigration?
  5. How does the writer describe the approach of British colonial rulers when they are abroad?
  6. Which nationalist or anti-colonial voices may the writer of the article be referring to?
  7. What is the significance of the term ‘brothers-in-law’ in this context?
  8. What does this article reveal about debates taking place on the issue of race and racism at the time?