Like I said last time, I’m annoyed. Pissed, to be exact. Excuse the vent, but I’m utterly disgusted in the attitudes that are so blatantly expressed by some people in the Australian community. Take this recent comment on the website Causes, posted on the page “I support Aboriginal Australia and I vote”:
It would be humourous if it wasn’t so sad. If ever you needed an example of what spurs racism on, this is it; stereotypical grouping of a people from a similar cultural and/or racial group, described in almost identical terms used by a public servant in this letter back in 2002. At least the latter author had better grammar skills and didn’t contradict himself by saying he wasn’t racist!
It’s all well and good to say that words can’t hurt people, but if we’ve learned anything from the suicides of out bullied youth and adults or the riots in places such as Palm Island, you’ll understand two things; firstly, that the spoken word can either build or destroy self-esteem and adults are no less at risk of the spoken barb; secondly, thoughts often translate to actions, in the form of discriminatory behaviours. The result is always disharmony, which when experienced by a group of people described as homogenous through the stereotype forced upon them, becomes civil protest and possibly dissidence. Think Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Apartheid, US Black Panthers, the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, IRA, ETA; from civil protest to dissidence. Marginalise enough people, tar them with the same broad brush and you will get unrest. I neither approve of nor do I advocate violence, but I can understand why it sometimes happens with a marginalised group.
When a person comments obliquely on a webpage without knowing details about your life, it’s simply annoying. In the blogging world, they are called trolls. I’ve seen them, I’ve read their hateful slurry aimed at people and I know that it hurts, but ultimately you choose not to engage a faceless, spineless combatant.
When the person spewing the racist invective knows details about your family, your life, it becomes much more dangerous. Many Indigenous Australians choose to blend into the background, afraid of the marginalisation they have seen inflicted upon their families. If they can pass off their skin colour to Indian, Armenian or some other heritage, it is less likely to leave them at the bottom of the social charter and offer them a more peaceful existence. If you think the attitudes expressed in Henry Reynolds account of his family and father in ‘Nowhere People’ are no longer prevalent, I cannot agree, for this was left on my own blog some months ago in reply to a post I wrote on Closing the Gap:
I was left speechless and amazed last year when I tracked down a long ‘lost’ cousin (who lives in ACT); she was happy to hear from me at first but when I broached the subject of us having Indigenous ancestry she cut me off immediately. Stated I couldn’t prove it (I may be able to) so she’d rather believe her dark?skin was a ‘throwback’ to a Spanish relative.?I cannot fathom this attitude towards a skin colour.
When the general public fails to address issues of racism in its community, when it accepts the pejorative descriptions and inaction of its leaders and institutions I despair of the truly equal, harmonious land I believed in as a child. I despair for the children who we are raising. I am annoyed and I despair for the country I so love and call home. When will individuals be willing to speak out about racism? When will our politicians and institutional directors publicly denounce and shame racist staff? When will this country grow up?