I'm worn out. I'm over it. I don't even know where to begin. I'm 36 years old and I have been having these conversations my entire life yet it seems that regardless of what evidence is put in front of them, of what people hear or see or witness in some other form, they still nod ignorantly along with commentary such as what Mark Sawyer provided last week when he claimed that racism is as limited as people just saying stupid things and therefore it is not really racism at all. As Aamer Rahman rightly points out, having a white guy erroneously tell me this for what is approximately the 475,589,669th time in my life is about as ridiculous as having any bloke tell me sexism really is not a thing. It does not make it true. It's just an extraordinary amount of privilege trying to sell itself off as the rational and neutral opinion when it is neither and due to its incredible lack of experience of such matters, it shouldn't be considered as such. Yet time and time again it is and this is why I am feeling like a year's sleep wouldn't go astray.
So in light of the concept of whitemansplaining neutrality and other such ridiculous notions, here are some other things that are exhausting me right now.
1. I am fed up with people simply glossing over the actual history, and present, of this country
People wonder why I get so damn angry every Invasion Day. It's because this day marks Australia being deemed "Terra Nullius", or land belonging to no one, by the colonisers and then settled without the consent of the people who were actually here and had been for several millennia. Sovereignty has never been ceded and a treaty has never been negotiated in this country. Whether you're a descendent of the First Fleet, a migrant, or even an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander who lives in lands that are not their homelands, you are benefiting from the displacement of First Peoples and this is yet to be rectified in any real way despite there being two centuries of opportunities in which to do so. It is also yet to be rectified in the classrooms. The concept of Terra Nullius was only overturned in the High Court in 1992 - 22 years ago which is in the lifetime of a good many people who will read this, I'd wager. When I was at school, I was taught that this land was "settled" yet reading up in later life on the massacres, the establishment of missions and the Tasmanian "Black War" shows how this is not the case. Then there's the Stolen Generations, the 1967 referendum, the deaths in custody, the NTER and so forth to consider. If these things are actually taught in any great detail nowadays then consider me shocked.
What I do know though is rather than educate themselves, ask questions or grapple with the fact that maybe they don't know it all, there are some out there who would prefer to point the finger at me and my actions; accusing me of being divisive for their own benefit and stubbornly ploughing on with their twisted and dominant-culture concepts of national pride. By doing so they are choosing to tell me that an entire section of my family and the things that they faced are irrelevant and undeserving of memory or dignity. This is not about "different opinions", this is about complete denial of heritage and stories of this country. They have never walked in these two worlds so have no concept of the tightrope act it is trying to feel proud of who you are whilst society does everything in its power to try and make you feel ashamed. Yet still, they believe they have the right try and aggressively squash dissension with their jingoism. When I say I'm over it, I'm probably understating the facts.
2. The cricket caucus
You know what's worse than racism? Those that enable it. You see, if someone comes out with a racist slur, statement or something they've openly outed themselves as a racist and they can therefore be dealt with. A racism enabler, on the other hand, when confronted with racism just stands there and does nothing therefore allowing racism to exist in the space they occupy. Through their inaction they create a safe space for racism to exist and consequently also create an unsafe space for those who may be affected by it. Maybe they feel uncomfortable saying something because they are worried about putting themselves in the limelight, and to an extent, I can understand that. It's shit being in the limelight. But the thing is, they are not the ones being utterly dehumanised by such comments and they are not the ones who are going to feel excluded or haunted by what they hear. It is not about them! Even saying that you don't appreciate such language being used can make the person who actually has been dehumanised feel just that bit safer. It's really not that much to ask.
As for the person who is actually being dehumanised by the racist comment/slur/etc confronting it, believe me when I say that I have tried everything over the years and I can think of a handful of incidences where what I have said has been taken on board and apologies have been made. Much more often, I've been told that I can't take a joke. Because the systematic oppression of a group of people based on their ethnicity is so friggin' hilarious... Or I have been told that I am being "too PC", or the person claims they didn't mean anything by their comment and I'm the one that has blown it out of proportion and so forth. So basically it is my fault that I won't put up with racism. I've threatened to walk out of gatherings because I won't engage in "joking" racist discussions and I have been accused of taking things too seriously. Then sometimes I just give up because I have tried so many times to get the messages through and nothing has ever worked so I have more to gain from seeing who enables racism and avoiding those spaces in the future. It's fucked and it shouldn't be the case. So what can you do to ensure that it isn't?
3. The inability to criticise
Not that long ago I was unfriended on Facebook because I dared to question Adam Goodes accepting the Australian of the Year Award. My comment had nothing to do with him as a person but rather the historical context that he was accepting it under. Is this not a fair question 226 years and one basically hollow Federal apology later?
In an earlier blogpost, I detailed how I was accused of lateral violence by someone who should have known a hell of a lot better because I dared question the alleged "empowerment" of the Miss NAIDOC pageants. It is tough being critical of when we adopt other systems of oppression and rebrand them as "empowering" within our communities because we are apparently stunting community development regardless of what destructive messages we may also be sending at the time.
As Maddee Clark points out in this brilliant piece, there is such a huge level of responsibility when it comes to expressing black opinion. Every time we wish to discuss issues/cultural practices/etc that are even remotely negative, we have to be so careful because it is precisely this sort of commentary which racists, assmiliationists and other such types bide their time for then use to try and discredit our heritage. Every time I write anything, I wonder how it is going to be twisted, how it is going to misappropriated or deliberately misinterpreted by others looking to build their own notoriety. I'm still smarting from recent examples of this word twisting. I wish, just for one day, I could experience what it is like to write without this responsibility. Perhaps I am doing it a little today because I am certainly ranting with a certain abandon!
4. Ridiculous comments with no basis in reality
Despite me openly acknowledging my dual heritage constantly, even writing an entire article on the wonderful woman who is my mother, I have been accused of not acknowledging both sides of the family. The thing these accusers need to understand is that I have never experienced racism because I have non-Indigenous heritage. I have experienced it because I have Indigenous heritage that I have also never hidden because why the hell should I? It really is that simple.
On Facebook recently, I wrote this:
wish it didn't upset me when I hear that certain folks have been bagging
me out behind my back about the amount of time they perceive that I
spend on this poxy platform. Unfortunately it does though because, more
often than not, the people stating so are actually those close by who
are supposed to be supportive and who actually reap benefits off my
support. Here's the thing: if it weren't for my
social media engagement and the continual encouragement I received from
people, some whom I have never met, I probably would not have started
writing and contributing to some bigger discussions. It's amazing what
some supportive notes urging a person to take their ideas further can
do. And this from people who owe me utterly nothing at all; they've just
taken it upon themselves to nurture someone else. Perhaps instead of
carrying on with the tall poppy crap you could take a leaf from their
book. The world would be a better place if more did.
Yep, it's real fun trying to make what little difference you can make utilising tools available and being hit with this sort of crap. Seriously? If you have to bag someone you're supposed to care about out behind their back in order to make yourself feel better about your meagre little existence then perhaps it's time to diversify your hobbies or something.
So yep, sometimes it gets a tad tough and it can be even more so when it's those that should know better are supplying the toughness. But I will live to rant another day. Of that, I'm quite sure...