For the last week I have had a discussion going on on my facebook page after posting my feelings about Andrew Bolt and his recent racial discrimination bullshit. My original post went as follows:
“As a fair skinned Australian with aboriginal heritage, i find Andrew Bolt’s comments about people in my situation identifying as Aboriginal “for career and personal gain” to be narrow minded, negative and entirely offensive. The ruling against him is not a slap in the face for free speech. Making comments such like he did is a slap in the face for fair skinned Aboriginal people who struggle to make peace with their family history and the treatment of their ancestors. Considering the possibility of identifying as Aboriginal brings up incredibly complex issues and emotions; “will this help my career?” has nothing to do with it. Fuck you Andrew Bolt. Your lack of empathy and deeper understanding make me feel sick.”
…to which I received a bevy of replies in support of my feelings, and in opposition to those of Andrew Bolt. However, in the last 24 hours, the discussion has turned into something of an argument, as one voice piped up, claiming to not agree with Andrew Bolt, but sympathises with the attitude. The debate (and occasional name calling) that has followed I find to be fascinating, albeit pretty frustrating, and I’ve come to realize that while everyone is entitled to their individual opinions, there is certainly a point where opinions can become harmful to a society if left to fester in a narrow minded person’s reality.
I have spoken about my Aboriginal ancestry in this column before, but for those unfamiliar, I will explain a little. I am a fair skinned Australian, born of a Dutch maternal line and an Australian paternal line, the heritage of which includes English, Irish, Scottish, Swedish and Aboriginal. From what I can remember of the research my father did on the subject, my Aboriginal ancestry was created early on in colonial Australia’s history, possibly in Queensland. My dad attended a family reunion some years ago, and the attendees all had different coloured skin, ranging from jet black to bright white. My own skin colour is as pale as the moon.
As I have discussed before, I was aware of the difficulty Australia as a country has with racism, guilt and ignorance from an early age, after my understanding of the atrocities experienced by indigenous Australians throughout colonial Australia’s history did not match up with the level of distain and discrimination the non indigenous population general showed towards their dark skinned neighbours.
Given that these people had their culture, family groups and languages completely destroyed, it made perfect sense to me even as a teenager that alcoholism was so common amongst inner city Aboriginal populations. As I learnt about how deep the cycle of abuse so commonly went in these families, I understood why the teenagers I encountered were so angry. I could not be hateful towards the group of guys who attacked me a few years ago just because they were Aboriginal, instead I was upset at how cowardly these humans were for attacking me and my friends like that. I lost respect for the guy in my group who spouted racist slurs about them in the days afterwards, proof to me that bigotry like that is on the tip of so many Australian’s tongues.
Which is why this thing on my facebook page has gotten me a little riled up. It was claimed that the fact that some companies have quotas for indigenous employees they have to fill denied this person of a job, but in my mind… if he was qualified and experienced enough for a job with the company, surely he would have got the position not saved for the indigenous quota? Having a system like that in place stops the possibility of not employing any Aboriginal people at all, which I feel might be the case for some companies, thus giving opportunities for individuals who, whether or not people like to admit it, experience prejudice. You know what it sounds like? “THEY TOOK OUR JOBS. THEY TOOOOOK OUUURRR JOOOOORRRBBS.”
It scares me to know that so many Australians choose to ignore the bullshit Aboriginal people have faced throughout the history of modern Australia. When I mentioned physical and sexual abuse in Aboriginal families, this guy asked for proof that this was not already a part of Aboriginal life before European settlement. I nearly screamed at my computer screen. (Part of) my reply: “It’s pretty ridiculous to suggest that rape and abuse was rife before Europeans got here, just because the idea of the missionaries and foster parents of the stolen generation touching and beating up these kids isn’t something you want to deal with. Alcoholism certainly didn’t exist before Europeans arrived, but do you want to try blaming that on an imagined pre-existing cultural tendency towards that too? I know you’re not technically suggesting such things, but what is the point in trying to glaze over something like that? Oh, I don’t have proof? I guess that means the problem isn’t as bad as it seems.
Claiming to want nothing but equality, but getting pissed off at the steps the privileged have to take to help the disadvantaged get to a better point is something that seems to run through everything about the Australian attitude to different cultures. Aboriginals and refugees alike are seen as a pest to your average suburbanite, “I’m not racist but…”, and nothing gets done because the close minded selfishness amongst most of the voting population encourage conservatives to harass us “bleeding hearts” for giving a shit about something other than money and the “Australian way of life”.
Humans have been hurting each other for thousands of years. We are now at the point that we don’t have to, but after so much brutality and hatred, it will probably take a few more generations for every human being to come to terms with it and make their peace. It won’t be until the hatred and fighting stop that the healing can start, and while the healing is nearly complete for some groups, it’s barely begun for others. We each have to be aware of the struggle of others while we go through our own, nothing is simple, and the world would do well to just chill out and stop being so fucking negative. Love your brother, don’t get jealous that right now he’s getting more help than you. He needs it more.