Last year, I tried to offer a white, male perspective on the issue of January 26, because I saw that there was clearly a market for Caucasian mediocrity in the “sensible Centre”.
Looking left and right, we can see hundreds of articles, blogs, and editorials all saying the same thing: January 26 is vexing, contentious, and possibly good and/or bad.
I’ve been trying to find a way to top such basic acknowledgement of invasion and genocide; the only problem, Australia somehow managed to get even more racist over the last 12 months.
Let’s try this again.This was written on Dharawal land. It contains images and links to sites that may use images of Aboriginal and Islander people now deceased.
Okay, so, my white guilt has been in overdrive for months now, and it’s not about to get any easier.
A year ago I was frustrated, outraged, and disgusted by the Turnbull Government’s rejection of the Uluru Statement and Makarrata, as well as the lacklustre response to the closure of Indigenous communities; Indigenous deaths in custody; the growing crisis surrounding a new Stolen Generation; Indigenous youth in custody; racist policing; and that racist, Don Burke-looking motherfucker Nigel Scullion as Indigenous Affairs Minister.
Today, we have a Nazi in the Senate; Tony Abbott is back as special envoy on Indigenous affairs; Team Australia is being blindly led by Captain Cooked as they attempt to rewrite history and make excuses for genocide; the government is ignoring the fact that there is a growing Indigenous youth suicide crisis; they’re doing nothing to help Indigenous communities that have run out of water because of their dodgy concessions to donors; the Government’s ongoing rejection of the Uluru Statement and Makarrata, as well as punishing remote Indigenous communities for existing; deaths in custody; the new Stolen Generation; Indigenous youth in illegal custody; racist policing; and that racist, corrupt-as-shit, Don Burke-looking motherfucker Nigel Scullion remains Indigenous Affairs Minister (I know he’s on his way out, this was written before he made his announcement, and quitting politics doesn’t change what he has done, so fuck him. He’s a cunt who should be prosecuted for fraud. Nigel Scullion is the best reason for a Federal ICAC with the full powers required to crush all forms of corruption, but that’s another story).
Plus, all the historic state-sponsored violence and government crimes that only seem to rate a white mention during this one week of the year. The massacres of Aboriginal men, women and children; rapes; stolen children; land theft; disease; slavery and stolen wages; the denial of human rights for decades after Federation; and centuries of associated racism and bigotry.
But don’t worry, Australia Day is totally going to be put in the Constitution.
I don’t know where to begin with this dumpster fire of a Parliament. The Opposition have been utterly transparent in their disinterest in tackling big, pressing issues, so it should surprise no one that they’re steering clear of all of the above issues, with the exception of Bill Shorten declaring Scott Morrison has a Captain Cook “fetish”.
Even for a white male like me, this is depressing; and as we all know, if a white person is upset, then society has failed.
It’s worth having a look at the difficulty some white folks have when it comes to considering anything basic like simply redefining the broader meaning of January 26 – the most tokenist approach to Indigenous Affairs since Tony Abbott championed the Recognise campaign.
Many Australians of European-extraction struggle to reconcile what they were taught in primary school with what they are being made to digest in social media feeds. This fight for historical accuracy and Indigenous perspectives has become so fierce that the majority of Australians are just switching off, and sticking with the status quo.
Then, after solving that, maybe we can look at Uluru and Makarrata, as well as the difficulty white progressives have when it comes to engaging on issues of Indigenous rights.
This should be fun.
First, to the issue of whiteness, colonialism, and Indigeneity as the framing devices for debates around race and Indigenous affirmation in this country.
January 26 is the new front for the conservatives digging in for another decade of cultural warfare. The role of Invasion/Australia Day has become incredibly contentious because a handful of powerful conservatives realised that they were running out of hills to die on. As such, they’ve helped to empower the same people they tried to silence by legitimising their cause.
But, the biggest mistake these conservatives made was ramping up their racist dogwhistling, and outright abuse of Indigenous Communities, in addition to their rejection of those calling to change the date of Australia Day.
They could have appeased white guilt and solved this by reverting to the pre-1994 date for Australia Day, the first Monday on or after January 26 (also known as the Hottest 100 approach) which would have protected the public holiday and satisfied enough white voters to kick the issue down the road for a few years at least. If they were smart, they would have announced that to be the case from this year, because of when the public holiday will fall.
Instead, we’re faced with calls to abolish Australia Day altogether, and given the rationale, it’s almost surprising that this hasn’t happened sooner.
Right now, it seems like barely a day goes by when Australia isn’t forced to confront the deep undercurrent of racism that seems to flow through every facet of life, culture, and politics. Whether it’s another high profile incidence of blackface, or another racist cartoon in a Murdoch rag, or another racist dogwhistle from those in power, as a predominantly white nation, we seem incapable of taking any action to shift the national conversation forward.
I mean, we know SlowMo is capable of recognising the fact that there is a divide over January 26, and we won’t soon forget that he proposed a separate, but equal, public holiday for Indigenous Australians.
Nothing says reconciliation like Jim Crow.
Australia, in its present form, is not capable of addressing the racism that is so pervasive across society. The vast majority of (white) people living here don’t have the time to spend hours learning about the reality of a politicised life in this country, let alone researching why there was a push to change the date in the first place, so of course they fall back on lazy racism and outright dismissal of such a movement.
There is clearly a task here for all white people who might claim to be allies – to set about educating other white people such that they might learn even some of the struggles faced by Indigenous Australians, or even the intergenerational trauma that can be traced from Cook’s declaration of terra nullius to Macquarie’s genocidal terrorism to section 127 of the Australian Constitution to the Stolen Generations and beyond.
When leaders like Scott Morrison, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, and the vast array of clowns holding court across various Australian screens start churning out their jingoistic January 26 propaganda, demanding mandatory patriotism and blind allegiance to the colonisers, the undercurrent of Australian racism becomes a wave.
When Bill Shorten and his Labor stooges refuse to stand up to this white supremacy, issuing empty statements of support for the right to protest while simultaneously backing January 26 as Australia Day, that wave crashes.
Outright racism is perfectly fine in the last weeks of January, according to these fuck-monkeys.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart and Makarrata are the beginning of something bigger than ourselves.
It means taking a holistic approach to Indigenous policies, looking at the effect on those in both remote and urban locales, considering the impact of health policies in Mt Druitt, and infrastructure policies in Alice Springs.
It means Indigenous self-determination and community-led approaches to policy and spending.
It means the end of decades of white mission masters as Indigenous Affairs Minister/Spokesperson.
It means a treaty, or treaties, with the hundreds of Indigenous nations that survived the colonial genocide.
It means Australia can begin to be a nation for all Australians instead of just the colonisers.
However, Uluru and Makarrata are going to become the key dividing issue of the next political era, just as gender and marriage equality framed this last era.
Watching the revisionist antics of the Liberal/National/One Nation/Conservative/Fraser Anning’s Nazi Parties, plus the majority right-wing Labor Party as they desperately cling to January 26, along with countless other symbols of colonial oppression, show how hard this fight is going to be.
Even as members within some of those parties support real change, it will likely be decades before it reaches mass political appeal, especially amongst party leaders, as marriage equality finally did. It’s going to be an uphill battle.
Australian Republicans are going to be forced to place Makarrata/Treaty at the head of their push for independence. Because if we can’t fix what we have done, then we don’t deserve to move on while holding others back.
Over the last few years, the rhetoric has shifted from simply changing the date of Australia Day, anywhere from January 1 to May 8 and various other suggestions in between, to abolishing Australia Day altogether.
The push to make January 26 a Day of Mourning for those lost to the Invasion and Frontier Wars remains.
This year, the #ChangeTheNation campaign was kicked off in earnest. Once more tokenism has been rejected in favour of substantive change; truth-telling, and recognition of history and humanity are needed to begin to fix this nation.
It is placing the Uluru Statement from the Heart and everything that came with back at the forefront of political discussion.
It is demanding action from lazy politicians and education for misinformed voters.
It is listening to and acting on Indigenous voices and requests.
Australia is failing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and individuals. For centuries we destroyed lives, and for many, that didn’t end just because of the 1967 referendum, or the Mabo and Wik rulings by the High Court.
We still had the NT Intervention, we still have black deaths in custody, there is still a 10 year gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. We kill rivers that thrived for tens of thousands of years under Indigenous management. We elect white supremacists and racists to Parliament and give them free reign to abuse the funds that have been designated for Indigenous communities.
We are responsible for our own actions, even if we won’t take on the responsibility for those who came before us.
We may not be actively engaged in blackbirding in 2019, but that doesn’t make us any less racist.
Many Australians don’t even understand what happened on January 26, some think it was the date Australia was Federated in 1901, some think it was when Cook first came ashore in Botany Bay, some don’t care – for the most part, this is because they don’t care about the significance of the date in any meaningful way, they just *know* it has something to do with Aussie Pride and other toxic, vaguely racist jargon they’ve been taught to regurgitate.
As a white Australian man, as a writer with an audience, I am in a position to speak truth to power. I can use what privilege I have to call out racism, to speak about issues of race and class, to lift up those not being given an audience and help those without a voice find one.
I can demand others speak out, have awkward, painful, frustrating conversations over and over, read more and more to gain a greater understanding of what has been done, what needs to be done, and what can be done.
Confront racists even when they don’t realise that they’re being racist. Call my local MP and speak with Senators to find out where they stand on issues affecting Indigenous people, and if I don’t like what they have to say, confront them on it, demand more from those purporting to represent me. Going to protests, speaking with and listening to more Indigenous people, and voting for those who would create a better country.
I have failed to do this properly over the last 12 months, even as I virtue signal over Indigenous rights and representation, I fail to check my privilege. I speak over others, I lecture, I talk when I should listening. And this is the hubris that comes with whiteness, we want to see ourselves as the saviours even as we claim that we are not. We fail to see the great danger posed by the fact that we are the benchmark for how “normal” is defined. 70% of Australians are white, this has tainted our judgement.
It is so hard to recognise how privileged we are, even when we don’t feel privileged.
I feel a deep shame for what has been done by those who came before me, and I know it does not and cannot end with just my insistence that as Australians we be better.
There is a fight, a 231 year long struggle, with no sign of ending soon.
The onus is on white progressives, and white politicians, to step the fuck up. We need to combat the claims of “trying to change history” especially when SlowMo is making claims Cook circumnavigated Australia, and the best Labor can offer is some weird anti-Semitism in response.
We have to do the heavy lifting now, because for 231 years we’ve caused the majority of the pain in this country. And yeah, it isn’t going to be easy, there will be resistance from people when it comes to accepting the truth of Australian history. You will learn the meaning of the Dunning-Kruger effect and face some truly abhorrent racism, but this is nothing compared to what Indigenous Australians have faced since 1788.
There will even be resistance from black activists when you come into this space as a white person, but, can you blame them? You will need to stay in your lane, boost and amplify Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices as much as you can, but focus on your mission, educating white people and helping them to see why Australia needs to change its racist attitudes.
Do not listen to, engage, or encourage white “devil’s advocates”, these people will waste your time in defence of their racist mates (and usually themselves). These people are best silenced early and often.
Do not settle for those who might offer to “agree to disagree”.
Spend time reading, listening, and absorbing information as much as you can, so you’re prepared to call people out if needed, or to explain if someone wants to know more about the campaign for Indigenous rights.
Be patient, the change will not come overnight, it will take many conversations, often saying the same thing over and over to drive the point home.
Broaden your newsfeed; if you’re not on Twitter, get on Twitter and curate a list of Indigenous men and women whose opinions, insights and articles you can learn from.
Stop ignoring the human rights violations faced every day by Indigenous Australians, be better than the fuckwits in Canberra.
Be careful when criticising Indigenous conservatives. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of using racist epithets like “Uncle Tom” when you disagree with individual. Attack the idea, not the individual – except when the individual is particularly foul and callous. It’s okay to call Nigel Scullion a cunt.
Take some time to learn what conservatives are saying, unless you know what they think, you won’t be able to counter them as effectively.
Go to protests, listen to Indigenous voices at these events. Avoid the Socialist Alternative – they’re angry idiots with nothing to offer.
You’re reading this, but how much additional research have you done to learn more about Australian history? How many links have you clicked through?
If you didn’t go to a protest this weekend, did you take the opportunity to confront others over their views? Did you take the chance to start a conversation at a BBQ, pub, or during your Hottest 100 party?
If not, why not?
It’s all good and well to say that we can’t change the past, but until we face up to the past, we can’t change the future.