Racism and the Australia Day Conundrum
If you listen to some in the political classes, Australia day is a day for all Australians to come together, therefore it should remain unchanged. But in spite of this rhetoric every year it becomes clearer. Australia day is driving us apart, not bringing us together.
The date debate has divided our nation. On the left is a progressive movement for inclusivity through change. On the right a nostalgic camp of date loyalists who see change as an affront to our nation.
Even though the date remains the same, many seem oblivious to the fact that Australia day has already changed. It is no longer the joyous, white, flag waving, beach BBQ of the Howard era. These days it is broadly recognised as invasion day, which makes throwing a huge party seem somewhat problematic (and a little distasteful).
It can be difficult to illicit empathy for those we see as “not like us.” Often we need to imagine things in a more identifiable construct in order to understand those that seem so intractably foreign. So, imagine if you will…
France, June 25, 1940…
Hitler’s troops have defeated the allies and take France. Then move forward 81 years, and imagine the incongruity of the French getting ready to celebrate their national day. June 25th 2021, the day Hitler’s troops conquered France. The German settlers can’t understand why so many native French people have a problem with the date. “It’s been that date for decades”, they cry, “it is a day to bring us all together”.
In this context the problem is obvious to most of us. We actually get it. But when it comes to first nation’s people in Australia, we seem to suffer from a collective lack of imagination. We just can’t see how things might look through their eyes.
While we regale ourselves with idealised tales of mate-ship and ANZACS and solemnly reflect on mantras of “lest we forget,” we spit back at first nation’s people with a patronising prescriptive “just get over it.”
What many date loyalist fail to understand is that in sticking with Jan 26 we are engaging in a socially sanctioned form of white supremacy, (something a lot of Australians don’t feel at all comfortable with). Date loyalty is aligning yourself with a damaging social divide that adversely effects many of our first nation’s people.
Date loyalty is sending a clear message, “Your trauma and grief are of no interest or importance to us.”
Just as it was with the toxic “Coon Cheese” name debate, or the rejection of the statement of the heart, the date loyalists are making their opinion quite clear. First nation’s people have no place in defining the culture-scape of our nation.
Those resisting change need to get over their collective lack of imagination. Denying first nation’s people a voice in defining what is celebrated, and what is mourned is simply wrong.
Date change may not be on the calendar just yet, but a growing number of Australians feel uncomfortable with the status quo. Date change will happen, but the question is how much damage will occur waiting for our politicians to lead from behind.
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