By Cally Jetta
If every blackfulla in this country received a dollar each time someone said to them ‘stop living in the past’ or ‘you get better treatment than other Australians and you still complain’ we would all be very wealthy people.
That’s it in a nutshell. The two main attitudes and beliefs that fuel so much of the racism and resentment directed at our people. The belief that we are somehow stuck in a time warp if we advocate for our rights or educate others on their nation’s full history; and that we receive special treatment that more than makes up for the fact that our people, land, culture, languages and children have all been taken from us in the recent past.
The frustrating part is, I can spend half an hour explaining to someone why these views are so misinformed. But there will be 2 more people that say the exact same thing the next day, and the next and the next. We need our non-Aboriginal allies to help us change the current acceptance of racism in this country around so that it is no longer the person that speaks out against racism that is seen as the outcast, but the racist themselves.
It is far too acceptable for racism and the myths and stereotypes that inform it to go unchallenged here. It’s even seen as justified … ‘well if you’d seen what I have you’d say the same’ or ‘it’s the bad ones who give that name to them all’ or ‘why should we pay for what our ancestors did?’
We are well aware that you are not 200+ years old and directly responsible for the massacre of our people. We just want you to give a damn, to listen and show some compassion for the pain, the loss and the trauma our people suffered and are currently still trying to heal from. I don’t blame you, but while you are happy condemning all my people for the problems we face and refusing to acknowledge how the recent past and your origin in this country has created them- then I do see you as part of the issue.
Since when has racially vilifying and ridiculing a group of people endeared them to want to find a place in the society that sneers them?
Since when has completely dismissing a person’s history and current experience been helpful in reconciliation and bringing about better understanding?
Since when has repeating stereotypes and myths based on hear-say helped people to overcome and rise above them?
What do these people fear they will lose if they show a bit of empathy and understanding? What terrible outcomes do they imagine are waiting if they stop kicking us while we’re down and offer us a hand up?
You see wanting to be acknowledged and respected in the present is not living in the past, it’s wanting the record set straight so that we can move forward together. Why shouldn’t we want and fight for a country that observes a national day of mourning for our fallen; idolises Jandamarra the way it does Ned Kelly and gives us equal footing in the media and government?
It absolutely astounds me that Aboriginal Australians have among the highest incarceration and suicide rates in the world; lower life expectancies; discrimination to overcome in education and employment; a community still trying to heal; and racism and stereotypes to face everyday – and people still complain about the special treatment and easy ride they think we get. They go on and on about benefits – many that Aboriginal people have never even heard of and completely dismiss the reasons and government motivation behind close the gap initiatives. Do you blame senior citizens for pension cuts? How in all honesty can you be angry at a people for the government strategies introduced to alleviate disadvantage caused by previous governments?
What good do these people think they are achieving by attacking us? By devaluing and dismissing our history, feelings, perspectives and ongoing activism?
Stop being so defensive and realise we are not blaming you for the past – we are just tired of being blamed for the present by those who foolishly think the past, present and future are somehow disconnected and unrelated.