I am white European, 5 generations Australian. I love this country, the land the people, yet I grew up in an environment where the lowest form of life was Aboriginal. My Grandma mother’s words of belittlement to change our behaviors where “What are you, an aborigine?” demonstrating her upbringing and understanding. Passing this on to her children and grandchildren, she perpetuated a dehumanizing myth that continues to do harm.
I didn’t know then what I was learning, where it had come from and why it was so integral to white Europeans. I didn’t understand the politics that united white people against indigenous people. I didn’t understand the laws that were in place that limited “some”people. This was my lifetime. I was shocked and horrified. I’m still not sure I understand it all. The thought that comes into my head is that the “convicts and settlers” needed someone lesser than them to feel good about themselves….but even that is a disgusting thought. How do we go about dehumanizing an entire group of people for 200 years and think that they should just get over it? Where is our humanity now?
As an Australian of white privilege I do not know what the experience of racism in Australia is like. I feel safe, comfortable and confident. When I walk down the street I can smile at people openly and receive a smile back, truly connecting. I doubt this is as true for others. My question is how do we, how do I begin to create the change?
Today I spoke with my son, I asked about his learning of Australian history of the atrocities that occurred and how he feels about people of different backgrounds to us. He acknowledge hearing some of the information of the Australian history but expressed how too often the Aboriginal history was caught up in arts projects and culture rather than the actual experience of aboriginal peoples. It appeared to me that it was for entertainment rather than a critical exercise of learning. My son went on to say at primary school it may be hard to tell children about the killings and the intentional wiping out of so many people. I really think we need to find away to face this truth and know that it is fact, this did happen and as a Country this has fed our way of being, our white privilege. He also went on to say that he felt people were people; he doesn’t feel that he discriminates. His school, one of privilege, appears to value diversity. A good start.
The aboriginal Flag:
The symbolic meaning of the flag colours (as stated by Harold Thomas) is: Black – represents the Aboriginal people of Australia. Yellow circle – represents the Sun, the giver of life and protector. Red – represents the red earth, the red ochre used in ceremonies and Aboriginal peoples’ spiritual relation to the land.
But I have this vision of the Red representing the blood of the ancestors who have fallen upon the Earth, the Black representing the oppression of the people, the dark night of the soul, and the Yellow representing the Courage and solidarity the people of Australia, all people, will need to find in order to own and be responsible for our past, and fully merge ourselves in the history of this country, this land, that belongs to none; we are simply the caretakers.
It is those of privilege, those in power who have the strongest voice, and the most to lose. Yet what we lose is nothing in comparison to what we gain as a country, as a people as individuals. A place where all children have an education, and can grow to their full potential, where each and every person can feel safe to walk the streets and smile openly, connecting with their hearts full of Love for every being. What are you willing to do, to be, to say in order to make a difference, to embrace the history and become united as a country? No excuses!