Yet again this week it has been made crystal clear that we just can’t talk about some problems facing Aboriginal people – unless of course we are prepared to be called racists (whitefellas) or sellouts (blackfellas). And if we can’t talk about these problems, how can we address them?
On Studio 10, Yumi Stynes accused Kerri-Anne Kennerley of being racist. This was because Kerry-Anne dared to ask if any of the Australia Day protestors pretending that Aboriginal people are hurt by celebrations on Australia Day had actually been to the outback where children, babies, mothers, sisters and aunties are raped, as part of everyday life. That is a legitimate question. While I saw a tsunami of attacks on Kerri-Anne, with a host of accusations that she is claiming all babies and mothers are being raped, I did not see a response from any protester saying “Yes, I have visited these communities and know of these problems.”
Of course, all the social justice warriors chorused: “Well, has Kerri-Anne been to these communities?” I suspect she hasn’t, but why does she have to? She is under no illusion that the most urgent issue facing too many Aboriginal people today is the dysfunction in so many remote communities, including violence and child abuse. If the protesters Kerri-Anne was referring to were to visit these communities, and better yet, live there for a month, they might think about junking their ‘Invasion Day’ banners and making ‘Stop the Violence and Child abuse’ banners.
The gasoline on the bonfire was of course Yumi’s claim that Kerri-Anne was being racist. Racism is ugly, but so are baseless allegations, like Yumi’s. So why are some people so quick to play the racism card when there is no racism? The short answer is that it makes the dobber feel important, – and it is a very convenient way to silence your opponent and undermine their credibility. But there is another reason.
Most Australians want to see an end to the suffering that far too many Aboriginal people endure. Most want to see them have the opportunities and life’s pleasures that most of us take for granted. Thousands of Aboriginal people already enjoy the good life that Australia offers, but we know that there are still many, often in remote communities, living in conditions we wouldn’t let a dog live in. And they suffer the sort of abuse that Kerri-Anne spoke of.
When we sit in our comfortable homes enjoying the telly, not having to worry about where our next meal is coming from or if we will be bashed or raped, maybe a little bit of guilt creeps into our awareness. Many Aussies are left thinking “What can I do to help these Aboriginal people?” Most of us don’t have the opportunity to go live in a remote community and help out in a practical way. We should not feel guilty, but we are still left telling ourselves “Yeah, but I have to do something.”
For many, the solution is easy, and thanks to social media, you don’t have to leave the comfort of your chair. All you have to do is make a claim of racism and you can feel that you have made a difference, when in fact you’ve done nothing. Yumi didn’t even have to leave her seat. “You’re sounding quite racist right now” was quite enough to elevate her to hero status amongst the offendarati.
A day later, Jacinta Price and Lidia Thorpe discussed the matter of violence in remote communities. Lidia trotted out the usual claim of “racism endured everyday.” If you challenge that, this is seen as an act of denial, or indeed racism itself. She also used the classic ‘victim of the past’ narrative, not realising that so many Aboriginal people, herself and Jacinta included, are not suffering due to colonisation, and in fact are doing quite well. Lidia, you are in a position of influence. One of the most powerful messages you could give Aboriginal people is that we are never ever victims of the past, but only ever victims of our view of the past.
Lidia then follows up with “We need to heal the wounds of the past.” Actually, Lidia, for those who are trying to heal the past, they are actually wounding the present and killing the future for thousands of Aboriginal people. Jacinta, Kerri-Anne, and others have so eloquently highlighted the most serious problems facing so many Aboriginal people. Healing comes from tackling the problems of today! Enough is enough. End the silence on violence.