Last Century Racism Embedded Deep into the Fabric of Australian Society

Last Century Racism Embedded Deep into the Fabric of Australian Society

“You’re not Aboriginal, You’ve Got Fair Skin”

“…See the impact of colonialism has been huge…we Aboriginal people are spiritual people and we are still recovering because of colonialism… There’s not a lot of understanding about that on the part of white Australia because they have this misguided belief that colonialism doesn’t affect them. Of course it does! It’s made them into the people they are today, which means they cannot hear what Aboriginal people are telling them… Many are trying to run away from their own history… As they get older and more mature [chuckles], hopefully they’ll have a better understanding… You see, that mouth of the snake… our people are in pathological grieving. Our people have retreated into the belly of the snake… it’s our consolidation of our Aboriginality, a renewing of our identity. Only recently have we begun emerging from the mouth of the snake with renewal and consolidation of who we are…” Lilla Watson Birri Gubba, Gungulu Elder Brisbane Qld.

WHITE IS THE NEW BLACK… IT’S SO HIP TO BE BLACK… these were the headlines two articles by right-wing columnist Andrew Bolt published in the Melbourne-based Herald Sun in 2009.

Bolt’s talk of “political Aborigines” and “the white face of a new black race” landed him in the Federal Court and found guilty of contravening the 1975 Racial Discrimination Act.

Several years on from, much of mainstream Australian society continues to question the authenticity of First Nations people with fair skin.  “You don’t look Aboriginal.  You’re just saying that so you can claim more money from Centrelink.”  For much of the 20th century, the colonial Australian government had a system of defining Aboriginal people, throwing them into different categories like full-blood, half-caste, quarter-caste and even ‘octoroon’.

Mainstream Australian society has struggled to define what it means to be ‘Aboriginal’ ever since invasion in 1788, trying to justify and make sense of it within their own system and framework of western ideology.

Pre-invasion, First Nations people identified themselves by their tribal affinities, clans, languages, totems and connection to country – in spite of the best efforts of more than two centuries of colonization, many of these links remain intact.

When is a cup of coffee no longer a cup of coffee?  It doesn’t matter how much milk you add, it’s still coffee.


Gunditjmara man Geoff Clarke,
 Former ATSIC Chairman says Aboriginal identity “comes down your strength of conviction, values and character”.  Mr Clarke questions the motivation of someone seeking to undermine the Aboriginality of another.

“It really doesn’t matter what answer you give.  At the end    of the day, it’s really a question of how you interpret your own identity as opposed to those wanting to interpret it for you.  Being black is what’s in your head and what’s in your heart.  A bottle of spray tan isn’t going to fix it.”

Longtime campaigner against uranium mining Kevin Buzzacott (Arabunna) claims terms like ‘half-caste’ are intended to divide and conquer.  “Just because you don’t look like this or that doesn’t mean anything.  If you’ve got it in your soul and your heart, what more do you want?”

Gangalu/Birrigubba philosopher Ross Watson talks about how tribal kinship systems apply to this issue.  “No matter what colour they look, they’re still 100%.  No halves, no quarters, 100%

Dr Dylan Coleman, Kokatha woman and academic at the University of Adelaide, says skin colour is “irrelevant” when it comes to the identity of a First Nations person.

http://www.989fm.com.au/smashingthemyths/youre-not-aboriginal-youve-got-fair-skin/

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