A Tuesday tsunami of whiteness

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Whiteness — some days it's like a light mist constantly hanging around yet going mainly unnoticed as it stealthily seeps into one's pores. Other days, it hits you like a cascade, or a tsunami of whiteness. Tuesday, observing the news, felt more like one of the latter.

Barclay Mcgain (right) conducts vox pops on the Gold Coast.It all started for me the night before when I was sent a video which had been uploaded by the Gold Coast Young LNP. In it, the president of this youth branch — Barclay McGain — seemingly took to the streets to get the 'hot takes' on some current issues from Schoolies celebrating the end of year 12.

And certainly, a good many of the responses he received indicated that the respondents were suitably inebriated or high like normal Schoolies. It was when McGain decided to hit up a group of white blokes on the topic of changing the flag or the anthem however that the nuggets of wisdom truly decided to drop.

I think people expected me to be outraged by alleged-schoolie-but-actually-a-young-LNP-volunteer Jake Scott's declaration that 'we've got to stop celebrating a culture that couldn't even invent the bloody wheel for God's sake'. Truth is, it's all a bit dull really and nothing Aboriginal people haven't heard from white people convinced of their own supremacy a million times over. At this stage I have to ask: is it too much to ask that Australia's racists come up with some original content? Or even ensure that their lot are actually responsible for the invention of the wheel and not ancient brown people before they accuse other groups of not inventing it?

What was more interesting, however, was the QLD LNP's statement to distance itself from its junior wing. Considering policies such as the Northern Territory Intervention, the Community Development Program and pretty much everything the Coalition governnment has done with regards to asylum seekers, it's news to me that racism 'does not reflect the values and beliefs of the party'. It's even bigger news to me that the Coalition have 'proudly embraced the history and culture of Indigenous Australians', particularly considering that one of the first people I can remember making a comment regarding the invention of the wheel was former Federal Reconciliation Minister Philip Ruddock back in 2000.

As that was unfolding on Tuesday, so too was a miraculous tale of survival in Central Australia. Of the three people who went missing on 21 November near Stuart's Well NT, two were located alive and well. Sadly, it was confirmed on Wednesday afternoon that the third member of the party, Alice Springs local and partner of fellow hiker Tamra McBeath-Riley, Claire Hockridge, had perished out in the bush.

While I was relieved by the news that two of the hikers were safe and saddened by the news that the third had not survived, I admit I did a double take when I tuned in to the ABC Alice Springs live stream of a police press conference on Tuesday afternoon. It was called to discuss hiker Phu Tran being found at a cattle station earlier in the day and I heard a journalist pose the question: 'Is this unprecedented — someone surviving for two weeks in the Central Australian outback?'

 

"Will it ever be possible for Aboriginal people to go just one week without there being such ridiculous niggly examples of Australia's broader problem with racism?"

 

Well, no, it's not unprecedented. People, including many of my ancestors, have been surviving for nigh on 60,000 years in the Central Australian outback. Aboriginal people weren't just floating around in suspended animation prior to colonisers showing up. The question may have been intended to refer specifically to lost tourists, but that's not how it was worded. Are people really that ignorant of this country's history that a question such as this could be given and received without thought?

If all this wasn't enough though, enter the third crash in the tsunami of whiteness. Over the weekend, Indigenous groups across the country participated in a 'Nation Dance'. This coast-to-coast activity was designed to encourage celebration, connection and healing among Indigenous people and our allies, particularly as so many of our lands are going up in flames.

Not to be outdone, a white hippy woman in England decided to show her support by engaging in what can only be described as cultural appropriation as she performed a 'rain song' and dance referencing rainbow serpents and songlines out at Glastonbury Tor. She was promptly called out by Aboriginal queer activist Kira Djnalie via their page Beautiful, Talented & Deadly.

Not only did the woman from Glastonbury double down, claiming she'd had past lives in Australia and that she didn't see herself as white, but Kira's Facebook account was placed on a 30 day ban and their page threatened with deletion simply because, according to Zuckerberg's site moderators, telling white people to not steal Aboriginal culture and to not engage in inappropriate performances constitutes 'bullying'. An Aboriginal voice again silenced due to white fragility.

To quote Munanjahli and South Sea Islander academic and public intellectual, Chelsea Bond: 'Another Day in the Colony'. Will it ever be possible for Aboriginal people to go just one week without there being such ridiculous niggly examples of Australia's broader problem with racism? In fact, could we even go just one day without having to deal with white ignorance, just for a breather?

With another Invasion Day around the corner and the 250th anniversary of Cook's landing next year, I very strongly doubt it. 250 years is an awfully long time in which to learn absolutely nothing Australia, isn't it?

 

 

Celeste LiddleCeleste Liddle is a trade unionist, a freelance opinion writer and social commentator. She blogs at Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist.

Main image: Barclay Mcgain (right) conducts vox pops on the Gold Coast.

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Bravo! This second gen White Australian supports your frustration. We can only continue to confront confidently, armed with FACTS, those who still need to learn to think for themselves, not parotting the views of non thinkers. Thank you Celeste for reminding the thinkers.
Jean Tait | 06 December 2019


What makes a thinker? What if the thinker is alone in the thought they he/she is a thinker? Perhaps it's a matter of, "I think. Therefore, I am [a thinker]".
john frawley | 06 December 2019


Another old aged whitey who delights in your calling out the foibles & graceless stuff that pervades our country. Well said, Celeste, you are a credit to your people who stand with dignity despite their crass fellow citizens.
Brian Larsson | 06 December 2019


Celeste, I am a whitefella (WF), and I am sorry that white privilege is not only alive and well but getting worse. Some of us WFs are beginning to push back against white privilege and white supremacy in support of Indigenous Australians and other marginalised people. I give these examples not to bignote myself but to alert other WFs to the kind of opportunities there are to call for change in the way we WFs think and act. I recently contacted the Australian War Memorial to say that the words "for we are young and free" deny the antiquity of Australian culture and should not be used on promotional material by the AWM Shop (or anywhere in the AWM for that matter) as in an email that I received from them. I and others are also campaigning for the recognition of the Frontier Wars on ANZAC Day and at the AWM. I regret, however, that this may be too little, too late.
Paul Smith | 07 December 2019


The three crashes of this ‘tsunami’ of ‘racism’ are the immature, the naïve and the eccentric. Some tsunami.
roy chen yee | 09 December 2019


Sad, isn’t it, that over the past 250yrs w are still at a stage in our society where stupid and unthinking people who lack melatonin still can’t rejoice in the spectacularity of the 60,000 years of existence of our melatonin enhanced brothers & sisters in this wonderful country. We really need to wake up to ourselves and realise it’s our differences are merely melatonin. From a very white boy, wishing he had more melatonin.
Darryl Hughes | 18 December 2019


Let me wander in where angels fear … Using the word Racism to describe past and present sins is too simplistic and misses out identifying the real crime. If we look at the early years after the arrival of Europeans there were rich people who were only interested in making money. Their crime was greed and ignorance, not racism, after all they probably never saw an indigenous person and had just stolen land from the Scots. They would have stolen land from anyone. Then there were the convicts who weren't guilty of greed but certainly fear and ignorance as they were often at the front line. Then there were the poor free settlers who had developed an obsession with land ownership which was seen as the way to escape serfdom and poverty. Not quite greed, but certainly fear and ignorance. Nowadays we have some extremists like Ms Hanson who once said that Aborigines were a priverlidged class. Obviously she had not read the disadvantage report so she is guilty of ignorance but also of chasing popularity in a community that had very high unemployment and distrust of major parties. She is supported by South African migrants (white farmers) and if you want a blue print of a racist you can't get better than these.
don owers | 18 December 2019


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