Thursday, October 25, 2007

White Guilt Week

Or some such malarkey. I thought it might be time to tread the fine line between free speech and pissing people off on some racial issue. Hence the title, White Guilt Week.

Indigenous reconciliation hasn't quite become a mainstream issue yet, despite John Howard's superficial attempts at some vague symbolic gesture.

The indigenous issue aside, I feel it's important to note some observations, which I'll relate back to the Aboriginal story. Today I was speaking with a colleague who happens to be from Singapore, half Indian, half Chinese, with Australian citizenship (boy is that a mouthful!). Based on his racial heritage I think it's safe to say he has the ability to discuss race without the knee jerk response of being considered a racist.

We talked about martial arts, and he was discussing his sensei who had studied in Japan, to which i asked "is he Japanese?" to which he replied "no, Aussie".

"No, Aussie"? In colloquial terms, he was referring to the White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant.

I have also noticed that people are too often afraid to mention racial heritage when describing what a person looks like. This makes it incredibly difficult when trying to figure out who they're referring to. For heavens sake, if the person is Chinese, just say "the Chinese looking lady", or if you're not sure they are from China, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, or if they are Australian Born Chinese (ABC) simply say "the asian lady". It's certainly not "racist" to make a judgement on what you think someones racial heritage is. I was honestly suprised when my colleague was uncomfortable to use the term "white" to describe someone of Anglo-Saxon heritige. Thus, it seems to me that describing a person's race is not something that just effects "white fellas" but rather an issue that effects everyone in this country.

I am the politically correct apostate.

I fail to see how the euphemism "Aussie" relates to an Anglo-Saxon, and I have the ability to say this as a 7th generation Australian, as my ancestors arrived on the first fleet to this country. I have a direct connection to the colonization disaster for the Indigenous people. For this i feel shame as well as pride. Shame for what it has done for their people, and pride for mine. The pride part is important, important because it allows the issue of reconciliation to become a national mainstream issue.

When you approach a typical "Aussie" on the street about reconciliation, the majority of the time they will not want to talk about the issue or accept the blame for past wrongs. I have two theories as to why.

1.) Blame Game - who wants to deal with shame? Who wants to take that on? I've got enough shame over my addiction, my consumerism, my blah blah blah. Shame is negative, it brings people down, and it's not the way to make friends (something about honey flies and vinegar).

2.) The immigration issue. Immigrants claim to be as Australian as myself, a 7th generation Ango-Saxon colonial. However, because a migrant has no direct connection (as I do) to the British history or a connection to Indigenous history, they don't take on their responsibility for Aboriginal Reconciliation. (I'm stereotyping here).

There are two things that need to change for real Aboriginal Reconciliation. Firstly, migrants who accept they are Australian, should accept their personal role in the Aboriginal story. By accepting the old euphemism "Aussie" to refer to the Anglo-Saxon, they are in an indirect way dismissing Aboriginal suffering as a white issue alone. You cannot become an Australian citizen without taking on the Aboriginal story. If as a new Australian citizen you refuse to accept your role in Aboriginal suffering and that it is an anglo only issue, as time marches on, with further immigration, the Indigenous people of this country will never see justice, acceptance and convalesce.

Secondly, many Anglos are proud of Australia (their role in WWII as one example), and focusing on all the negatives, only further alienates them from the history of Aboriginal suffering. There needs to be access to both the pride and shame in the history of this country, and for all of us, 7th generation Anglo and first generation migrant to accept not only our historical role, but also our individual roles. This will only take place when we remove the "Aussie" euphemism in our vernacular as the old Ango-Saxon stereotype.

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