Pride, Purpose and Perspectives

This time one week ago I got the shits when confronted with the knowledge that my friends’ black babies are dealing with the shit I, my brothers, my Mum and everyone else, have dealt with all our life, by mostly well-meaning but still rude people. I felt it deeply, knowing that these comments were going to make a new generation of black kids question their authenticity as Aboriginal people, and therefore make them feel inadequate in their identities. It was going to cause them distress, it was going to contribute to the divide within and between our communities.

With the young ones in mind, I hand wrote that post in about an hour, then typed it onto my phone and published it immediately. Today, one week later, it’s clocked over 4.4k 4.5k 4.6k likes and shares on Facebook alone. It might be no big deal in the grand scheme of the blogosphere, but for someone who’s last blog post got 40 likes (and yes I thought that was deadly) 4000 is quite an overwhelming number.

I am under no illusion as to why people are interested in listening to my viewpoint this week. The themes of race, categorisation and identity are topical at the moment, with the RDA coming under intense debate, in no small part by the opinions of George ‘Bigot’ Brandis and Andrew ‘Assimilation’ Bolt. My perspective adds to the discourse. It’s a marginalised and mostly ignored perspective, but a valuable perspective, according to the majority of Australians who want to shrug off our country’s racist reputation and use their privilege to do more good than continuing harm. Yes, my perspective does have value.

That said, there have been a few public comments and private messages from people who missed the point. White people, indignant that my perpective should make them look racist and in the wrong. People who felt their freedom of speech to express their institutionalised embedded racism to young, beautiful, innocent black kids to make them feel not good enough. People who demonstrated their privilege and power by whitesplaining to me why our feelings and reactions are wrong; why their intentions take precedence over my affectation. Again I say to those – you missed the point. There is no need to try and exonerate yourself. I know why you say it and I know your intentions are not malicious. I know you are but a drop in the ocean, that you are a product of your socialisation. I know this. But that doesn’t change the fact, the evidence, the actuality that those words hurt. So instead of telling me I’m wrong, why not just believe my [educated and experienced] viewpoint, cop it on the chin, and just vow to not say those words again? Reconciliation should not just be our responsibility.

I reiterate: I addressed my post to the people who tell Aboriginal people that they don’t look Aboriginal. I addressed it to the ones who think it’s okay to say it. I addressed it to them in the hope they could better understand why it’s not okay, and that even if they couldn’t fully empathise or understand the history or frameworks or language of oppression, or to understand why it’s not okay in a practical sense, that they could at least move forward with the theoretical understanding that its not okay. I addressed it to them so they could consider that what they are doing is more harm than good, more problem than solution, more hurt than healing.

I had considered not publishing the ignorant comments but am glad I did because I’ve been heartened by the dismantling and debate put forth by better-educated commenters. And that said, the support for my post has been overwhelmingly positive. Besides people complimenting my style of writing, I have had communications from people of all walks of life telling me that the message was received in the spirit I’d intended it. Such as:

My white friend who printed this out so that she could give it to nosy busybodies who say this about her black babies, making them feel hurt. The many black people, of all skin-tones, who’ve shared my writing and stood in solidarity with me. My other white friend who, after reading this, felt confident enough to sit her black daughter down to talk about this, and told me that the connection they made and the smile on her daughter’s face was worth all the previous heartache. My black Aunties who thanked me for articulating what they had been too shame or too shy to express all their lives. My white friend who supported me and shared this amongst his mostly non-Indigenous network. A black artist overseas who encounters this outside the context of generic Aussie racism, who thanked me because my writing made her feel less alone, overseas and away from mob. The whitefellas who get it and came in to bat when other people tried to whitesplain their entitlement to me. My black friends who thanked me for speaking for them, for sacrificing my private nature for them by putting my emotional history in the public sphere. My white friends, some of whom I’ve heard say this in the past, sharing it around so that healing could begin.

Here I sit, writing this in my break from marking essays that are discussing race and representation. Essays from mostly non-Indigenous students; the social workers, teachers and policy-makers of the future. People who will have the power to make or break Aboriginal people. Thankfully, they mostly get it, and if they don’t yet, well. Instead of getting angry at them I remind myself that it is only Week Four of a twelve week course, that they should not bear the brunt of my frustration that’s better directed at the history, and at the institutions. That despite their cognitive dissonance in the face of learning true Aboriginal (and therefore Australian) history, they are doing the hard work, the necessary work of decolonising their minds, and examining their assumptions and attitudes that will one day hopefully lead to right action.

Once these essays are marked I will then work on my thesis that is exploring the ways in which women from my community (including myself) have experienced transgenerational trauma as a result of past government policies, and how they interrupt these effects and move forward, spreading strength. Real evidence of Aboriginal people transcending our historical legacies, and doing what we’ve always done: resisting assimilation, healing trauma and caring for our kids. The unsung heroes who are having a go, who have been hurt in different ways by the seemingly innocuous but assimilationist comments of non-Indigenous people.

Here I sit writing this, on the bank of the Deerubban, not far from the place my grandmother was born. The very same place that she last saw her mother before welfare took her because to them, she didn’t look Aboriginal enough. Here I sit, reflecting on the week and the impacts of my writing, the power we all hold to heal instead of hurt. And, here I sit, safe in the knowledge that my grandmother would be proud of me.

– Defender Of The Faith, 31st of March 2014

Leave Me Alone, Thankyou, Bye

Obey the Graffiti

An open letter to various fuckwits and assorted psychic vampires, and to anyone else this may concern:

I don’t want to be constantly engaged in the selfish concern-trolling of others. I am not a curiosity to comment on and question. I am a creature of this earth and I have just as much right to be here, to breathe air and to take up space, as everybody else, without having to justify it. The way I choose to live my life and express myself has no bearing on who you are and the choices you make so just leave me alone as I do you. Leave me to be disconnected from your stupidity, so my stores remain full of vitality. Go be a drain on the psyche of someone else.

Teaching is my job, not my vocation. Although I am qualified for such and I get paid for it, when I clock off the uniform is shed and I am myself again. When I teach I am simultaneously acting and censoring myself and so understandably, I don’t want to do this all the time. I want to laugh and learn as well. I don’t want to constantly explain my ideologies and lifestyle choices. I don’t want to answer twenty questions about what I like and why, and what I don’t and why not. I just want to be me without having to defend what being me entails, especially when being me does not offend or trespass against you being you. I am not interested in being a light bringer or a revealer of truths. It’s not my karma, fate or destiny. I’m not arrogant enough for a messiah complex, and it doesn’t fit my skinny frame.

On that note, if you feel the need to comment on my body shape and size you would do well to examine why you think you are entitled to do so. If you have a problem with the way I look you need to realise that the problem is with yourself and your belligerence, not with the way my deoxyribonucleic acid expresses itself through my healthy lifestyle choices. As such, don’t try to pass your problem off as mine. I love myself and I am happy in the beautiful skin my parents gifted me. Just because you don’t feel the same does not give you the right to try and pull me into your self-loathing. So no, I won’t wear that either.

Further, whenever you make stupid remarks about what I choose not to eat (as if it has any effect on your happiness), you are saying more about yourself than about me. I don’t preach. I am happy with who I am and what I choose and I have no need to try and belittle others because I do things differently. To wit: everyone I meet is surprised that I am a vegan and I like it that way. In fact, if you know me, you were probably surprised too. That is because I just walk the walk and I let others talk the talk. I don’t think I’m better than anybody else; I recognise that everybody has their own journeys to live and things to learn. What I think is important is certainly not the forefront of everybody else’s concerns and I am not disillusioned enough to think so, or arrogant enough to impose my worldview onto anybody else. I just wanna do what I wanna do, if that’s okay with you?

Next on the subject of skin-deep ignorance: if you have a problem with my being a fair-skinned Koori who doesn’t look the way you mistakenly believe that Blackfellas are supposed to look as a homogenous group, then that’s also your problem. I’m sorry I don’t look the way you want me to in order confirm your outdated paradigm of what Blackfellas are supposed to look like. If you think that because I look white then therefore I am, you need to go do some reading on how long-debunked race theories have come to be dismantled as Eurocentric and Assimilationist pseudo-science. You need to understand the role of memetics in shaping culture, and that culture has for too long been misrepresented as biological race, and that biological race has no basis in true science. I know who I am. I know where I’ve come from and I know where I’m going. If, for you, what I look like clashes with the strength of my identity, I suggest that it is you who has the problem.

Similarly, if you feel the need to express your unwanted ignorance about ‘faggots and dykes’ in my earshot, then good for you. Your comments say more about you as an unevolved human than anything you intend it to. I may not ‘look’ gay or identify as gay, but I’m certainly not straight either. I’m proud to be queer. So no, I don’t find your jokes about me and mine funny or endearing; it doesn’t make me like you more that you shared an insider joke with me. However, I am glad to hear you talk this way as it just makes it easier for me to not pretend to be nice to you. Go, wave your freak flag high! Censoring doesn’t work, nor should it be encouraged. Society is benefitted when you out yourself as a fuckwit, and the world will be a better place when your backwards ideas are buried six feet under or scattered as dead ash like your remains.

I used to feign patience and act happy to explain myself, adhering to the maxim that ‘one catches more flies with honey than with vinegar’. But I’ve done my time, and it’s well nigh to retire those pretentions. Let someone else take up the mantle. If you want to learn more about any of the above topics or other themes that express themselves through your narrow perceptions of what I represent to you, go elsewhere. I am done with explaining, with my frustration thinly veiled beneath a tight-lipped smile. I’m still happy to be a mirror to reflect your asinine assumptions and attitudes, but I sure as fuck won’t let your rotten seeds take root in my verdant energy. I’m too old for this shit, and I’ve got better things to pour my precious thoughts into.

– Defender Of The Faith, 26.08.2013

UPDATE EDIT – for those who took this personally:

If you think I specifically wrote this for you, I didn’t. If you think this was written as a passive-aggressive missive to you, it wasn’t. If you think my lifetime of frustration being expressed in a public blog post is all about you and you alone, it isn’t. That being said: if you do believe that this is about you, why the guilty conscience?