I don’t care for your brand of racism. 

This morning started like any other. I woke up with my 5 year olds foot in my face and my 2 year old buried up against my chest. I extricated myself and got up. Today I was heading out to work on one of my pieces of street art for the Little Rundle Street Arts Project. I’ve been lucky enough to try my hand at some work at an epic scale and I’m stoked to say that my first piece came together beautifully and somehow I pulled it off. I’m going back today, kids in tow, to work on my second piece. I get dressed in my best, paintiest clothes and chase the kids around getting them dressed: “Mum I’m hungry!” exclaims Min. “Let’s stop and get something on the way – it’s Tuesday – let’s stop at the bakery!” “It won’t be open….. It’s a public holiday.” My husband interjects. He was very careful to say “public holiday” rather than the actual name – sensitive to my feelings on the subject. As soon as he said that, I felt deflated. I was reminded that today is the day that the rest of Australia celebrates the beginning of the destruction of my people and our way of life. Today is the day that the rest of Australia celebrates our dispossession, oppression, and genocide; with tacky singlets, BBQ’s and drunkeness. Of course naturally, and somewhat ironically, they argue that they’re celebrating the making of a nation. Of inclusiveness and diversity! Of muticulturalism! Of the building of a great nation! A nation that was built on illegal occupation, theft of land, of sovereignty that never ceded. Of women raped, children stolen. For Aboriginal Australia, there is no question that today is a day of mourning. 

Why then, on a day that should unite us, does it divide us so?  

Because January 26th is irrelevant to modern Australia. It commemorates the day that the British claimed sovereignty over the Easten Seaboard of Australia – hardly relevant to the rest of Australia. But what it does symbolise is the adverse effects of colonisation and invasion for Aboriginal people. The beginning of the end of our way of life. 

There are many dates that would hold significance for modern Australia, and I won’t list them here – one needs only to look at the timeline of modern Australian History to see this. One I personally like is moving it back to the 25th of January – but one day – a symbolic gesture that captures the last day that we and we alone were the custodians of this great land. It’s still in the Australian Summer; it retains the same distribution of public holidays… But it won’t happen. And I’ll tell you why; 

I stopped at the shops on the way back home from working on my street art piece, and my baby daughter got out of the car. In her typical, gives-no-fucks fashion, she ran off and I called her back, speaking to her, as I often do, in our native Pitjantjatjara language: “Awa! Ngala pitja! Pitja!!! Wanti! (Hey! Come here! Come! Stop!) and a 20-something woman with Australian-flag novelty-leggings yelled at me: “hey! It’s Australia Day! We speak English in Australia!!” I was aghast. I thought surely she must be joking. I’ve read stories of things like this on the internet but surely it doesn’t happen in real life. “Pardon me?” I asked. “It’s AUS-STRAYA-DAY. WE SPEAK ENG-LISH” she said obnoxiously, speaking slowly as to ensure comprehension because obviously I’m either intellectually disabled or stupid. “I’m speaking my native Australian Aboriginal language. It’s Pitjantjatjara? I couldn’t get more Australian!!” She stared at me blankly before walking off. I stood there, having witnessed the most overt form of racism that I personally have ever received, and my eyes welled with tears. Not for me; I’ve got thick, paint-splattered skin, I’ll move on. No, my eyes welled for the little Anangu girl that I held in my arms, seemingly oblivious to the hate-filled scene that had developed before her. Would she and her brother encounter such vile, overt racism when they grow up? No – surely we will have grown as people and as a nation! I told myself. 

But then I remember that today is, rather than the multicultural-love-fest White Australia would have us believe; a state-sanctioned celebration of the destruction of a culture. Of my culture. And until we stop holding BBQ’s in the name of genocide, we can’t move forward. We can’t join hands as a nation. So one has to ask oneself: is it really worth it, white Australia? Can you live with the fact that not-all Australians want to engage in your culturally insensitive discourse today? Not everyone feels patriotic joy today? Is that acceptable to you? 

Of course it is. 

Because it’s difficult to be heard above all the white noise. 

Unless you’re really listening. 

Advertisements

28 thoughts on “I don’t care for your brand of racism. 

  1. I wore a pair of your leggings today in protest of all the Aussie flag wearing bogans, Elizabeth… And got in a few heated debates with others about what the day actually means. I’m so sorry you experienced that today. Makes me feel sick. We don’t celebrate Australia Day in our household since we really sat down and thought about it.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I stopped celebrating anything on this date a long time ago. I hate to see the discrimination of anyone anyone who doesn’t fit to the ‘white australian’ stereotype, that I now spend January 26th inside, away from the public, or spend it with my family (which I did today)
    I’m sorry that you had this horrible experience today. Sometimes I fear for the future generations of this country, when people like this keep reproducing. Raise your kids with that strong connection to their heritage, and teach them to be a shining beacon for change in the future.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I’ve come through to read your blog today the morning after Australia day. I live in Perth and have been in Australia only 5 years. I’ve previously celebrated the day with the caucasian crowd (without knowing how it affects Aboriginal Australians). It is the quintessential Australian thing to do, and so as foreign outsiders hoping to fit in, my partner and I attended each year. I stayed in yesterday and found an article that was posted online here.

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/allanclarke/invasion-day-survival-day-australia-day#.gprnNwMPQ

    Until I read this piece I had no idea (and was completely ignorant of the history of the actual day). I’m from Canada, and while it’s a poor excuse for the past 4 years of bbq attendance – this year I did nothing. The date should change. I’m gutted at the racism that is so rife in this country, and am embarrassed to read that a young woman had such hurtful things to say to you – for no other reason than to shame you of your culture.

    I’m also sorry more people in politics don’t see how easy a fix this could be.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I am also sorry that you experienced this yesterday. Like many other White Australians, I do not celebrate Australia day and will not while ever it celebrates the loss of your culture. I would much prefer another day one that is actually inclusive and is not used by others to demonstrate overt racism.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I’m also a non-Indigenous Australian who doesn’t celebrate Australia Day. I want nothing to do with the ill-educated, insensitive racism that it’s an excuse for. I’m so sorry for your experience yesterday, and for all of the experiences of your people since European occupation. I hope that today is a better day for you.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. My family is white, and not even convict, but free settlers. We never did really take a lot of notice of Australia Day, it was just another day of the weekend in a way. Now I am a lot more politically aware, and culturally aware, and now I find myself disagreeing with people who I thought should know better, to have some understanding of the true nature of the day and what it does to the Original Australians, friends amongst them. My husband feels as I do, it is Survival Day now, but even that I find personally irrelevant. I am sorry for your experience, and that woman may not have even thought of you as Koori, but in her ignorance (and due in part to the political climate of the day) she probably thought you were – somehow – maybe even Moslem, and so she lashed out as the politically correct thing, which was disgusting on so many levels. So I am hoping we will one day have a Properly Australian Celebration day, a National Day, maybe on the date that we became federated, but even then I see it’s still a bit fraught. Maybe we can become a Republic, and celebrate that instead.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree mardymay, and posted as much below. A new date to celebrate becoming a republic is the way to go. Jan-26 becomes “first fleet day” (and not a holiday) allowing us to discuss all that the arrival meant, good and bad, without the pressure to celebrate.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I liked what you said to her, but I’m afraid, she’s somewhat deluded if she believes English is the only language spoken on Australia Day. What if you only speak in sign language? I can think of a few right now. 😉

    Ignorance is ugly. We can only attempt to educate our kids, to be better informed.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I’m really upset about what happened to you. My family are of convict stock and more lately, immigrants. We do not “celebrate” Australia Day. Very few people I know do. Please tell your children that there are many Australians who are sickened by this behaviour.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I must say I am torn on the subject of Australia Day. I love my country, despite knowing it is far from perfect, and I feel that it is only right to have one day a year when we can celebrate our way of life and be thankful that we can live in relative peace and safety. But then there is the history of the chosen date, and I understand completely why indigenous Australians can never feel the same way, at least, or especially, not on January 26.

    So I want a day to celebrate my nation, but I would also support moving the date. But to when? We officially became a nation on 1-Jan-1901, but few would support moving our national day to coincide with New Years Day… we want the extra public holiday! Besides, combining celebrations diminishes both. In my mind the best solution lies with the future, not the past. We should become a republic, and when we do, select a start date for that change that can be used as a new day of celebration to replace Jan-26, a new Australia Day that celebrates when we all finally cut the apron strings of England, a celebration I’m sure even indigenous Australians can get behind.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Kia Kaha.
    Your strength is what keeps your heritage alive and healthy. You are custodian of an amazingly beautiful country, so stand proud. Thanks also for channeling your anger in such a constructive way – and informing us as to your sometimes grim reality.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. The fact that this woman attempted to replicate what has already been done to Indigenous Australians – try to suppress your language(s) and whitewash them with English – is a travesty. I’m another Euro-Australian who doesn’t celebrate the day so many ignorant (uneducated?) pack animals roam the streets with ‘oi oi oi’ and ‘Strine flags tattooed to their faces, draped in capes reminiscent of the Cronulla riots. It is heartening that the Invasion Day rallies are growing to the point that they’re receiving media coverage, and non-Indigenous Australians have no excuse now to plead ignorance about what this date really means. I look forward to the day White Australia catches up with the rest of the ‘developed’ world and signs a Treaty with Indigenous Australia.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I came across your blog last night. I just finished reading it in its entirety; scrolled from bottom to top on this bloody iPhone screen, and I will continue to do so for the updates. It’s incredible. Sending my support. You are an amazing human.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. As a white Australian I have never celebrated Australia Day. I noted the numbers were down this year. Hopefully that will continue. I’m weeping for your sad experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I am saddened that people can be so horrible in this day & age.
    The “English” language is one of the most screwed up languages in the world, it has over time had so many different races & religions feed into it… please please please keep speaking your beatiful untainted words at home, in public & where ever you my roam on this planet we all call home.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I personally don’t find anything of value in celebrating 26th January, it’s a pretty recent construct as all the jingoism started from the bicentennial. I marched with 40,000 Aboriginal people and their supporters in 1988 to highlight that for many Australians the 26th is about invasion. I won’t celebrate any national day until better recognition of Aboriginal people is achieved. As for the racist bogan, I despair about people who feel diminished by difference of others and who have been given a voice by small and mean political leaders, I really hope your kids grow up without experiencing anymore of this vial venom from uneducated bogans.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Pingback: Episode 232: Rabid Linguists |

  17. Hi Elizabeth,
    The director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language has written something nice about you in relation to this incident in our upcoming newsletter. Drop me a line at piers dot kelly@anu.edu.au so I can send it to you – and please feel free to delete this comment! Piers.

    Like

  18. Pingback: We wouldn't be mourning lost languages if we embraced multilingualism | Em News

  19. Pingback: We wouldn’t be mourning lost languages if we embraced multilingualism – Real News One – RN1 -For Progressive People

  20. I’ve only just read this article – a little belatedly, sorry – but wanted to add my voice to those who found the young woman’s verbal attack an appalling indictment on racist Australia. I’m a white Australian – four generations in fact – and I don’t acknowledge Australia Day as I loathe the way it practices exclusion and ignores our First Peoples — as if they haven’t been ignored for long enough. I, however, think we should look to 26 May – National Sorry Day – for a newly imagined Australia Day. Elizabeth, we’re not all like that. When I walk down any main city street of Brisbane, I hear multiple languages being spoken and it’s a wonderful thing.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s