Race is a topic I don't really talk about online very often. As a cis white woman I benefit from white privilege ( I am not the subject of racial discrimination and do not have to deal with racism being directed at me, granting me various race related privileges in society), which is also why I tend keep silent when it comes to discussions about race and racism. I don't want my voice to overpower the voice of someone of colour. I feel in this case I can make an exception, because, culturally, my race is most of the problem surrounding systemic racism in Australia, particularly where Aboriginal people and culture is concerned, and most recently (in the public eye) on Australia day.
Disclaimer: I've been thinking about this for a while, and I apologise in advanced if I've caused offence, or spoken in ignorance. As someone with a white heritage and perspective, I cannot possibly fully understand or appreciate the complexity of this issue. That being said, I have tried to be as informed and write as accurately and sensitively as possible. Feel free to let me know if I didn't get it right.
The 26th of January marks Australia day, which a celebration of how gosh darn great Australia is. For many it's a time to get together with a bunch of mates and have a barbecue laced with flag memorabilia and drowned in litres of beer. But for others it marks the anniversary of an unforgivable act.
I've seen many people online refer to the 26th, not as Australia day, but as Invasion day or Survival day. It's the anniversary of the First Fleet, and thereby the beginning of the destruction of many Aboriginal cultures, languages, way of life, and people.
Basically, for many, Australia day is rubbing salt in a very historically complex, and heart breaking devastating wound. Personally, I've never been particularly patriotic, but this year was the first year I consciously questioned and rejected the celebrations and ideas behind them. Why should we celebrate on a day that symbolises so much loss for those we stole this land from?
I think part of the reason we as a nation are so insensitive to the greater symbolism and racist undercurrents of Australia day is the historical separation created in formal education, and the huge double standard between white and black history.
When I think about the way Aboriginal history was taught in primary and highschool I can start to pick apart where my own historical ignorance started. We rarely learn't about individual people, or delved into the minute details from an Aboriginal perspective. It was almost as if the events which transpired, and those hey affected were dehumanised through the amount of time which passed between the event and the subject popping up in the classroom.
Comparing this to the white/european history we were taught (especially concerning WWII), the double standard is quite evident. The way this history was presented didn't dehumanise the people it affected, nor did it distance us from the events that transpired.
I suppose educational ignorance is one place that my white privilege really shines through. I didn't notice, nor at the time really care because I didn't have to. As someone with a mixbagged european immigrant heritage it wasn't "really" my past. But now, knowing what I know, and especially knowing what I know I don't know, this is my past, and my future. I have to accept responsibility for the actions of those in the past, for without their settlement, I wouldn't inhabit Australia, and Aboriginal history would look very very different. I also have to acknowledge my involvement in the future of taking the steps to extinguish modern oppression and the racism ingrained in our culture.
I hate that this land was stolen from the traditional owners. I hate that my ancestors have caused so much pain and loss, and continue to perpetuate those same attitudes, whilst insisting that everything is ok, and that Aboriginal people should just get over it because it happened hundreds of years ago (hypocrisy much?)
On the other hand, I am so grateful that I've grown up in such a lovely country. I just wish it didn't have to come at such a huge cost.
I would like to pay my respect to Elders past and present. I would also like to apologise, for the past behaviour of my ancestors, and the present behaviour of my contemporaries.