The absurdity of the arguments on last night’s SBS Insight Aboriginal or Not programme are best summed up by Sir Damo’s tweet. There was so much reference to blood quantum issues, are collapsing of skin-based racism versus cultural racism, as well as an over emphasis on “benefits”. I was so surprised that there was a focus on Confirmations of Aboriginality.
Let’s get this straight:
- The receipt of “benefits” has nothing to do with Aboriginality. A person can be a millionaire and still be Aboriginal. They are two separate things.
- “Benefits” are actually basic social programmes (like housing, immunisations, tutoring support, health checks, language and cultural programmes) that are designed to redress over 200 years of overt racism, discrimination, and oppression.
- Skin-based racism is VERY real, and impacts on many Australians. There is skin-based racism where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are specifically targeted. But other Peoples in Australia also experience this type of racism.
- Cultural racism, for me, is where a person’s culture is challenged or discriminated against. This is about world-views, epistemologies, ontologies etc. This type of racism has less to do with skin-colour, than about ‘how one is in the world’.
- And yes, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people come in all colours and have all kinds of needs. Assuming that Aboriginal people are the óne colour’ is absurd and fails to acknowledge the experience of colonisation throughout Australia.
- And Confirmations of Aboriginality? WTF? Why was there so much of an emphasis on this topic? It’s such a small part of people’s lives. Of course there is ridiculous-ness in the implementation of these things. That’s because the system is freaking flawed. Most Aboriginal organisations are too under-staffed and under-resourced to effectively deal with Confirmations. And many organisations refuse to even do them because they take them away from their core businesses. And yes, if you’re not part of the community, or if you’re unknown, what on earth are people expected to do? It must be difficult if you don’t have an understanding of how organisations work. I can appreciate what it must look like when you’re on the outside looking in. But honestly, they’re run by PEOPLE, ordinary people, who need to take time to get to know you and for you to get to know them. Use a rejection as a sign that you need to get to know people, rather than some kind of rejection of you and your life.
Sadly this programme will do nothing to help Aboriginal people. It will cement old prejudices, and create new divides. It also further alienated Indigenous voices from participation in mainstream media. There were many smart people in that audience who will further reject participating in that type of programme in the future as it was a very unsafe space to deal with big issues.
Bring on independent Indigenous media (and Deadly Bloggers) I say.
Update: 14th August, 2012: Others have written on this topic. Here are a few of the posts I have found [Disclaimer: I DO NOT agree with all the posts below. Am linking to them to provide context to the discussion]
- @NomadiqueMC‘s Am I white enough for you? http://galitjbirr.com.au/?p=142
- @Utopiana‘s And so we pause for a moment from this feminist broadcast to bring you an important note about identity http://blackfeministranter.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/and-so-we-pause-for-moment-from-this.html
- Dallas Scott’s That Aboriginality Show http://theblacksteamtrain.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/insight-that-aboriginality-show.html
A number of Global Mail articles have relevance to this topic that readers may find interesting:
- Gordon Weiss’s So Did Andrew Bolt have a point? http://www.theglobalmail.org/feature/so-did-andrew-bolt-have-a-point/273/
- Kyle Turner’s Don’t judge a black by their colour http://www.theglobalmail.org/feature/dont-judge-a-black-by-their-cover/329/
- Ellen Fanning’s No Bolt Did Not have a Point http://www.theglobalmail.org/feature/no-andrew-bolt-did-not-have-a-point/332/