I can remember clear as a bell the book by Alan Dee that was an assigned text in High School all those years ago, called “Bury my heart at Wounded Knee”. It was about the systematic slaughter of indigenous Americans. The great “indian wars” as they were called. The book was astonishing, even though I didn’t finish it, for no other reason than I was such a slow reader it would have taken me all year to get through it. I am pretty sure I was not assigned a single text in any subject, in any of the schools I attended about the slaughter of indigenous Australians.
We white Australians get very huffy when Australia day is labelled “invasion day” by Indigenous Australians, which tells me that collectively we are a little confused about what happened in the hundred years after 1788. I think we may be the original victims of “fake news”. We seem to have in our heads that indigenous Australians should be grateful that we stole their land and killed them when they complained. After all, we gave them such a great deal. Ha.
I have written previously about my disappointment in those people who drove Adam Goodes from the game of AFL. Almost all of them defending their behaviour in exactly the same way settlers would have done way back in the day. I heard intelligent people proffer arguments that were so ill-considered and so obviously racist it brought a tear to my eye. I can only hope they will eventually look back on their own behaviour and hang their heads in shame, but I won’t hold my breath.
I heard people say they didn’t like the way he picked on a young girl. I heard them say he staged for free kicks, I heard them say, and this is probably my favourite, we just don’t like him. None of these are sustainable arguments for the outrageously racist behaviour. It showed me there is a moron inside all of us and it doesn’t take much to drag it out. I have never been more ashamed of Australians.
But I have wandered off my point. Stan Grant has recently written a book every bit as powerful as the work of Alan Dee. Mr Grant too has come under fire from sections of the media for not being black enough and also for being too black. I have heard criticism mounted against Mr Grant along the lines of, “he is only black when it suits him”, “he didn’t used to be that black” and the classic standby, “we just don’t like him.” All of which display the same mature consideration and cognitive dexterity as the football crowd mentioned above.
I cannot for the life of me explain where that thinking comes from. Mr Grant is not saying, you pulled the trigger, you shot my great-uncle, or you should be held accountable. We need to get out of our heads that this is personal. It is history. History that we are yet to honestly acknowledge on a personal level. Our sheer huffiness at the description of “Invasion Day” clearly demonstrates that we have yet to acknowledge it. Personally I am really comfortable with indigenous Australians calling it Invasion day, it is difficult to see how they could think it was anything but that.
Once we acknowledge the atrocities, it stops being personal. It will remain personal until that happens.