the dreaming

re-visioning Aboriginal Sense of Place


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Unless otherwise indicated, the quotes are from Robert Lawlor's "Voices of the First Day"

Please note there is no intention to offend by using the words "Aborigines" or "Aboriginal" or "Indigenous"

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Intolerance & Ignorance: Racism - The Silent Destroyer

My partner is an incredibly strong man. Resilient, compassionate and calm in the face of much turbulence, stress and hurt.
Some days it gets to him though. It's not that he does not love and embrace his Aboriginality but more that he feels so many around him don't or won't.

Even the proudest and strongest Aboriginal person will at times feel the crushing pressure that is living as a minority in your home land.

Today was one of those days. His day at work had been ok and he was feeling positive to be heading home.

It only took several little interactions along the way to sour his mood. He stopped to use the ATM and a man sitting at the nearby bench promptly gathered up his wallet and other belongings and then moved to the table furtherest away. After using the machine he turned and despite his bad feeling forced himself to nod, smile and say 'how's it going bud?' as he passed the man. Sometimes a friendly gesture will be reciprocated. Other times it isn't. The man glared back at him with disdain and did not reply.

He then had to fuel up and went in to pay. The man walking out as he was walking in glared at him and refused to move to either side to allow room for him to pass by.

My hubby had little time to react. He turned side on and squeezed through the gap with a polite smile.

Again no smile, just a look of disdain and judgement and the aggressive body language to match.

At home, anger became hot tears. 'Why do people have to be like that and look down on me? Who do they think they are to assume they're better and can treat me like a piece of shit?' 'I'm tired of going out of my way to seem non-intimidating, polite and approachable. It doesn't matter how I dress or act they still can't even smile back or acknowledge me like a bloody person. I try not to let it get to me but it sometimes it hurts and it makes me so angry I could just snap on them.'

I tell him these people have the problem, not him and that they are a dying breed. 'Yeah well there's a whole bloody lot of them and they're not dying out fast enough. I'm not going to see the change in my lifetime. I will die feeling the glare and hate that I was born into.'

There is nothing I can say. What he says is true and there are days, moments, when you feel the full impact of what being Aboriginal means in a country where racism is rife. Where some people assume a spot on a pedestal and have such arrogance that they judge, condemn and dictate to our people from a position of self righteous ignorance usually fuelled by stereotypes and hear say rather than any sound understanding and insight of our history, culture and current struggles.

Some will be inclined to minimise and perhaps suggest that he is paranoid or wrongly assuming racially motivated behaviour. He is not. This is not his imagination, nor mine. These are the behaviours and attitudes that Aboriginal people encounter constantly and that can chip away at self esteem and confidence, often replacing them with anger, resentment and defiance.

For our youth dealing with it, it is even harder. They often lack the words to articulate what they're experiencing and feeling and people to talk to about it. They feel powerless, voiceless, misunderstood and at times, hated.
They internalise this and it can become a self fulfilling prophecy. 'If that's what you think I am, then that's what I will be' or 'Why bother? Whatever I do people will still judge me by what other Aboriginal people do and stereotypes they have anyway.'

How do you address racism and discrimination that is wordless? That you can feel but not articulate? How do you pick yourself up and dust yourself off after a particularly bad day of it? How do we equip our young people with the knowledge, strategies and support they need to remain staunch in the face of racism with no definite end?

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