The death of Cassius Turvey may or may not have been racially motivated but, either way, it is a great tragedy. As is the death of any child.
There are no doubt racist elements in this country, by why which I mean a few morons who believe that people of a different race are morally inferior. There would be even fewer who would be prepared to take this to the next level and visit violence and even death upon someone because of their race.
Yet Hannah McGlade (left), writing in The Australian, has no doubt about the extent of racism in this country. Take this extract:
The Noongar children told me about the racism they experienced, even being followed in shops buying a loaf of bread for mum. We know this is real and can speak from lived experience. I remember my son walking home from primary school with his cousin when they were stopped by police, just for throwing grass seeds in the air. And on Australia Day when I warned him not to go out, knowing we are especially at risk, the bottle thrown at his face for no reason. I’ve even seen children angrily shouted at for no reason as they played in dirt outside an exclusive tennis club.
There is no way of knowing the truth or otherwise of these claimed incidents – kids being stopped by police on the way home from school for throwing grass seeds calls for a great deal of imagination on the part of the objective reader. And what exclusive tennis club has dirt outside it, rather than manicured lawns and car parks?
But what does beggar belief is the claim that Aborigines are especially vulnerable on Australia Day. Do we have bands of white-robed vigilantes patrolling Australia Day rallies, picnics and events to ensure they are not sullied by the presence of Aboriginal Australians? I’ve heard some Aborigines claim Australia Day is ‘culturally unsafe’ – an absurd notion – but physically unsafe? Give me a break. It is hyperbole like this that demands a healthy scepticism of McGlade’s other claims.
Gary Johns, in his brilliant new book The Burden of Culture, nails this question of ‘racism’:
It is important to separate racism – the disdain for those of another race – from the experience of individuals and perhaps families where behaviour by individuals has been so bad as to make others steer clear. It is not all right to judge people by association, but it is reasonable to take care around those who have been badly behaved [I am not suggesting Cassius Turvey falls into this category]. Blatant racism [very rare] and mere wariness are thus thrown together under one rubric, a net to attack all who do not accept the Aboriginal way. It is a weapon used by advocates against their opponents and it is a fear promoted so widely that it is herding Aborigines towards the industry and away from open society.
A perfect example of what Johns is talking about here (and other themes in his book) was aired on NITV the other night in an Insight program (atop this page) in which vari-coloured Aboriginal identifiers, including the pink (both cosmetically and politically) Professor Uncle Bruce Pascoe, lamented the rush of imposters (labelled box-tickers or race-shifters) to the gravy train that one participant, unarguably Aboriginal, Dr Stephen Hagan, described as ‘their’ $40 billion industry. And, of course, he used the term ‘industry’ with no sense of irony or embarrassment.
Order The Burden of Culture here
Uncle Bruce was his usual evasive self, still failing to name the influential uncle who took him under his wing and revealed the dark family secret – their Aboriginal connection. He did tell us that his children had been very hurt by claims he was not Aboriginal but he had advised them to cop it on the chin if the ‘government rejected them’ because they were ‘not getting anything from the government anyway’. Presumably none of that government funded largesse showered on Bruce has trickled down to the offspring. Shame on him!
But I was particularly struck by the story of red-haired, freckle-faced Linda Augusto (left). Her great-grandmother was a half-caste Aboriginal woman who lived in the Dubbo/Wellington area. Her grandmother, who lived in Yagoona and with whom she was very close, apparently hid her aboriginality. It was ‘safe for her’ to do so, since she had white skin. It was a dark secret within the family. Linda got quite emotional about the trauma of people questioning her aboriginality because of her complexion. You can read her story here.
You will note that Linda says nothing whatsoever about her parents and what their reaction was to their aboriginality or anything about her childhood other than her relationship with her grandmother. Perhaps Linda’s grandmother and her parents were simply part of the 80 per cent of Aboriginal families, identified in Burden of Culture, who have adapted to modern life and for whom their aboriginality was incidental to their being. Perhaps they were identifying as white because that is how they saw themselves, rather than denying their aboriginality. Linda is perfectly free to identify as Aborigine and to try to learn such aspects of the Wiradjuri culture as remain, but she is not free to cast herself as a victim of racism.
When you read her story, it becomes apparent that the people questioning her aboriginality are not insensitive white bigots, but Aboriginal people. They call her a JCL (johnny come lately). Perhaps it’s not just her complexion, but also her upbringing and lifestyle that mark her as just another ordinary Australian, not really deserving a berth on the gravy train. Part of Gary Johns’ 80 per cent of successful Aboriginal people, in other words.
This Insight program was a deeply self-indulgent waste of taxpayer’s money. There was a tension between the pale-skinned, on-a-journey-of-discovery participants (Uncle Bruce, Mikaela Jade, Linda Augusto and Aaron Sainsbury) and the real-mccoy variants such as Hagan, Yvonne Weldon and Kamarah Kelly, all of whom criticised, to some extent or other, unnamed JCLs who were taking jobs that should have gone to their ilk. None of the first group evinced any embarrassment at this, and to be fair, I don’t know to what extent, if any, they are in receipt of government largesse, apart from Uncle Bruce, of course. (Was that a sneer I saw on the face of Dr Hagan when the camera panned to him during one of Uncle Bruce’s explanations, or just a supporting grin?)
‘Stolen generations’ survivor Ian Hamm stole the show with his one-liner “You don’t get much for being a blackfella”. News to Dr Hagan, I imagine.
The central premise of Burden of Culture is that shows like Insight, which encourage otherwise perfectly capable people to wallow in virtue-signalling me-tooism and grievance, and Dr Hagan’s $40 billion ‘industry’ are exactly the factors that are keeping the 20 per cent of disadvantaged Aborigines (and their children) right where they are.
Burden of Culture is a must read for anyone with a genuine concern for that 20 per cent.
Peter O’Brien’s latest book, Villian or Victim? A defence of Sir John Kerr and the Reserve Powers, can be ordered here