Bennelong Papers

Racism’s Real and Relentless Villains

black hard hat IIIt is starkly apparent that Aboriginal people suffer disproportionately from serious issues, such as high rates of unemployment, suicide and violence. The 2017 Closing the Gap report and other sources tell us that these are issues that result in genuine suffering for Aboriginal people and require immediate attention. However, there exist some individuals and groups that delight in promoting a sense of victimhood among those Aboriginal people for whom there really is no basis for grievance. Though it is expressed in many forms, the primary and presumed cause of such suffering is white Australians. In terms of history there can be no denying Aborigines were subjected to episodes of cruel and unjust treatment. But this is no longer the case, nor has it been for many years.

While many Aboriginal people embrace our multi-cultural society, promoters of victimhood are keen to portray non-Aboriginal people as a distinct ‘other’ — the perpetual oppressor to be treated with contempt, publicly disparaged at very opportunity. This goes well beyond fault-finding, grumbling or rational criticism; rather, it is a  the expression of a hatred that diminishes those who fling such charges even as it demeans their targets.

But briefly, they are obsessed with a notion called ‘white privilege’, a problem for which they see ‘decolonisation’ as the solution. Finger-pointing at ‘the whitefella’ and ‘his’ government, campaigning for changes to the Flag, changing the date of Australia Day, and demanding constitutional recognition or treaties are de rigueur amongst this group. Either directly or indirectly these passionate attacks arise from the view that non-Aboriginal Australians are the enemy, always have been the enemy and always will be. This entrenched hatred towards their non-Indigenous countrymen by a minority of Aboriginal activists has a negative impact on all Aboriginal people, and it does immense damage to race relations.

First, it spurs the dangerous notion that an Aboriginal person who succeeds in the mainstream has betrayed his or her culture. Activists promote the mainstream as ‘whitefella’ territory which, therefore, must be avoided. This is despite the fact that the Aboriginal middle class is growing. While this is something to be celebrated, activists often re-brand Aboriginal positive role models as traitors, simply because they have prospered in mainstream society. And why shouldn’t they prosper? After all, mainstream society is their society too – they are not outsiders looking in, they are Australians. An example of the criticism of ‘traitor’ was when Ken Wyatt became the first Indigenous minister. Within days, the derogatory terms ‘coconut’ and ‘sell out’ were peppering social media.

Jacinta Price is a fine example of an Aboriginal woman who is doing exceedingly well in the mainstream — and who also swims against the tide of extreme views. Recently, when Price expressed her support for celebrating Australia Day on the traditional date and urged her audience to focus on issues that are, quite frankly, far more pressing, the activists’ response was immediate and intense. Even though her life was threatened during that ‘backlash’ against her candid honesty, it did not stop this brave woman writing another piece “Section 18C: a bad law that finds racism where there is none.” This article and others like it have the same effect as garlic on a vampire. They intimidate the firebrandswho thrive by promoting anger among Aboriginal people, those who building their careers and public prominence by doing their utmost to make things worse.

For as long as the ‘white man’ is cast as the enemy and the Aborigine as his victim, Australia will remain divided. Still, I remain optimistic, as there are signs of change — slow change, admittedly, but change all the same.  Consider Stan Grant‘s recent lament about how tedious he finds the monocular view of Aborigines as victims, rather than survivors who can attain the same levels of accomplishment as anyone else. Further, as journalist, Nick Cater has noted, there is a tragic irony in that, by playing the victim and projecting guilt to non-Indigenous Australians, they are posturing within the hermetically sealed world of their self-proclaimed victimhood.

Another encouraging sign: writing recently in the Townsville Bulletin, Julian Tomlinson didn’t mince words in bemoaning the divisiveness of activists’ “toxic rhetoric”. “It seems that just when some headway in race relations is made, an activist will remind everyone of Australia’s racist past and how discrimination and racism are still a part of black people’s everyday lives,” he wrote.

Protestors divide us by engaging in acts like burning the Australian Flag, as do the politicaly correct hacks  who write articles blithely accepting the nostrum that all problems are rooted in colonisation and racism. In the January 25 edition of the Koori Mail, an article titled ‘Let’s Change the Date 2′ by Woolombi Waters, is typical in its attempt to provoke guilt in those who celebrate Australia Day by aligning the national celebration with  “the erasing of tens of thousands of years of prior occupation.” Waters would do well to take the advice of Quadrant contributor  Kerryn Pholi, who has said, “It can’t be emphasised enough that middle class guilt, ‘white privilege’ guilt, and postcolonial ‘settler shame’ are pointless, selfish and a waste of everybody’s time.”

Contrast Waters’ views with those of Dr Anthony Dillon on ABC News. He expressed the need to focus on bigger issues than changing the date of Australia Day. “We don’t see anywhere near the number of people protesting child abuse, violence, unclean, unsafe communities,” he said.

The ABC reporter appeared unused to Dillon’s reluctance to blame racism, non-Aboriginal Australians and colonisation as the major culprits. When he differed with Warren Mundine’s stance to change the date of Australia Day, she was flabbergasted. Perhaps this was because she believes the minority of extremist Aboriginals are more common than they really are. After all, the view that all Aboriginal people are ‘victims’ of racism often features in the mainstream media, which is why Noel Pearson went so far as to brand the ABC and SBS racist for promoting the soft bigotry of low expectations. The climate on social media is even worse, with bilious views against the ‘white man’ feverishly spouted with such vehemence that the outpourings can only be regarded as hate speech.

Accept the truth which the ABC interviewer found so hard to grasp — that people like Price and Dillon better represent and embody Aboriginal opinion and aspiration — and the activists’ melodramatic hissing at favoured villains can be seen exactly for what it is: a determined campaign to worsen race relations, not better them.

Tanya Rosecky is the founder of Get Real Australia, a not for profit organisation which campaigns through social media on indigenous issues

17 thoughts on “Racism’s Real and Relentless Villains

  • says:

    This is a brilliant and perceptive article. Rosecky signals that a fundamental change in Indigenous demography may be coming, with more than forty thousand (Stan Grant’s figure of thirty thousand is so 2011) university graduates and perhaps three thousand a year between now and 2020. Those forty thousand people have family and relations, so perhaps a couple of hundred thousand Indigenous people are quite familiar with university graduates and tertiary study. Latest data suggest that there could be eighteen thousand Indigenous university students enrolled this year, up 8-9 % or so on last year’s figure, and double the total for 2007. Fifty thousand graduates by 2018-2019, and a hundred thousand by 2030, or one in five adults (one in four in the cities, one in three Indigenous women in the cities): now that’s a middle class. Meanwhile, out in the ‘communities’ …..

    • ianl says:

      > “This is a brilliant and perceptive article”


      Now, how to get the MSM to admit it and then appreciate that Noel Pearson’s accurate jibe about the “soft bigotry of low expectations” describes a very nasty, destructive leftoid mania ?

    • rosross says:

      Let’s hope the reality can hold the ground against the powerful forces of academic, political and media-driven political correctness. Now there’s an oxymoron – that which is deemed to be politically correct is often so damn wrong if not downright stupid.

  • en passant says:

    Having ‘won’ their case the answer is to give the activists what they want: their own nation, separate from Oz so they can return to the Stone Age culture they miss so much. No money, no roads, no education, no alcohol, no medicine, no wheel, no hunting rifles, no landcruisers, no houses, no hunting rifles, no electricity, no air conditioners, no ….. just endless dreaming, ‘welcome to country’ faux traditional ceremonies and corroborees. I mean, what could go wrong?

    Like every part of our diverse society, the answer is to blend in and integrate into the mainstream Oz culture or (and this is the threat) you can have everything you want …

    Note: a DNA check showed that my grandchildren had nine ethnic backgrounds – thus making them all-Australians.

    The Stone Age cannot be all that bad, after all that is the lifestyle the Greens wish for all of us and are testing in South Australia

  • rosross says:

    The irony of course is that most indigenous are less Aboriginal than they are what is called ‘white.’

    They are not ‘of’ Aboriginal ancestry but ‘have some’ Aboriginal ancestry along with other ancestral heritages. How can anyone know which ‘part’ of them is manifesting their Aboriginal ancestry and which is manifesting their Anglo/European/Asian ancestry? We cannot. They are, like all of us, the sum of all their ‘parts’ and the result of ancestral mixing of race, culture and nationality.

    To talk of a universal indigenous is incorrect for, even those indigenous who can claim to be half Aboriginal, the criteria in all other countries for being able to register one’s self as indigenous, are not one united group, descended from and sharing one culture.

    Aboriginal culture when the English arrived was diverse, as diverse as European groups thousands of years earlier. We would not seek to presume that the Gauls and Vikings could be lumped together as one simply because both were what we would call European. Nor would we say the Japanese and Chinese are one unified and single group, simply because both are what we call Asian. And in Africa, Malawians, Libyans, Angolans, etc. and etc. and etc. would be horrified to be classed as one group culturally the same, just because all are African.

    Until we learn to differentiate so we can focus on those with Aboriginal ancestry who are in need of help, and know the various cultural aspects which might play a part, we will never be effective in providing any help.

    • says:

      My late wife was Ngarrindjeri, raised by her Ngarrindjeri mother, who in turn ….. back to pre-contact times. She may have had Italian, Chinese and Anglo ancestors as well on her paternal side, most of whom are unknown to history. Mothers tend to raise the children, so the children take on the attitudes, histories, ethos and beliefs of the mother. So I have no trouble at all in considering quite pale Aboriginal people as being Aboriginal if their mother was.

      For Johnny-come-latelies, as my wife called them, who discovered very late that they had some distant Aboriginal ancestry (hence the need for large beards, black hats, etc.), it may well be a very different story. We used to surmise that maybe such people should do a sort of apprenticeship, for the same time as it had taken them to ‘discover’ their ancestry: if they found out about at, say, twenty, then a twenty year apprenticeship before they claimed to be some sort of spokesperson. That would be a start.

      • rosross says:

        Or we could just do what other nations do – 50% ancestry means you can register as indigenous.

        Or, benefits needs-based not race-based which would whittle out the opportunists.

        Then again, being indigenous is a bit like being gay, transgender, Muslim, Jewish, black, immigrant – all of which gets you an edge amongst the politically correct movers and shakers who make decisions today. Belong to a group which is believed to be deserving of Positive Discrimination because of perceived Negative Discrimination, real or imagined, and you are privileged above ordinary folk.

        I was talking to an American friend recently, an academic in Florida, who told the story of how all job applications must be filtered through a Positive Discrimination ‘net’ to ensure that the disadvantaged were advantaged, and the last time they advertised a position, it attracted only ‘white’ males, which meant the job-hunt had to be rendered null and void and started again. All that discrimination, time, money and effort to ensure that only the ‘right kind of person’ got the job. Sounds like racism to me.

  • rosross says:

    This is an excellent article. And yes, there are heartening signs in the voices of a few with Aboriginal ancestry, appreciative of all their ancestral inheritances and refusing to select only one to identify themselves, but with insight into the ‘bigger picture’ of indigenous Australia, but the Aboriginal industry with its academic and political and media backers is powerful and will fight back for as long as it can, seeking to silence voices of reason.

    These voices are even more important because most indigenous are in mixed marriages and one can assume, the mix of ancestry and marriage partners mean they are a part of mainstream Australia even if they identify as indigenous, and their children even more so. Division affects not just the nation but relationships.

    More to the point, with around 600,000 who register as indigenous out of 24 million Australians, there will come a point when generally tolerant Australians, who know how many billions of dollars have been provided to try to help, how many millions of hectares have been handed over to the small but select group who register as indigenous, how much more in assistance and benefits this small but privileged group of Australians get because they have some ancestral Aboriginal links, will grow tired of the demands and resentful that it is never enough, and that they are being cast as intolerant racists when the real racism and the true intolerance exists in an indigenous group, a small minority probably in the whole, but a vocal and destructive minority all the same.

    There is a limit to how long non-indigenous Australians can be unfairly blamed and shamed and if that limit is crossed, it will be indigenous Australians who suffer, the innocent along with the guilty.

  • says:

    Thanks Tanya for another great article.
    It seems to me that there is an irresolvable contradiction between the idea of “separate development” and “closing the gap”. Between “seperate sovereignty” and “reconciliation”. While most Aborigines have voted with their feet and joined the Australian mainstream it seems that the Aboriginal Industry desparately needs division in order to maintain their access to the great Commonwealth teat.

  • says:

    Those Aborigines, of whatever degree of racial authenticity, who are successfully functioning as working or middle class members of Australian society, are of two distinctly opposite groups. There are those who take their aboriginality in their stride and get on with their lives as regular members of society, doing their best to ignore accusations of traitors, uncle Toms, coconuts and the like, hurled at them mercilessly by members of the other group. That other group is almost exclusively of the middle class. They are often described, rather accurately, as the Aborigine Industry. They mostly derive all or most of their often lucrative income from being active members of various government funded organisations set up to improve the lives of their less fortunate brothers and sisters. Most noble of them, it would seem. Not so fast, though. The members of this group vehemently promote an attitude that guarantees the perpetual disadvantage and suffering of the truly disadvantaged Aborigines. They relentlessly tell the most miserable of their own kind that they are an extraordinarily special race of people with only the most noble of traits; that every misfortune they ever encounter is the fault of others, especially the white colonialists; that any and all untoward action by them is the result of the wrongs inflicted on them by those same colonialists; that everything they ever need or desire must be provided by those morally inferior colonialists, and they seal it all by declaring these “truths” as inviolable, sacrosanct. They are the most despicable, immoral scum of the earth, lucratively trading on the misery of the if own kind.

  • says:

    There is much to like in the way the Franks adapted to their colonization by the Romans. They ceased resisting the imposed Latin tongue and gave it their own melodious twist and got with the new system and proudly called it French.
    After the French speaking Normans conquered [and ruthlessly suppressed] the English and Welsh the people adapted without handouts and took up the idea of hot bathing and eating mutton from the abattoir instead of sheep from the slaughterhouse.
    So one admires the aboriginal Australians who consider English their language of choice and who create a good life with other people who have come a little later to Terra Australis.

    • rosross says:

      Well said. My question is why should it be that ‘trans-generational trauma’ should be particular to a small number of indigenous when logically, all must have inherited it, and in fact, every human being on the planet would be influenced by trans-generational trauma but seems not to be.

      Is the argument that TGT is a deficiency in Aboriginal DNA in ways it is not in other groups? Although if it were that would mean all indigenous, no matter how minimal their Aboriginality, would manifest the same levels of dysfunction and they do not.

      The salient question then is, ‘what is different’ about dysfunctional indigenous and functional indigenous, for in that answer lie the seeds of truths which can lead to resolution.

  • Anthony says:

    In the last week we’ve had an article from Kerryn Pholi and Tanya Rosecky. Both are telling truths which the politically correct idiot brigade don’t wish to hear. Thankfully we have sharp thinkers like these two who are interested in making a difference and not winning popularity contests. And thankfully we have platforms like Quadrant to allow people like Kerryn and Tanya to express their views.

  • padraic says:

    A very pertinent article which should help drain the billabong here in Australia. I was impressed with the following comments of Peter Baldwin in a recent Australian article – “The defining feature of these earlier campaigns was a vision of a common humanity, not a world where people are seen, first and foremost, as members of one or other identity group category.
    On the former view human beings, irrespective of such distinctions, were united by their possession of rationality, agency, and the right to exercise them irrespective of the cultural milieu into which they were born. They were held to have the right to critically evaluate, and indeed reject, aspects of their native culture, including religion. Racial distinctions were viewed as trivial surface manifestations of minor genetic differences, something we should aim to transcend, a view encapsulated beautifully by Martin Luther King in his great 1963 civil rights speech.” This was an era when having full citizenship rights in a nation state was the goal. Most of us opposed apartheid in those days where people were put in antique ethnic boxes and excluded from the mainstream. It used to be called racism and was considered bad. Now the ABC, SBS and others in the media plus a minority of Australians of aboriginal background are pushing the new racist apartheid – but it’s the sharing and caring racism, not that horrible one in the 60s and 70s. It appears that only white people are racists. These undergraduates making that claim should travel a bit and live in other societies and check it out. I agree that what was in vogue in the 1800s is long gone. There is nothing to stop contemporary Australian citizens of aboriginal background from doing everything that everyone else does. Academics bellyaching about the past is a waste of time – live in the present and build for the future. The Left need victims so they can feel superior.

    • rosross says:

      Yes, and indigenous Australians get a lot of extra help to make their way. There is no doubt that ‘assistance’ formal and informal, applies in the arts, education, jobs, academia, sports, media and elsewhere.

      If you are an indigenous writer or artist it will give you a leg-up. Who doesn’t want to find that sort of ‘edge?’ However, it is not right and Positive Discrimination is still Discrimination.

  • rosross says:

    I think it is also questionable that Australia has a racist past. Most actions taken toward Aborigines were taken in a bid to help, not because of racism.

    The White Australia Policy had nothing to do with Aborigines and reflected a fear of cultural change, not racism per se: if large numbers of Asian, particularly Chinese, immigrants were allowed. Australians of Chinese ancestry have always been with us and still are and successfully so which says racism was not and is not prevalent.

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