While many Aboriginal people in this country are doing well, there are still many who suffer. Their problems need to be discussed, but all too often often such conversations fall victim to an unofficial but endemic censorship. This was most evident when three ‘white’ people recently addressed the care of Aboriginal children during a Sunrise segment prompted by the alleged recent rape of a two-year-old Aboriginal girl in Tennant Creek.
By what right did people of the wrong skin colour discuss Aborigines, the activists thundered? How dare they suggest an Aboriginal child removed from a dysfunctional home environment and adopted into a white home would not be “stolen”! Channel Seven is now being investigated for putting such “racist” sentiments to air. Predictably, Seven has now deleted the clip from its official social media posts and archives. That’s the power of the pile-on and we can all guess what Seven’s reaction will be: it will spurn the topic in future, having learned that its very mention brings nothing but trouble. Silence gives consent, as they say, and a cowed silence on a issue that should be of national concern is the most damning silence of them all.
I used to think that such censorship arose because, as is so often asserted, only Aboriginal people have the necessary experience and qualifications for speaking about Aboriginal issues – an assertion that rests not on hard evidence but springs from a strong emotional conviction and which is bolstered by the pernicious influence of identity politics. This reasoning often finds expression in well-worn rhetoric like: ‘Let Aboriginal people take control of their own lives.’ While this logic, if a meaningless slogan can be described as “logic”, is handily and often used for silencing debate, it’s not a clear ‘black and white’ matter. Basically, it boils down to this: There are some problems facing Aboriginal people that non-Aboriginal Australians are allowed to discuss and some problems that Aboriginal people are not allowed to discuss.
This is confusing, so I’m going to tease out the source of confusion.
First, consider those problems affecting Aboriginal people that non-Aboriginal people are allowed to discuss. For example, diabetes is a major problem for Aboriginal people. Best estimates are that they are four times more likely than non-Aboriginal Australians to be burdened with type 2 variant of the disease. The problem of diabetes in the Aboriginal population has been discussed many times by non-Aboriginal people without any objection. So that’s a safe topic.
By contrast, consider the response when discussing other problems that disproportionately affect Aboriginal people, such as violence and child abuse. Typically, the responses will be a mass of excuses and rationalisations that are obscene in their callousness. “Yeah, but it’s in every community”, we will hear, or “Stop stereotyping us” or, the all-purpose gag, “That’s racist!” Perhaps the all-time classic response is: “All our men feel demonised when you say that.” For the record, I have not met one person, Aboriginal or otherwise, who has ever indicated that they believe the majority of Aboriginal men are abusers of their children.” This accusation is simply a ploy, another one, by the Aboriginal offenderati to silence discussion. Meanwhile, little children die.
One might conclude that only Aboriginal people are allowed to talk about these sensitive topics. However, the reality is that an Aborigine attempting to raise these problems from any but the “poisoned flour/diseased blankets” perspective will be attacked with far more hate and bile by the Aboriginal ‘offenderati’ than non-Aboriginal people raising the same points. Why is this?
Simply put, Aboriginal gatekeepers, those who advance and police the preferred narrative, are happy for problems like violence and child abuse in Aboriginal communities to be discussed, but only if Aboriginal perpetrators are excused and the white man blamed. Insist that violence and child abuse are the results of colonisation, ‘transgenerational trauma’ or cutbacks in funding to one or another activist’s pet Aboriginal programs and you will be cheered. However, if a non-Aboriginal person suggests the Aboriginal perpetrators of these crimes are totally responsible for their own actions, that Captain Cook has nothing to do with it, the cries of “Racism!’ will be deafening. When Aborigines point a finger at Aboriginal perpetrators they are called ‘coconuts’ (brown only on the outside) , accused of ‘selling out’ their people and and much worse, up to and including threats of violence. Make no mistake, these are racist terms and they remain racist even when spoken by other Aboriginal people.
As Quadrant‘s Keith Windschuttle observes in the latest edition of the magazine, identity politics is the villain — or, rather, the chosen tool of the villains.. Identifying with a group has its advantages: it can enable people with a common cause to develop strategies that best meet goals and needs they could not attain as individuals. However, there is a danger when group membership is used to promote one’s prestige and sense of self-worth. If self-worth is dependent on one’s race, then any negative stories involving that race are a threat to self-worth. I am a Queenslander, male, heterosexual, with Aboriginal and English ancestry. But I do not base my sense of self-worth on any of these attributes. They are parts of who I am, but they do not define me.
So what is the solution when it comes to discussing problems that disproportionally affect the Aboriginal population? Simple; let’s recognise that those Aboriginal Australians who suffer needlessly are Australian citizens, and therefore are entitled to the same rights and opportunities that most of us take for granted. And if they are Australian citizens, then every Australian has a right to voice their opinion on the problems affecting their fellow Australians. It has been the insistence that those Australians with Aboriginal ancestry be seen as another race separate to other Australians that has contributed to the deplorable state far too many Aboriginal Australians are in today.
Change the rules and we will change the outcomes. Fail to do that and the next Closing the Gap reports will be like the last ten.