I acknowledge the people who came before me, the stalwart English, the gutsy Irish, the tenacious hairy-legged Scots and the persecuted French Huguenots. Oh, and Monty Python. And I blow smoke in the eyes of all those who seek to belittle my forebears, for they made me what I am and they made my country the great place that it was until just a short time ago.
Once upon a time there lived a man of past middle age with brown twinkly eyes, curly black hair and beautiful black skin. And he entered a writing competition for white writers only (how racist is that!). The clever literary people running the competition didn’t dare draw attention to the fact that he was not even one teeny-tiny bit white because someone might think poorly of them. Anyway our man (whom we shall call Frank) won the prize for being the best white writer, and the prize was an enormous pile of tax-payers’ money.
Some people became a bit cranky about this and had the audacity to ask Frank how he could call himself white when he obviously wasn’t. First he said he was just too bloody busy to answer such silly questions. Then, when they rudely persisted, he said that some of his best mates were white, and they all did things together, like fishing and watching the footy, and this made him white, too. I haven’t yet worked out the logic of this but perhaps it’s clear to other people who are smarter than I. Maybe the whiteness rubs off somehow, or migrates from inside one person to inside another, sort of like osmosis or homeopathy. If somebody could explain this to me I’d be very grateful.
Then when the cranky people still persisted in giving Frank a hard time, he started talking about quantum testing, which appears to be some sort of percentage game. You might think the greater your percentage of white blood, the more…well…white you’d be. Seems logical. But no! Apparently white blood is so special, so powerful that you need just the tiniest percentage of it to be a proper white person. I’m reminded again of homeopathy (and molecular memory) and we all know how that fares on the commonsense scale! Frank admitted that his percentage of white blood was below the line (by which I understand he means that it’s miniscule or not even measurable) but he insisted that this definitely did not change his position as a white man within the white community. I cannot be the only Australian who finds his argument ever so confusing and, to be honest, more than a little silly.
Some very unkind people checked out Frank’s family tree and not one little spot of whiteness could be found amongst his ancestors. They all had beautiful black skin, black hair and brown eyes, just like Frank. And the several white tribes to which he claimed to be related said indignantly, ‘he’s nothing to do with us, absolutely not! We wish he’d stop telling porkies and piss off.’
Did he give back his prize money after this low blow? Of course not, but he was hurt, very hurt, poor chap.
Next, some very important people of various colours said if Frank wanted to identify as white, well that was absolutely his own business and his right and quite okay with them. Nobody, but nobody should dare to question his chosen colour. If he thought of himself as white, well he bloody well was white. You’d think that would shut everyone up because once the ‘i’ word comes into a discussion, all logic flies out the window. But no, it did not!
I have to add here that this whole identifying business is a bit of a bother to me. It really is. Let’s imagine, for example, that my dear (very tall, chubby, sort of ginger-haired) husband comes in and says he now identifies as a Kalahari Bushman. Would I say, ‘okay, that’s fine by me, dear.’? Of course not. I would call a psychiatrist. So what the hell is going on here? I can’t believe I’m the only person in the country who thinks this is crap.
A very brave woman complained to the constabulary that Frank had taken money under false pretences but Frank escaped the naughty corner on a technicality. The brave woman was then sacked. Here we have the Orwellian nightmare that is modern day Australia.
Was Frank bothered by all this brouhaha? Well, not really, because his book was a top-seller and he became very famous, and made lots of money, winning more and more prizes for his unusual and innovative take on Australian history.
He was just so creative! Nobody had read anything quite like it before. But there was a problem. It was a gigantic problem, actually. Frank’s so-called history book was, to put it politely, a tiny bit contrived. To put it less politely, it was manufactured bullshit, a total furphy. This is easy to prove by any half-way literate person of any colour you might care to choose. A person of pinkness wrote an entire book about all the fibs in Frank’s ‘history’ book. Websites were set up with example after example of Frank’s sneaky twisting of history. Frank ignored them.
Frank travelled this wide brown land, telling his tales and wooing the gullible with his dulcet tones and twinkly bright eyes. It is true that he told a good yarn, that he was entertaining and oh so pleasant. His popularity grew and many could not understand the nasty aspersions being cast on his innovative interpretation of Australian history, or on his decision to be white.
‘Frank’s thought patterns are absolutely those of a white person. You can sense his whiteness shining through most meaningfully in his every word,’ gushed his fans. ‘Anyone who questions the veracity of his work is coming from a position of hate.’
But those who were older and wiser (and there are still a few of us in Australia) stood back and frowned and thought, ‘What a load of old bollocks!’
The Battle for the Truth continues, back and forth, to and fro, day after day. A major problem for the forces of good, honesty and the Australian way is that certain bigwigs have aligned themselves with Frank the White Man of Colour. (Or is it Frank the Black Man of No Colour. It’s just so confusing!)
Our ABC has become Frank’s very best new friend (which makes you wonder about the news they allow us to watch every night). It’s using our money to make documentaries about wonderful Frank and his enlightened approach to history. As for SBS, well SBS and Frank are a perfect match. What more can I say!
Nobody likes to admit that they backed the wrong horse, so the love-in continues. A reviewer for Frank’s latest book described his writing (in that usually great newspaper, The Australian) using such fulsome terms, such unctuousness, that we fell about laughing at our place. It would seem that Frank’s writing has no faults, not a single one! Amazing!
Journalists of every shape and colour are afraid to speak their minds, with only a few of the bravest being game to take Frank to task and risk the ire of the Kombucha quaffing luvvies and, of course, The Law. Having an unpopular opinion, especially on matters of colour, can get you into serious trouble in Australia these days.
Educators, who should know better, were excited to have Frank’s work in the schools. ‘Littlies need to know this important stuff,’ they said, apparently unaware that there is a difference between genuine history and fiction. Frank was so inspired by all the accolades, (and probably realizing that he had to strike while the iron was hot), quickly wrote a special, dumbed-down version of his ‘history’ book for very small and dumb kiddies. Every Granny worth her salt rushed out and bought it, to ensure that her grandchildren were part of the non-thinking in-crowd.
Some historians, who also should have known better, were overwhelmed with joy when Frank’s faux history was a runaway success. ‘Golly gosh,’ they said. ‘Isn’t it great that Australians care so much about their past nowadays. Thanks to fabulous Frank, history gets a mention almost every day in the press. It doesn’t really matter if Frank’s story is right or wrong or what colour he is. Discussions like that are so old hat, so negative! What’s important is that in Frank we have a guru who appeals to the younger generation. How cool is that!’
Everyone wanted to get on the bandwagon. Frank was the flavour of the month, the new black. Book store owners clapped their hands with glee as Frank’s work rushed off the shelves. His faux history book became the best selling history book ever! Ordinary people, who had never before read a history book, congratulated themselves for reaching new intellectual heights. Those who gained from Frank’s re-appraisal of the past partied till the cows came home and then partied some more.
Dinky-di historians, those who could actually think for themselves, do proper research and knew a thing or two about peer review, were disgusted that a work of fiction was being sold to the public as a history book. Sadly though, few wanted to be caught getting out of bed on the wrong side of the colour divide, so they mostly just raged softly amongst themselves or gnashed their teeth quietly in private.
A woman with a past produced a lengthy article about cultural appropriation, a subject on which she was an expert. This is the bizarre idea that you mustn’t wear a Mexican hat if you’re not a Mexican. Or maybe it’s if you do wear a Mexican hat, you become a Mexican. It doesn’t make any sense either way. What a distraction that article was! Quite missed the main points, which were that Frank’s ‘history’ was untrue and he wasn’t in any obvious and convincing way white.
Our National Museum in Canberra set up a special Frank exhibition. Yes, yes, I know this Museum is meant to be the arbiter on all important historical facts, so the mind boggles as to how this could have occurred. No prizes for guessing who paid for the Frank exhibition. Of course it’s us again, the long-suffering taxpayer. And so the untruths spread like a sickness across the land.
What of those so-called literary experts who awarded Frank the prizes in the first place? You’d think they would have bought a one way ticket to somewhere far, far away when the smelly stuff started to hit the fan, or at the very least hung their heads in shame and embarrassment. But they circled the wagons and kept their heads down which is kind of arrogant when they’d made such an obvious stuff-up. It’s also very insulting to other prize winners whose work is now devalued.
With this sort of opposition it may seem as if the Truth Seekers are on a hiding to nowhere, but Australians are nothing if not tenacious. This battle has a way to go yet. Like Winston Churchill, we will never give in and we shall never surrender to the illogical, the turmeric chewers and the latte loonies. Most particularly we won’t give in to those who use skin colour as a weapon or as an excuse.
Frank and his dodgy ‘history’ book don’t pass the pub test. That’s the simple truth of it. And there’s no coming back from that. We know that there is a fine line between taking the mickey and deceiving the citizenry for personal and political gain. Frank has crossed that line.
Once, when asked about her son, Frank’s beautiful black mother said with a loud and raucous guffaw, ‘He’s been at it again has he! It started in Primary School you know. Whenever there was a new teacher he’d take off his nice leather school shoes and little white socks, put a couple of rabbit skins over his shoulders and tell the teacher he was special. He was so special he said, that when he looked at the night sky, he didn’t just see the stars like the rest of us. He saw (wait for it)…the spaces in between! How deep is that! They fell for it every time. Gave him sweeties and early marks. Jeeze it was funny! What a jolly jape! In the evenings, we’d sit around the kitchen table with his little black brothers and sisters and have such a chortle.
And no, my Frankie is not a white man. Never has been. Never will be. He’s just a very naughty boy!’