Yesterday I was sitting on the train, going to a friends after work, and it was hard to know where to look. An aboriginal woman was walking up and down the carriage yelling at everyone.
"Julia Gillard! What's she gonna do for this country? Hey? She only cares about the stupid boat people! What about us aboriginals? And the carbon tax, what's that? That ain't gonna feed my family! That ain't gonna feed the starving aboriginal kids!" Over and over and over. "And she doesn't even belong here! Bloody white people! What are you? You're not Australian! What are you? You're not Australian!" She walked over to a guy wearing a turban, "and you! What are you even doing here? You're not a bloody Australian! Go back to your own country!" and started poking his turban.
It was pretty shocking. I felt so sorry for the guy. Later on, when some transperth guards got on the train to try and calm her down, they asked him if he was ok, and I swear he had the thickest Aussie accent. It was kinda bizarre.
Then at the same time, I felt really sorry for her and the people she was with. They were all visibly embarrassed, but didn't know what to do. And I can't imagine the experiences she's had to make her feel that way.
In Australian society, from what I can tell, there's masses of racism, and it really sucks. People on the train were visibly judging her because she was an aboriginal, and odds are a lot of people have probably treated her differently because of her race. Not that any of this is an excuse for the way she was acting, and what she did, but I'd like to think people wouldn't act that way just because.
It made me think about the level of racism we experience, though. I know that half the time, if I walk past a group of aboriginals, my usual response is to try not to look at them out of a pervasive feeling of concern. I try not to feel that way, but I can't seem to shake the feeling. I try to advocate for aboriginal rights, whatever that means, and would love to learn more about their culture, but there's just this gap ingrained into our society where they seem to be an entirely separate group of people. As part of that, generally speaking, we fear them, and I think we should be hanging our heads in shame because of it, myself included.
But how in the world do we rectify the situation we've created for ourselves?