May 20, 2011

On a more serious note...

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?


Bethia said...

*LIKE* :)
I put myself in that category too.
I wonder how much it would help we were to learn more about nyoongar culture. and i wonder if it helps at all walking in the bush... doing the whole connecting-with-the-land thing. Or vice versa. I think it would be generally very beneficial for me if I was to do more of this (both the things i said). I like the bit about people not acting like that for no reason, even though this is not an excuse to do so. I think I would like to bring more people to see the whole situation from slightly more this way of thinking.
It's so bizarre, this idea we have, that people do wierd things for no reason..

Cin said...

On a more serious note...I completely agree with you. However much we want to discard those stereotypes and past way of thinking, it seems to be nearly impossible, particularly in situations (such as your train incident) where those stereotypes are actually applicable. I think the government needs to take a serious stand and rather than just offering an apology which is only the start.

Rhi Nelson said...

The problem with just learning about noongar culture is that there's so many different aboriginal tribes (I think their tribes at least). I see what you mean though... If we at least learned something about aboriginal culture as a start that would help, except for digeridoos and boomerangs :/ Like I honestly don't think I'd easily recognise aboriginal language, which is pretty sad considering I've lived here all my life...

Cindy!!!! Yeah, the apology was good but it would be nice if they'd actually do something more practical now, and actually involved aboriginal elders and people in the process, instead of forcing our ideals on them. It's hard though because it's such a complex situation!