Last Sunday morning I was perusing my emails and looking through the news when I came across this article by Stan Grant, ‘After Queen Elizabeth II’s death, Indigenous Australia can’t be expected to shut up. Our sorry business is without end’. Despite being well written and I think well intentioned I couldn’t help but notice the almost extreme attachment to what one would call a victim mentality and the lack of a grounding in reality. The irony of this coming from a man who is wealthy, famous, and very successful in the fields he’s worked in. To state, as he does, that his voice is too often silenced is bizarre given it’s absolutely and obviously the opposite.
The story of his mother borrowing socks from a family member to see the Queen in 1954 and of his father’s mistreatment and abuse at the hands of police is horrible and I’m not seeking to disparage anyone’s suffering. But I don’t see anyone condoning or refusing to acknowledge the abhorrent nature of such situations and treatment. What I do see is a man whose parents provided for him despite these conditions such that he’s managed to achieve great things in journalism and political correspondence.
The bombing of my family’s home in London and the suffering and death of direct relatives in prison camps during World War 2 isn’t something I focus on at all in my life. And it isn’t ‘privilege’ that provides me with the opportunity not to focus on their suffering instead of becoming frustrated at its abhorrent nature and needlessness. It’s a mindset and belief that looking forward and not back is the best way to navigate life’s journey. And furthermore, using such experiences as fundamentally important tenets in one’s outlook and personality will only bring suffering and bitterness.
This suffering and bitterness is what concerns me most as it breeds, inevitably, a victim mentality. And this mentality and outlook is being taught to a generation of young Aboriginal Australians. An outlook that breaks people into two categories; oppressor and oppressed. What good can possibly come of this? What good can come of telling Aboriginal children that they know ‘apocalypse’ when their White friends do not?
Towards the start of the article it states, ‘We aren’t supposed to talk about this’ (this being the suffering of Aboriginal Australian’s and the legacies of empire in Australia) which ironically is coming from a front-page ABC news article read by millions of Australians every day. And a quick look at several news outlets, including ABC news, tells me its actually the opposite. Colonialism, racism, republic leanings, and legacies of empire have been and are discussed heavily following the Queen’s passing.
To follow this with a description of physical symptoms as a result of writing about being told (if he ever was) that discussing such obviously discussed things makes your veins constrict, pulse race, and tension rise is concerning. Its concerning because no one’s going to stop you discussing this. Being respectful is a matter of social etiquette not a legal requirement. Its concerning because surely, after all these years, being exposed to idiots, trolls, and bad faith actors online who can conduct themselves anonymously shouldn’t be surprising! And certainly shouldn’t be used as evidence of the ideology being advocated for.
But, despite the obvious success of Stan Grant, other Aboriginal Australians are not doing nearly as well (and are in fact suffering in many ways) and I assume this is what he means when writing about a ‘sorry business without end’. Specifically, the high suicide rates, high domestic violence and incarceration rates, alcoholism, and drug abuse that disproportionately affect Aboriginal Australians.
These high rates of negative outcomes are obviously terrible, and many initiatives have been introduced to address these issues. The most recent major initiative being the 2008 Closing the Gap of Indigenous Disadvantage: A Generational Plan of Action by the Australian Government. This most recent plan saw Indigenous child mortality decline by 35% within 10 years, rates of immunisations increase to 95%, increases in Year 12 attainment from 47.4% in 2006 to 65.3% in 2016, and doubling university enrolments within a decade. Something else the 2018 report showed is that the average federal governments expenditure per capita for mainstream services to an Aboriginal Australian is more than twice that of a non-Aboriginal person. These are just a few of the many positive outcomes that the 2018 report identified. Despite these phenomenal successes, there’s obviously some ways to go. But the mentality I see on display in this article further divides.
To write that ‘History itself is written as a hymn to whiteness’, is a bizarre claim with fundamentally racist predispositions. To believe that those keeping track of historical events are less likely to produce accurate accounts because of their skin colour is disgusting, which is what such a statement is predicated on. To state ‘Sometimes, I wonder what it must be like to be white’, is to believe that White Australians don’t and can’t experience the kind of ‘real’ problems faced by non-White Australians. It’s language that’s typical of a victim mentality. And victim mentalities breed division and increase the suffering of everyone involved.