Sunday, October 19, 2014

A salient quote from a member of the "other side"

I am currently reading and re-reading Noel Pearson's recent piece in the Quarterly Essay on constitutional recognition and why he feels it's the way forward. I'm not going to dissect it here and illuminate the many parts I've questioned, disagreed with and so forth. One thing that I am going to do though is pull out a quote that, just in its solitary form, has stuck with me.

Pearson writes:

There are many ethnic minorities in Australia of equivalent or smaller size. Some of them face barriers of racism, but, I would argue, not to the degree that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples do. And these minorities are not indigenous to the nation, with the particular colonial history that brought us to where we are. Indigenous people were displaced and dispossessed in the founding of British settlement and the development of the nation. Indigenous people therefore have a unique historical and legal relationship with the Australian government.

The reason why I am quoting this is that it's precisely the kind of point I have been trying to get across time and time again. There has been a lot of rubbish and deliberate misdirection written about me and my views and I'm fairly over it. I am also aware that I occupy a particular position within Indigenous opinion and that position is of an educated leftist Arrernte feminist from a working class background. Pearson occupies a different position entirely. Yet here he is reflecting a view that I have also expressed before. To me this states that this is potentially a shared view across the Indigenous political spectrum. It's one that cannot just be dismissed because some wish it to not be the case as they too have been harmed by racism in this country.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experiences of blackness intersect with indigeneity within this country. Nobody else shares this experience. They may share elements of it, whether these elements are skin colour, or colonisation, or language loss and so forth; of course this is the case. But they are not also experiencing these things from the vantage point of being displaced peoples within their own country. That is a unique experience to Indigenous peoples and it needs to be understood as such allowing for us to speak about this freely. To draw out elements of commonality is fine, and even desirable, when it is with the intent of being allies. But to do so as a way of cheapening or denigrating Indigenous experience by not deferring to its uniqueness due to this intersection is erroneous and damaging. Rather than combating racism in the country it instead has the ability to compound it. And indeed, it has.

I am compelled to write this because some things just don't seem to end, no matter how much I wish this to be the case. I, and other Aboriginal writers, are still being attacked, are still being misrepresented, and are still social media fodder. It's tiring and it's wrong. I'm interested in solidarity and exchange with understanding shown. It is actually possible.

That's all I have to say.


  1. Celeste, thank you for sharing your thoughts on the matter. Agree entirely with what you have said. Of course there are overlaps, but the experiences of blackfellas are unique and Australia was literally founded on these experiences. Modern Australian racism stems from this and continues to be formed around it. Migrant populations have a certain level of privilege over us. Indirectly, this is what the recent Beyond Blue campaign was inferring. You can have light skin, hell you can not even look Aboriginal, but racism against Aboriginal people is so unique, it can still adversely affect you.

  2. As a member of an ethnic minority, I totally agree. Am saddened by the fact that you needed to write this. The times when I have experienced the most violent racism by the Australian state/police is when I have been mistaken as of Aboriginal descent. The moment my non-Aboriginal identity was apparent, its comparative privilege was too. And besides, racism is not just experienced as your appearance in a community, it's a structure of oppression, and in this country it started with, and is centred upon Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Have people forgotten the Stolen Generations and the role "light" skin played there?! If progressive race politics isn't centred on "Always was, Always will be, Aboriginal land" then it's no politics at all. Not to mention a feminist politics that harasses Aboriginal women. I'm so ashamed and so sorry you had to write this Celeste. :(
    Ps. Sorry for typos-feeding baby with other hand!

  3. Just for the record everyone, this was a response not only to one article but also to the disgraceful and misdirected comments that followed it. As I have been quoted to death, and misrepresented for good measure, I thought I would take the step to finally quote something myself. This is where all this shit began. What actually followed was me trying to explain, over and over again to no avail, the difference between blackness from an Indigenous perspective and other blackness. Why? Because I was being told that my takes on blackness had effects on other communities and I set about trying to highlight why this was not the case. I then had to deal with other people jumping in and having a go as well. I have been saying the same things over and over. I have not come to any "agreement", rather my words have been twisted to suit an agenda. Read of this what you will and come to your own conclusion:

    "@Guantai - I've never used TwitLonger before and didn't realise that the first line would be highlighted out of context like that. It looked a bit confronting, so I've tried again. All I wanted to do was warn you that my message wasn't necessarily feel good. But I mean it to be constructive and I would appreciate your thoughts. This is what I wrote:

    You've made some comments that indicate that you regard it as ‘old fashioned’ or ‘wrong’ to use skin colour as a marker of race. However, if you deny skin colour as a marker of race, then you deny an important aspect of Blackness.

    Being darker doesn't make you more Black, but it does make you, all other things being equal, more discriminated against. To deny that is to deny your privilege: not privilege of class, education or profession, but privilege of skin colour.

    There are countless different ways to be Black and not all of them are visible. But denying visibility in Blackness reminds me of whites who claim to be colour-blind. In doing so, they deny other people’s experience.

    I think the reason why this means so much to me is that I have no shared culture, no shared history, no shared community or any of what you consider to be contemporary or valid Blackness. Just skin colour.

    Thanks for reading."

    1. PS I have been trying to cut contact here for six months. I did so way back then, as I have stated so many times, because it was pointless and abusive and there was nothing to be gained from it. Since then, there seems to have been this bizarre obsession with continuing to niggle away in the hope of wearing myself and other Aboriginal voices down. I don't want a part of it, I haven't for a long time and I'd really appreciate if that were respected. Represent your own stories, highlight your own issues but don't set about slandering me in comments. It's not, after six months, too much to ask.

    2. PPS I have no doubt that now I have FINALLY taken steps to name names and provide a quote that what will follow will be a bunch of screenshots and so forth to show how evil I apparently am. This has been the pattern thus far. This whole thing has never been an exercise for them in solidarity and knowledge-building, not even for one second. That was why I took the step to cut contact and block three people 6 months ago.