…it’s a personal choice. If you’ve time and a need to know – I’ll share the ‘Why’ with you.
Many people ask me: “What’s in a name?”
The answer of course is: “Everything!”
Words carry meaning. Words carry feeling. Words tell people who and what you are, and despite the old “Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but Names will never hurt me!” ditty; words – specifically Names – can most certainly hurt you
A person can make ANY word sound like they’ve just ‘hoiked’ it out of the back of their throat, and they can spit it at you with such accuracy and venom – it’d fair make your eyes water and your ears bleed! It’s a human trait – we know how to hurt a person this way. Any word; dressed up with the right tone and delivery, can find a weak spot in anyone’s mental armour system. I have worked with teachers and parents, who are grand masters at this game – and mostly –they don’t even realise they’re doing it.
I grew up with tags such as the one above, and have probably heard all possible connotations of such a name. Surprise, surprise – mostly they’re not pleasant – they of course were never mean’t to be. Along with Abo, Boong, Nigger, Spook, Scrub Ape (although I have to admit THAT was a recently new one)… the list goes on I’m sure. All names designed to dehumanize the likes of me and my mob, to put down those of us who are of Aboriginal or Islander descent – and are not ‘White’.
‘Blackfellas’ aren’t alone here, ask any person of Irish, Scottish or Welsh descent. I’ve heard ‘Paddy’ used as effectively as ‘Coon’ in an attempt to remind an Irish fella I was drinking with once, of his place amoungst his ‘betters’ (Them being of English blood apparently). Needless to say – it didn’t go down at ALL well, we made it out of that pub with little more then torn shirts – three English sailors didn’t – and not by my hand I can tell you – they paid for the fact that their big mouths got them into a whole world of pain (and I wasn’t all that sympathetic to their cause surprisingly) – he did it well, that fella – and I received a whole new education. This was the first time I’d seen ‘Whitefellas’ turn on another ‘Whitefella’… my education was growing. ‘Paddy’ then explained, and my world of simply just ‘Black and White’ fell clean away.
Words designed to hurt a fella, are more often then not used with pin point accuracy, and for a reason. People who add booby traps full of horribly barbed bit’s to their words know EXACTLY what they’re trying to say, and why they’re trying to say it. Words can be downright deadly in the right (or wrong) environment. Words do indeed hurt – it just depends on how you might look at this – thing. Racial hatred or mistrust based on the colour or culture of a fellas ‘skin’ is a frightening thing to witness or suffer. I feel for any fella who has been on the receiving end of such an attack – it’s designed to hurt you quick and ugly. A racial slur is the verbal equivalent of a nasty drunken brawl in a back street or alley. It’s fast, furious and has quick results – none of them pretty, all of it quite sickening. I refuse to enter into it. It’s a world I simply won’t given any time too. Allowing those words into my life means I give them some credence, and I point blank refuse to allow this to happen. Hence my aforementioned stand – the gut’s of this blog.
I dread one thing above all others now that I have a newly born son. The first time he comes home to me and asks me what the word ‘Coon’ means will break my heart. Don’t let the fact that my son is almost as white as ‘the next bloke’ fool ya, it’ll happen – it’s just a matter of ‘When’. I at least can help him come to terms with this bulldust – I’ve lived it myself, and have learned how to deal with it.
Now understand that I’m more then aware of this now being a two sided affair; both blackfellas and whitefellas alike can use names to hurt people, it’s true. But I’m willing to bet there are more words in the English language to put down ‘blackfellas’ in this country, then there are in our many languages to put down a ‘whitefella’. In fact – the saddest irony of all this is that ‘blackfellas’ have to use English to achieve this – and more often then not it one sharp statement – You F-ing white C…! Not overly original I know, but really unpleasant, and it get’s the desired effect. It’s designed to hurt see, and it does so with unerring accuracy.
I love Australia. I am of this country, and I belong here. I received some very ‘pointed’ lessons in my life as I grew up, where others would reinforce the notion of my place in the ‘scheme’ of things, and I fear the fact that my son to will have these ‘reminders’ forced upon him given time. I wish it wasn’t so, but I know that in time, someone out there – will take it upon themselves to remind my son of who or what he is – based on their warped point of view. I will help my son to build the skills to overcome this lesson in life, but I’m willing to bet I can never protect him from it. Everyone needs to learn how cruel we can be to each other sometime in their life… I just wish it wasn’t such a mongrel lesson to learn.
I guess I worry at times as to the ‘Why’ of it all. I know now that these fools with mouths far bigger then their brains – are few and far between. Well – relatively! I know too that they really don’t think to hard about what falls out of their mouths, nor care to much on how it’s received. I know that mostly – for the main part – Australian’s just want to get on with living a life together, and not worry about all that other fella crap.
I have many, many none Aboriginal friends… all of whom are wonderful human beings, and share my love for this amazing country. I will tell my son that despite all the fools he might trip across in his journey to grow – there are a LARGE majority of good people who just want what he hopefully wants – the right to grow and prosper safely, in a great country. I hope my son becomes one of these people – a good Australian.
BUT – I’ll be buggered if I EVER buy some of that damn COON cheese! A bloke has to hold to something you know, and that’ll do me – just fine!