…abo, darky, kaffir, nigger, spook, spear-chucker, jungle-bunny, chico, wog, raghead, slope… think of any racial slur you’ve heard, flung out of the angriest, nastiest mouth you can possibly imagine and I can promise you, I’ve more than likely heard it! Sometimes the nicest most unsuspecting faces had ways of saying these things in the worst kind of ways. Here’s a fact for you: before I die, I’ll hear them all again – both hurled at me and, then hurled at my sons – when some dumb, ignorant, nasty prick decides to connect the dots and come up with names to suit my son’s and their ‘not-so-obvious’ Aboriginality.
It’s a fact Jack… in the wake of the Adam Goodes ‘debate’ in this country, racism is alive and well in Australia. Nastiness will visit my son’s, the same way it visited my better half when she decided she put up with me for longer than most other people. The first time I heard someone call my partner a nigger-lover, I nearly lost it completely. I was the better man that day, he was drunk and acting a dick. I never wasted time on him again.
You see folks, I was brought up to understand my place on this so called “equal” playing field we all call Australia. It wasn’t all that long ago either. My mother was taught that lesson. Her mother was taught that lesson. HER mother was taught that lesson… do you really need me to tell you what white men then (with power) did to the black women they owned, to teach them these things?
My mother learnt her lessons so well, that by the time we were born and old enough to bring home, she grew paranoid that someone would take us – in the same way they had taken her: no permission, no apologies, no questions, no regrets. When that word STOLEN is used in context of those children removed from their parents (no so long ago), it wasn’t an exaggeration. My mother was stolen from her mother and her mother died, never to see her children again.
In those early years of our lives, my mother would hear a knock on the door and the first thing she would do was scoop my brother and I up and throw us over the back fence of our house, so no-one would find us. As I grew older, other’s reinforced these lessons as well. Coppers, teachers, shop-owners, other members of the public – places we couldn’t go – toilets we weren’t allowed to use.
My first three years at primary school – all those school mornings – started the exact same way; that bell would ring and every white kid lined up outside their classroom. Every black kid fell in on the quadrangle, arms length apart, feet together face up and ready for inspection. The priests and nun’s would walk down the rows and inspect us for our cleanliness. Hands, teeth, mouths (open), ears – sometimes a wooden blackboard ruler was used to hold bits up to get a closer look – sometimes they simply reinforced a point. This wasn’t in the 1950s people – nor was it America our South Africa – this was Australia, in the 1970s!
My life lesson’s in this ugliness has seen me sworn at, spat on, pissed on, dunked in the urinal, beaten up (by big kids and grown men), chased into hiding, having dogs set on me, threatened by police, thrown into paddy wagon’s, thrown out of shops and not allowed in areas where the other fine ‘whitelfolk’ could go. All this I learned well before I turned 13 years old. So when someone is silly enough to use that old “why don’t you just get over it” comment – perhaps now, you’ll see – I don’t think ANYONE can just get over these kinds of things. I’ve worked with enough young men and women over the years who weren’t black and had experienced some ugly things in their lives and I know for a fact that none of them will EVER get over the things they’ve experienced! Why would any bugger ever expect that of me?
In truth, I only ever had two places where I would consider that the playing field was ever close to being considered equal; a place called TS Morrow and then the Australian Defence Force. This was only the case because of two extraordinary things: one, extraordinary people – my white mates – who had my back and shut-down people I couldn’t deal with. Two: Their loyalty, it didn’t matter to any of the others I shared that time with, because I was one of them. If you picked on one – you picked on us all!
When I was at high school there was a few of us that bandied together to watch out for the wankers. 13, 14 and 15 was a shit time for me. I learnt some REAL ugly things about bullies and how shitty this got when they hated boongs. My mate Anthony, was one of those kids that sorted out a couple of my bullies then – because he had my back. He and several others have been my friends and now family – ever since.
The ADF was the same. All of you who’ve served time with me in a uniform know what sort of family that was to us all – way back then. But perhaps the best example was when one of my WA intake members; Jason Ackland (a trained boxer), stepped past me a smacked one of the senior recruits in the mouth in the durrie pit. He’d flicked a butt at me and said to his mates, “the coon can pick that up!” and before I could turn around to sort it, Ackers had smacked him fair in the mouth and put his arse on the ground! Jason’s lost to us now, but none of our other intake members were in the pit when that happened and we told no-one. That bloke never got gobby again – even when we ran into each other once – on a run in Singapore. He simply walked away.
Now… I don’t need anyone’s pity, guilt, there there’s or she’ll be right mate – because you need to know and accept just one thing: NONE of it, was right mate!
I am one Aboriginal man in a country of many and still we’re lucky if we count for 3% of Australia’s population. I’ve shared a little of my small experience on this here bit of dirt We call Australia. Every single member of my Aboriginal family and I, still get called those names. I still get looked at by some men and women like I am the filthiest thing they have ever seen. I still can find a pub where some old racist prick won’t serve me behind the bar. This isn’t going to stop in this country in my time. However, I can tell you it’s a hell of a lot less. I walk around feeling mostly safe in my skin these days, but when I was a kid, there were times I wished I could peel it of and hang it up somewhere and swap it for a white one.
I don’t feel that way any more folks. I don’t feel this way because the good people like all of YOU, are out there, watching my back, watching my kids back, challenging people who say stupid things, showing others around you that there’s a better bloody way we can relate to each other and put this shite bloody behaviour back in the bloody dark ages where it belongs!
And this is why I identify with Adam Goodes. He knows how it feels to be treated in this way. I know how he feels too. If the worst you’ve ever had is you’ve been called a “effing white c…” then I’m sorry, that’s not really the ‘racism’ I’m talking about here. If you’ve been dusted up once or twice cos your mouth might have got you in trouble – then my answer remains the same. If you’ve been a victim of sustained ugliness (racism, bullying, stalking, rape, molestation, domestic violence etc) you’ve got a much better idea of what I’m touching on here.
I simply want the ugliness that resides here in Australia to stop. Stop hiding in the commentary about the man you don’t like at the moment. Stop hiding in the way you don’t like the way those people dress. Stop hiding in the fact that you don’t like the god they worship. Stop hiding in that uncomfortable moment you have when a man loves a man and woman loves a woman… now I know it never will – not completely, but is it really too much to ask for?
Stop. Please. Just tell me I’m not betting on a long shot here and lets just get the fuck on with it!
Belongum – Out!