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Marngrook

Posted on 31 July, 2015

Sick of reading a white man’s thoughts on racism? Good. Go donate to IndigenousX to support the viewpoints Australia needs to hear.

You’ve donated and you still want to hear my thoughts? Well, okay… though please note a trigger warning of racism, general bigotry, and offensive language related to that being discussed and quoted within this post.

I’ve just finished reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, and it may be the most powerful book I’ve ever read. In beautiful and devastating prose, Coates provides a deep insight into what it means to be black in America, the fear and struggle that is inherent in that, and the racism that America (and other nations) are built upon. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Hate gives identity. The nigger, the fag, the bitch illuminate the border, illuminate what we ostensibly are not, illuminate the Dream of being white, of being a Man. We name the hated strangers and are thus confirmed in the tribe.

Even as an Australian, the perspective gained from reading this book is immensely valuable. After all, we have a somewhat similar history to the US: our country has grown from the sacrifice and slavery of Indigenous peoples and of Pacific Islanders. Australia’s beginnings are laced with a raw injustice that has not been properly addressed, and so often hidden by ignorance.

That ignorance has been particularly present in Australian media and conversations this week, with the ongoing booing of Australian Rules footballer Adam Goodes finally being widely decried as racist.

While it has been affirming to see much of the AFL community stand up and support Goodes, we still have mainstream media seeking opinion from their standard - and thus white - commentators. We still have racists being treated as victims. We still have Indigenous Australians being marked as uppity, as troublemakers, as sooks, all because they dare point out that racism exists in Australia.

Waleed Aly addressed this so very well two months ago:

In Between the World and Me, Coates writes wonderfully about his growing perspective and awareness as his eyes:

And my eyes - my beautiful, precious eyes - were growing stronger each day.

And later, about the initial limits to those due to where he grew up:

I felt that I had missed part of the experience because of my eyes, because my eyes were made in Baltimore, because my eyes were blindfolded by fear.

My eyes were made in the predominantly white and middle class northern suburbs of Melbourne, and I still have to work hard to remove the blindfolds of that privilege and ignorance. Part of what I’m doing more and more to work through that is to listen to more Indigenous voices. All Australians should read this article by Stan Grant on Adam Goodes and what it’s like to be an Indigenous Australian - and bring as much empathy as possible to the fore as you do so.

Again, I’ll spruik Luke Pearson’s fantastic IndigenousX Twitter account as an excellent way to hear a variety of Indigenous Australian perspectives. Having a diversity of voices is essential for reducing racism, and following @IndigenousX has played a large part in stripping away some of my blindfolds. Please, if you think Australia needs more Indigenous voices, donate to the crowdfunding campaign.

Finally, make the time to listen to the spoken word poem Marngrook. It’s a powerful reflection on the roots of Australian Rules football, and it blew me away when I first heard it in December 2013. I am so grateful for the wisdom and history Maxine Beneba Clarke delivers within it.