There are times in our lives when we witness or hear something that belittles an individual, the act of which repulses us and the memory of it lingers with us over the years. These cruel acts offer an insight into how people who are different to us cope with the attitudes that persist in mainstream society.
Having spent many years working in remote Indigenous communities I have been blessed to have heard many wonderful stories about their traditions and culture. I have also been exposed to the horrors of racism these people endure and the sickening dogma of white supremacy. Two events stand out. They are ‘horror’ stories, made seemingly more horrific because the racism and white supremacy was inspired by the church.
I have related these stories on blog sites over the years and I make no apologies for repeating them again. The timing is appropriate, given that Aborigines have again been placed front and centre in the news and facing a barrage of negativity.
These are stories you don’t hear in the news.
The first involved my friend Big Pete. Big Pete isn’t his real name, but being a shy bloke who might well be reading this, I don’t want to cause him any embarrassment.
Big Pete lives in remote South Australia and has done so all his life. Until a few years ago he’d never ventured beyond the borders of SA apart from the annual trip to Alice Springs to play in the Imparja Cup; a national Indigenous cricket carnival. It was thus with great excitement that he had the opportunity to visit Canberra a few years ago – his first big interstate trip.
We were at a busy bus stop in the city together. I was looking at the direction from which the bus would approach but kept talking to Big Pete, who stood behind me. After a couple of minutes a bus came into view and I turned to Big Pete to let him know this was our bus.
He wasn’t there.
A line had formed behind me and there he stood at the very end, having let a dozen or so people move ahead of him.
I beckoned him to come up the front with me.
I beckoned again.
Still he refused, and he continued to refuse.
In frustration I walked up to Big Pete and asked why he wouldn’t come to the front of the line – a spot he had earlier occupied.
I was not prepared for his answer.
“Aren’t I supposed to let the white people on first?” he humbly asked.
It’s very hard to relate how I felt about his response. I can say that I felt like crying. The sadness turned to anger when he told me why he thought he had ‘to let the white people on first’.
You see, Big Pete was raised on a mission. The Christian Father – apparently God’s representative – taught the Aboriginal kids from an early age that as black people they weren’t as good as white people, though assured them that “God still loved them”.
So our great white God prefers white people. How fickle.
The second incident was told to me by one of my greater inspirations in life, Dr MaryAnn Bin-Sallik. From humble beginnings, Maryann spent part of her early life in a mission in the Kimberleys.
One year the mission sent a teenage girl to work on a nearby pastoral station for the summer break. Upon her return to the mission she was frightened, distraught, crying. She told one of the nuns that the ‘big boss white fella’ had raped her.
What did the nun do?
She whipped the girl for telling lies. “You mustn’t tell lies about a white person”.
The following year she was sent to the station again, despite her desperate pleas not to go.
Again she returned frightened, distraught, crying. Again she told the story of being raped.
Again she was whipped for telling lies. Black people, apparently, tell lies about white people.
Three months later it was discovered the girl was pregnant. She was carrying the rapist’s child. What did the nun do? She whipped her for being pregnant.
So again our great white God prefers white people.
I’m beginning to believe that so too does our government.
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