By CHARLIE PICKERING
“I’m just calling to talk about this whole Adam Goodes thing with Eddie McGuire and all that. I just wanted to say that I don’t think racism is that bad in Australia I just think it’s not such a big deal.”
-Jan from Hawthorn, white, first time caller, long time listener.
I know nothing about racism in Australia.
I cried with pride when an Australian Prime Minister finally apologised to the stolen generation on behalf of the Australian government.
I remember clearly the day that Nicky Winmar lifted his shirt to show how proud he was of his black skin. And I know why, for a significant and important part of our national community, January 26 is not a day of celebration.
But I know nothing about racism in Australia.
I know that until the 1967 referendum altered our constitution to include all Australians as enfranchised citizens, our first peoples were regulated by the Flora & Fauna Act. I know that this classification of Indigenous Australians as animals wasn’t just offensive on face value, but enabled the brutalisation and murder of countless human beings in a long, dark period of our history that should be remembered with shame.
I know that attitudes of white racial superiority weren’t just attitudes, they were structural planks of our legal framework. Prejudice wasn’t just a kind of bigoted ignorance, it was the law. For decades upon decades upon decades upon decades, Indigenous Australians lived in a land, their land, where in the eyes of the law they were literally classed as animals. And I know that goes some way to explaining why calling someone an ape is more than just a bit of juvenile name calling.
I know that we never had an Emancipation Proclamation. We never had half of our white population mobilise in Civil War in the defence of the liberty of black Australians.
We never had a leader risk their position, their entire nation and ultimately their life on the very principle that all were created equal, regardless of the colour of their skin.
I know that our history is by and large missing the landmark moments of genuine national importance which stand as reminders that, as a nation, we believe race should not determine your place, your prospects or your standing in society.
And I know that when, after nearly two hundred years of white settlement, our constitution was finally re-written to make amends for the past, the power of that decision lay entirely in the hands of the white population. It happened when white Australia was ready.