AAs I write this article, my kids steal cars and houses I guess. I’m an aboriginal dad – so doesn’t that tell you everything you need to know about me as a parent and my children’s ability to understand right from wrong?
I know you smell the sarcasm in there. Well, a great, great majority of Australians would. But there is a certain type of person that I am involving here. The guy who has such a deep-rooted ignorance, it’s astonishing they didn’t stray into the dark corners of our colonial history and follow each other off the edge of a cliff. Shouldn’t they go away?
An article celebrating an infamous Bill Leak cartoon – one that portrays an Indigenous father unable to remember his child’s name – prompted me to respond to those with that mindset. I suggest you don’t bother reading these articles – don’t give them the benefit of a click. But I’ll sum it up: One reporter, hiding behind a rotten facade of caring about Indigenous children, argued that the statistics of Indigenous overrepresentation in prisons are caused by “Indigenous parents. [who] regularly abandon their responsibilities and do little to instill in their children respect for our laws and the property of others â. According to this privileged white man, âwhile [Indigenous parents] march through the streets waving flags, their children steal cars, break into houses and are taken to the guard house â.
The harm caused by racist comments and cartoons is never felt by those who make them. It is not white men, nor their children, who are afraid of safety when shopping. They don’t feel the suspicious looks a First Nations father gets when he hugs his child, as if he is not a protector of the child, but as if the child is in need of protection. against him. They would never have felt that thick, heavy fear that we feel, when we imagine what could happen to our children if they got in the way of a cop who nodded to approve a cartoon in a big newspaper, and thinks that all black kids, thanks to all black parents, carry greater criminal intent in our DNA.
Racist stereotypes have a terrible human cost.
The fact that Indigenous people die about eight years younger than other Australians says more about how little consideration our political system has for my people than it does about our genetics. And the fact that indigenous peoples are proportionately the most incarcerated people on the planet says more about our inability as a people to hold lawmakers and policy makers to account, than it does about my children’s ability to understand the good of the world. wrong.
It really is as Uluru’s statement so eloquently and powerfully puts it:
Proportionately, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not a criminal people by nature. Our children are being estranged from their families at an unprecedented rate. It can’t be because we don’t have love for them. And our young people languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future. These dimensions of our crisis clearly indicate the structural nature of our problem. It is the torment of our helplessness.
And how can you dispute that, unless you think we’re less than human – unless you’re a racist?
I had to think hard if I took a bite while writing this article. Why pay attention to people like Leak and others, I wondered. Should I ignore it and focus on the positives rather than the negatives?
I concluded there should be an answer. The stereotype must be overcome; not so much by changing the mind of the ignorant, but by changing the country so that the ignorant is forced to come closer to that cliff.
And it is thus with pen, ink, keyboard that we go, more and more native writers who fight fire with fire. We are the authors of who we are. No old whites.
This is one of the reasons 12 First Nations men wrote a book with Me Dear Son – Letters and Reflections from First Nations Fathers and Sons. We wrote it, partly in response to posts like the racist caricature of Bill Leak, but also because of the terrible legacies of the intervention in the Northern Territory and the bullshit we were taught about our ancestors from the First Nations in school – that our ancestors were savages while the white student ancestors were our discoverers and saviors. Dear Son celebrates Aboriginal fatherhood through letters and poems. We express our love for ourselves and our families in a beautiful act of defiance.
The key factor is that contrary to the claims of disclaimers by Indigenous parents, we are in fact asking for greater accountability. We walk the streets and fly our flags, we protest because we love our children. We call for changing this country for the better – we want a referendum for an indigenous voice enshrined in the constitution, so that we can hold parliament accountable for not fulfilling its responsibility – to ensure the safety of all Australians.