“Yeah you just go ahead and pretend that you can’t see me”. This happens a lot at shops, I can stand there and be completely ignored while other customers get served ahead of me. I have been the person at the meeting who says something, a great idea, but no one comments and then a white person says the same thing, and everybody loves it.
You might think that I am being paranoid or overreacting, but I am not. This is a reality of Aboriginal people. We face racism on so many levels. Out right racist, like Pauline Hanson, are something we deal with all the time, you know where you stand and you argue your point of view. But the hidden racism is a lot harder to fight.
How do you fight the system that leaves you out? How to you gain real equality when you are profiled and stereotyped. As a patient, I have been denied pain relief because of the colour of my skin. I have had medical professionals assume that I drink and take drugs. How do you fight against an entire health system? How do you deal with the police that pull you over because you are a black person in a new car? Don’t think it doesn’t happen because it does, it has been happening for years. Myself and my children have all been stopped by police and questioned about what we are doing and where we are going. I worry about my son as he is a very big black man, even though he knows his rights (he studies law and psychology). He knows that when cop asks something, he answers and hopes the cop is in a good mood. Last year, my son had an asthma attack in a local park, before the ambulance arrived the police came to check on the situation. When the ambulance arrived my son’s breathing was settling down, he sat in the Ambulance on the ventilator and then decided that he didn’t need to go in the ambulance to hospital, that I could drive him. His choice you would think, but the officer told him to go in the ambulance or go in the police car. What kind of choice is that?
Being denied housing when trying to rent is a common thread. We show up to view the house and then suddenly the house is already taken! This is one of the most common complaints about institutionalised racism. To be honest it also has the follow on effect of housing problems.Don’t think that we don’t have problems at school. We get bunched into the class of kids that the schools don’t think will achieve anything. Our kids are pushed into not doing academic streams, not because they can’t handle it, but because it is assumed that we won’t be able to handle it. I have argued for my children in the education system to do academic stream, I had a teacher tell me that most Aboriginals don’t go to university. Like they know all about us!
What effect does this hidden racism have on Aboriginal people? It gives us low self-esteem which can lead to anxiety and depression. It makes us feel alienated and left out of our own country and our own lives. We have no say in what goes on around us, as we cannot participate in it. The demoralising of our children from a young age, knowing that they don’t just have to fight the open racist, but they have to fight the system. A system they have to be a part of.
Everyone can do a bit to break down the walls of subversive racism. If you are white, you can make sure where you work, doesn’t do this, look around you and if you see something happening stop it or step in. It’s not hard to say ” That lady was first” when shopping, When you vote, ensure that you are not voting for a bigot. Read about Aboriginal people and I am not talking just the negative stuff in the papers but positive and novels. Get involved in local activities to show your support and be willing to learn. I know these are simplistic, but hey you have to start somewhere don’t you?