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May 16, 2021

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: White Shame

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Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: White Shame

White people have a lot to be sorry for. Our pale-skinned privilege is the passport I and many others use to glide through life. We see this as our birthright. Every day our pages are stamped with unquestioned approval. We may pass through. Career doors open easily, people smile on the bus when we sit next to them, landlords happily hand us the key to their homes, banks approve our mortgages, police don’t do a car search when they pull us over for a random breath test, shop assistants don’t follow us when we’re browsing, and when we’re gathered in a park with our family having a few beers, no one slinks past in fear. It’s just a barbecue with some Aussie larrikins, not a mob of ‘drunk abbos’.

I have two black sisters – beautiful, strong women who haven’t had the easy passage through life that I have. They’ve experienced racism, whether overt or institutionalised, their whole lives. When I was a little girl I once refused to walk to school with Shirley because I got teased for having a black sister. I crossed the road. My grandmother found out and I got the back end of a wooden spoon. I love her for it. I still feel ashamed that I crossed the road.

White people cross the road every day – we take no responsibility. That’s our shame. It’s a white-washed world. White people, predominantly white men, control the narrative around culture and identity. They decide when it’s Australia Day. They decide that celebrating nationhood, on the day of white invasion shouldn’t offend. After all, isn’t everyone ‘Australian’ now? They also define what ‘Australian’ is. They decide when it’s Sorry Day. They decide what to say sorry for.

It’s 2019 and Ken Wyatt is the first Indigenous Australian to hold the position as Minister for Indigenous Australians. White men congratulate themselves for that – but why has it taken so long? Previous title holders have been people like Mal Brough and Philip Ruddock – just a couple of names in the long list of privileged white men (and women) entrusted with representing the interests of Australia’s First Nations people.

In Queensland, until the mid 1980’s it was still an offence to be in the company of Aboriginals for what was deemed an unnecessary length of time. Indigenous imprisonment rates are almost twice those of the non-Indigenous community. Indigenous life-expectancy is more than a decade less than non-Indigenous. The story of the trauma of the stolen generations was, in turn, stolen by politicians like Kevin Rudd who nabbed himself a Martin Luther moment with the Apology to Australia’s Indigenous people. His hero status eclipsed the content. White men congratulating themselves for having the courage and compassion to say ‘sorry’.

So how many have embraced the content of that apology? By the crowds gathered to climb Uluru last Friday, on the last day the rock could still be legally climbed – I’d say not many. It’s clear Pauline Hanson’s statement ‘Our country is not based on Aboriginals’ is both offensive and true. The Anangu were given Uluru back, 34 years ago, and that’s how long it has taken  for them to enact ‘no climbing’ as a law for all at this culturally significant site. The hordes of (non-indigenous) people who turned up on the last day showed what absolute disregard many have for the cultures and heritage of Indigenous Australia. Pity we can’t be immunised against White Entitlement. We’re morally repugnant. A global embarrassment. I suggest we start a movement, in an attempt to repatriate all the harm and hurt we’ve caused. It would be like Black Pride, but we could call it White Shame. Billboards around the country could show Pauline, stuck between the rock and her hard face. We could also appoint an Indigenous person as Minister for White-Fella Affairs. Just one portfolio mind you. White Shame Day could be every day, but I have the perfect date – 26 January!

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    • Why do you think she vilified white people? Can you quote what you are offended by?

      And why do you think it is equally offensive? When Indigenous are vilified all the time, do you think what Mandy says even touches that? I don’t find it equally offensive… actually not even close.

      Something about this that triggers you?

      • Criticising an entire people on the basis of their skin colour offends me. I’m surprised it doesn’t offend everyone. Sure, criticise people for climbing Uluru, and for other actions you don’t like, but if you only mention one race (white) in your criticism, isn’t that the definition of racism?

    • Mandy is just saying it how it is. The last day of the climb upon Uluru was a case in point. The NITV news team were on hand to document the day and interviews with would be Uluru climbers giving their ‘justification’ for climbing was just embarrassing to listen to. One person had to be brought off Uluru for medical reasons. But the episode that takes the ‘prize’ is the dude who took his camping gear and supplies for the day up the climb to camp out all day on top of Uluru so as he could claim the title of ‘last person down off Uluru’ once the climb was closed. White-fella entitlement never looked so good!.

    • But it isn’t a sacred site, is it? Why would you want to lie about this, to discredit Indigenous? WHy do you have a problem with it?

      • The Harbour Bridge is sacred to me. Thousand of (white and others if that matters) men put their blood and sweat into it with many of them dying – it is an engineering marvel – my grandfather was at the opening on the harbour – and I love it, as do millions around the world.

        And for me to express some kind of exclusive rights to it because of my appreciation and connection to it would be and should be an obscenity.

        To be entitled to English property rights on one hand and disregard them on another is trickery.

        To return to native law with its archaic and violent rituals – especially for the women – would be despairing.

        This incessant labeling and libeling is by a class of people too well off to appreciate the greatness of Australia and the appalling state that most of the rest of the world are born into.

  1. On ya again Mandy! Even my light brown skin ( unless it’s summer when it gets darker) has caused me problems over my lifetime. Too many to list. But l carried on regardless by speaking up if l was the next person in line etc. I won’t allow anyone make me feel inferior! We should show our First Nation peoples more respect. A simple thing such as eye contact, a smile and a nod of acknowledgement when crossing paths is all it takes. It’s up to the individual white, black or brindle to make the effort!
    A better world awaits those who do.

  2. Totally agree Mandy….we LOVE you & your brilliant ability to cut through all the crap & show compassion. Lets lobby for White Shame Day I know how that would be received. We can’t even get Mr Wyatt Indigenous leader & token pet Aboriginal to get Morrison & his mates to put the Uluru Statement from the HEART in our Constitution. He has made apologises for the govt he represents OMG & states this Govt have said “that is not on for discussion””. How shameful for us all, then again we don’t even have a Bill of Rights, only western action without one. What is so damn scary about having an advisory Indigenous body educating our politicians & actually getting something FAIR into our constitution ?? Hw dare this disgusting Govt blackmail Councils for not accepting the 26th Jan as Aust Day….bloody outrageous control freaks. WE MUST have another day to acknowledge INVASION DAY & celebrate First People’s Survival.

  3. Somehow I am reminded of babies and bathwater.
    Isn’t it lucky you live in a country with a government that allows you freedom to complain and a language to do it with and an education system that is largely affordable (free) and a constitution that entitles you to vote for your politicians and a police force which provides for your safety to vote without fear of death.. and mostly all done by these nasty white men of privilege your so dislike. And your sisters are included on all of that Mandy.. probably better provided for than in any other country in the world. And yet your complaints are more important and your self righteous demeanour demands more airtime than any recognition of the great work that thousands of men have done to hand all this to you.. not exclusively although certainly predominantly…
    Suggest you move to Saudi or Philippines or Zimbabwe or Romania.

    • Rich white men didn’t give us Democracy, they gave us Peterloo etc., we took these things that you mention from them.

      You actually think that rich white men gave Democracy and education? This is totally false. No, it was taken by the poor, it was taken by women and it is being taken by Indigenous.

      • Subhi, Your word-play is a distraction from your lack of argument. Keep trying.

        Also, I didn’t use the work “rich” once – I used the term “privileged”, as Mandy did.

        • Oh I see, so substitute “privileged” for “rich”, it is not that hard. Privileged, rich, powerful white men didn’t give willingly, we had to take it from them.

          And your “argument” goes like this: because right now there are bad things going on in other places that are worse than what is happening here right now, then we shouldn’t talk about genocide, racism, lack of treaty or the “privileged” privilege?

          Good point, makes perfect sense!

  4. You know – we have been unquestionably ill mannered
    & bossy-beyond-belief in our treatment -especially by
    government – of the First Nation Peoples from day one.
    Step one is to admit what was done by our own lot &
    that includes our written media around the 1920s. The
    ‘reserves’ were shocking & the people treated like
    criminals. We were only a step away from the KKK.
    Don’t deny it. The truth hurts all.

  5. PS. We live in a country that is in the process of denying
    ‘free speech’. That’s allowing police to strip-search teen
    -agers. That mistreats the aged in so-called nursing
    homes. That won’t hold its politicians to account for
    refusing to answer questions at question time. That plan
    the ‘cover-up’ agreements it makes with its overseas’
    connections. That allows & supports fracking & coal
    mining that will turn the country into a waste-land. That
    has already sold out our water-rights. Buggered up our
    Farmers. Our Tourist Industry… & I’ve only just begun
    a very short list of self-serving con-men we’ve handed
    power to in our pref. voting system. Safety? It’s a joke!
    We are NOT free. Hog-tied is more like it.

  6. May i suggest Stepanie ..that you travel to other such
    Countries where there human rights are appalling!!
    So many complaints Stepanie..why do you think
    That most of the world if given a choice, would
    Move to Australia in a heartbeat!! Cant believe it !!

  7. I am… widely travelled if it is of interest to anyone.
    I am friends with & a sister to a number of others.
    Around 20 books say it all & include the country
    backdrops. I’m as familiar with Russia, GB &
    dozens of others. My publishers cover Canada,
    USA, Turtle Island [Native America], Japan, the
    Pacific Islands, India, Sri Lanka, Germany & many
    more. Friends who’ve moved here to live now
    grieve to see the today’s Australia just as I do.


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