One of us
Thank you for No justice, no peace (NI 510). Re: Amy McQuire’s ‘Our lives, our lands’; although there seems to be political stasis here in Australia, solidarity with indigenous people is quietly growing: 60,000 people marched on Invasion Day (in January) in Melbourne; 10,000 here in Sydney [...] Melbourne always beat us in the civil society stakes. As I write, there is a big ‘Time2Choose’ rally gathering in Sydney. One of the main speakers will be Auntie Pat Hanson, a Wannarua woman from Bulga, under threat from a nearby open-cut coalmine. So many Aboriginal people feel the destruction of the land in a way the rest of us cannot really grasp. But they and the later invaders, white farmers, are making common cause against the mining companies and the politicians they have bought off.
But thanks most of all for the interview with Noam Chomsky. To me, his great contribution, apart from his books, films and interviews, is the way he deals with people personally. I have heard that he has said that he regards it as a privilege to engage with people who want to make the world a better place. And that has been my experience. I have lost count of the number of Australian ‘intellectuals’ I have tried to contact and had no reply. On the other hand, Noam is friendly and the ultimate egalitarian. While many of us blokes have trouble with our own egotism (and I have made some blunders), Noam listens to criticism and engages. I corrected him once on the Tasmanian genocide of Indigenous people by Europeans. It was not complete, thankfully, although pretty close. Noam accepted that graciously. I think many of us can learn from him [...] not only the substance of what he says, but the ‘style’. He connects people. Noam is one of us: not only a commentator, but an activist.
Not stepping back
Re: Kristina Wong’s ‘Six ways to be a better ally’ (NI 510). Anybody of any race or ethnicity can be on the receiving end of discrimination. If they are not black they can certainly equate with the ‘black experience’ – the black experience that Kristina refers to is presumably a reference to the appalling treatment that black people have been on the receiving end of particularly in America and the Caribbean for centuries, including slavery and segregation. In Vietnam there are several thousand mixed race descendants of the American military and Vietnamese women. Many of these people have also experienced a lifetime of exclusion and racism.
I’m intrigued to know what exactly Kristina’s white male friend was asked to ‘step back from’. A campaigning group like Black Lives Matter presumably has people in it who have various talents and skills that they can give for the benefit of the cause. Was this man perceived as not being competent enough to fulfill a certain role in BLM? If he has something to offer BLM why would he be asked to step back?
As a white person I certainly wouldn’t expect to be rewarded for turning up and supporting a BLM event or try to be some kind of hero, as surely the whole point of such a campaign group is simply to do the right thing and not gain some kind of personal glowing status. Kristina’s comment in reference to non-black people that the movement for black struggles and justice is ‘not about you’ is surely wrong. Some white people are married to, or have partners who are black with whom they have children. Many of these white people who have family and loved ones who are black are going to believe this struggle is very much about them, and rightly so.