Words | Rhys Smith
A golden spring flower that is trumpet-like in shape.
– Me and myself.
This word carries so much weight for me. It is a name many people have called me, mostly friends and people I know. It started the day our history class was told that in the past Indigenous Australians were not identified as human beings by the Constitution.
This led to choruses of, “does that mean they were fauna?” and, “ oh shit, maybe they were flora”. Then the inevitable query, “How does it feel to be a flower? I reckon you’re a daffodil”.
Next came the cackles and laughter.
No one stepped in, no one argued and sure as hell no one tried to defend me.
This is just a small part of the racism Indigenous people have to deal with, and it’s only one example from my own life. But it’s impossible for there to be racism in such a tolerant, multicultural country like Australia, right?
I’ve heard it all: “take a joke”, “ we were just kidding” or “lighten up”.
Within this dynamic I am immediately placed in a defensive position, where it is me who is at fault in the face of ridicule. I’m sorry but my heritage is not a joke to me.
This is ridicule. This is cruelty. This is racism.
The basis of the nickname was from a long-past Australia – one I had thought very much dead.
I guess I was wrong.
Look, I get it. We all like having fun and being jovial about the people we hang out with. But this was my life. I’ve been told that I should go back to sniffing petrol, that I’m not Indigenous enough, that I didn’t have to try in school because the government will get me into university for free. That my skin is too fair and it isn’t fair that I’m getting Indigenous benefits. That we don’t need to apologise for the stolen generation – after all it wasn’t us, right?
But that’s the thing, it is us.
We’re halting the way forward. I was so ashamed of being Indigenous and of the so-called ‘benefits’ that came with it, that I refused to file the paperwork for special consideration. I wasn’t Indigenous enough to get any assistance, but I was Indigenous enough to reap their racism.
The more I think of it though the sadder I get. What people didn’t know is that my father’s family, the Indigenous half, is broken. They are stuck in a cycle of alcohol, abuse, addiction and suffering.
I know. I lived it. I learnt from a young age to never get between a Smith and their grog.
Those scholarships and ways of lifting up Indigenous people weren’t even directed at me and yet, I was still ashamed. I cannot imagine how it must feel for those who need them more than I.
This is the racism of today I guess. Just a cycle of offering Indigenous people a hand, only to mock them for taking it. A subtle stain that lingers on the tapestry of Australia’s multicultural tolerance. But here’s the thing about tolerance, there is always a tolerator and tolerated – and I’m tired of being tolerated.