GET OVER IT
This is the catchcry of every Australian hard-arse bigot: ‘Get over it.’
Lost your job and ended up homeless? ‘Get over it. Pull your socks up and get another job.’
Lost your country and ended up in an offshore gulag? ‘Get over it. Save the sob story for someone who cares.’
Been abused for speaking a language other than English in public? ‘Get over it. And I asked for extra peanuts on my Gang Ped Goong or are you frigging deaf too?’
Been refused service in a pub because your skin is darker than the barman’s? ‘Get over it. Don’t think you’re going to get away with playing the race card, either – I just don’t like the look of you.’
It’s 2018 and this stuff is still everyday.
Yesterday, an old school friend, noted for being a well-balanced realist with a sense of humour that delights in just about every absurdity, put up a Facebook post which included the words: ‘Most who know me know that I’m not overly touchy on racism subjects…’
Someone he knows had just experienced the humiliation of being refused a drink in a hotel. The man in question is a well-respected member of the community, and he wasn’t drunk – apparently, he hadn’t yet had the chance to get a drink of any kind at all. Behind him, the bar was filled with very pissed and very loud backpackers. This man was refused a drink for only one reason: he’s Aboriginal. The name of the bar was said to have been Scruffy Murphy’s, by the way, in Sydney’s CBD – a well-known den of excess, sitting across the road from Chinatown, oblivious to every irony.
What followed, in the Facebook thread, made me cry: men sharing their own experiences of this rejection, this casual cruelty, not with anger, but with sad resignation. One man, another I went to school with, said, ‘I’ve never been allowed to enter Coogee Dolphins.’ Another man said simply, ‘It will never stop.’
We hear everywhere, blasted from mainstream media megaphones, that Australia has no problem with racism. We’re told that if only Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people got over themselves and the past they’d be fine. We allow the powerful – academics, politicians, former prime ministers – to dismiss any claims of hurt with counter-claims that colonisation was good for everyone. ‘Hey, don’t they like having mobile phones and all that?’ We have a present prime minster who greasily asks a gathering of the top First Nations thinkers in the land how they might best influence public policy, and then promptly, shamelessly, ignores the advice.
The advice to First Nations people from the maggoty heart of all our reflexive, guilt-rancid racism is: ‘Get over it. Or would you prefer to be hurled back into the Stone Age?’
And yes, a ‘journalist’ from the Murdoch press actually said words to this effect in the lead-up to Australia Day – and no, I’m not going to name him, because I’m not going to lend him one dot more of the infamy he craves.
Over the past few months, I’ve been riding my regular little rollercoaster of worry that I have no business, as a gub who is White As, writing about race. The increasing colour-between-the-lines strictures of identity politics say I should leave this space to those who face it. The mostly middle-class demands for authenticity and purity of voice shake me daily. But I can’t step away. I can’t see these things, and feel these reflections of trauma, and be quiet.
I see the small-boy faces of those men I went to school with and it breaks my heart. And I won’t be getting over it myself, because they never will.
The newspaper clipping above is taken from the Freeman’s Journal, Sydney, 1877