Kelly Briggs on the Race Conversation We Need to Have

Most people coming through here are likely to have already seen this article, if not at the Guardian then linked at the most recent Down Under Feminists’ Carnival. However, I felt that it needs to be given a separate conversation space. Lots of them, in fact. We could probably afford to re-post it once a month, except that a better goal would be to incorporate this conversation into everything we do, as a matter of course.

“Australian Feminists Need to Talk About Race” by Kelly Briggs.

Not all the contributors here at Hoyden About Town identify as white, but the majority do. This means we need an active strategy for centring issues of marginalisation by race, because we can’t assume it will come naturally into our work.

In his book Last Chance to See, Douglas Adams wrote of a group of conservationists, “Their impatience often erupts into a kind of wild black humour because, faced with so much that is absolutely critical, they can’t afford the time for anything that is merely very, very urgent.” How much must this be multiplied when it is human beings at stake, and your own people at that. It doesn’t surprise that another discussion about surnames or the percentage of female board members will read like fiddling with deck chairs on a burning Roman Titanic. I don’t think a shortage of discussion of issues of race, or of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander needs, comes from a lack of caring here; I think it comes from a great fear of screwing up and making things worse.

So what can we do to do more? When I say ‘we’ I mean those of us who have a platform who don’t identify as Aboriginal, or as of other marginalised races when broader topics of racism and lack of diversity come up. What we can’t do is initiate activist actions. We are not the ones with the expertise to decide what needs to be  done, or how best to target our resources. (I speak in the most general terms here, there may well be times when someone has a specific instance of being involved in an area or action where they are well enough informed to set something up.)

What we can do is keep a very sharp ear out for calls to action from those better placed to say what they need, and signal boost, repost, join in, offer our voices in support. We can come down like a ton of bricks on anyone who minimises, in our comments or in the wider media, the effects of racism. We can make calls for better diversity in representation wherever it is lacking (which, let’s face it, is pretty much everywhere). We can contribute to making the existing work of Indigenous women more visible. For myself, I am going to try to be less afraid of doing something the wrong way, and more afraid of doing nothing.

 

Ceremonial fire on bark plate held over water.

Photo by Tiffany Parker

For those able to get involved in the Sydney region, Corroboree Sydney is running this week until Sunday. This is primarily a uniting of the Eora nations on Gadigal land, to share stories, art and talk, but with a wider invitation to all to participate: “A national festival for all Australians that celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture in the heart of Sydney.” This photograph is one of the major images from their website.



Categories: gender & feminism, indigenous, social justice

Tags: , ,

2 replies

  1. I’m really happy to see HaT boosting this – I really think we white Aussie feminists need to have this conversation and get better. It’s a journey, but one I’m definitely committed to.
    Love this: “What we can do is keep a very sharp ear out for calls to action from those better placed to say what they need, and signal boost, repost, join in, offer our voices in support. We can come down like a ton of bricks on anyone who minimises, in our comments or in the wider media, the effects of racism.”

  2. She is also on Twitter as @TheKooriWoman.

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