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Meanjin, the precious petals and the sorry-sorry people

I’m sick and tired of precious petals complaining about racism and the self-flagellation of the sorry-sorry people.

By Nyunggai Warren Mundine AO, Executive Chairman of the Yaabubiin Institute of Disruptive Thinking

There was a time when the chattering classes could indulge in absurd conversations about nothingness without the rest of us having to endure it. Perhaps if an idea garnered enough support it might evolve into published work. Thanks to social media now any random thought bubble can become a national issue in minutes.

So it was recently when Meanjin Quarterly released its Winter 2018 edition. Meanjin is a literary magazine founded in 1940 in Brisbane, its name said to be the word for Brisbane’s location in the language of the local Turrbal people. Its latest cover story concerned the global campaign against sexual harassment and assault of women. The cover featured the main article by Clementine Ford written on a blank page with the masthead “Meanjin” changed in handwriting to read “#MeToo”.

The editor, Jonathan Green, posted the cover on Twitter. Various readers retweeted with praise. Not so fast. Within ten minutes, Amy McQuire tweeted “the destruction of land, cultures and language is fundamentally tied to violence against Aboriginal women”. Get it? Crossing out the letters “anjin” is the destruction of an Aboriginal word. Twenty minutes later Karyn Wyld tweeted “This whiteout of an Aboriginal word is so symbolic of white feminism on black country … it hurts”. Both McQuire and Wyld are Aboriginal women.

By afternoon Green, Ford and other authors had issued grovelling apologies. Ford acknowledged the “deep hurt” caused by the cover design and the “ongoing trauma caused by whiteness in this country”, whatever that means in real life. The social media furore continued for over 24 hours; mostly non-Aboriginal people tripping over themselves with apologies for their white privilege, then critiquing and apologising for how they expressed their apologies, and so on.

It’s one of the most pathetic things I’ve seen in a while. I’m sick and tired of hearing young precious petals complaining about racism. When I was born, Aboriginal people in New South Wales lived under a segregation regime called the Aborigines Protection Act. My father needed a certificate of exemption just to travel home from work after 5pm. He carried it with him his whole life and if any young person complained about racism he’d pull it out and tell them they didn’t know what racism was.

Australia has completely changed. Yet I keep hearing young Aboriginal people complaining about racism; more than I ever did when it was actually ingrained into the law and in how people treated us. The loudest complaints are from a minority subset who never lived under segregation and grew up with every opportunity: well educated, benefited from special programs, live in nice homes, have good jobs and salaries. Then there’s this clique of progressive-left non-Aboriginal people falling over themselves with self-flagellation; the sorry-sorry people who apologise for things they’ve never done or that are of no consequence to anyone, like adapting an Aboriginal word in a cover design.

And maybe I’m becoming more like my father as I get older but I just want to say “Get a life”.

These kinds of dramas – along with the increasing shrieks we hear about so-called cultural appropriation – are part of a broader trend which is making Aboriginal languages and cultures off limits. I’m aware of organisations wanting to use Aboriginal language words in programs being told they must ask permission from a land council. Why? Since when is use of a word, of any language, controlled by an organisation. Adaptation, irony, plays on words: these are all ways in which language is used. And without use, language dies. If the fake culture police have their way Aboriginal words and cultural symbols will eventually only exist in museums.

Finally, take note of the utter hypocrisy of this cohort of lefties pretending to care about violence against Aboriginal women. Australia is in the middle of an epidemic of Aboriginal family violence. Alice Springs Councillor and Warlpiri woman Jacinta Price campaigns tirelessly about this problem. For this she’s abused and condemned by social justice warriors who hurl racist slurs. She’s courageous for talking about it. The far-left prefer to ignore it altogether. I can’t find any examples of Ford writing on Aboriginal family violence, despite having a weekly column in the Sydney Morning Herald. McQuire is a regular opinion writer for the Guardian and the few times I’ve known her to broach the subject she devoted most of her comment to concerns that Aboriginal people and culture are being blamed and Aboriginal men are being demonised.

If the editorial crew at Meanjin really care about violence against Aboriginal women then here’s an idea: ask Jacinta Price to write an essay for the next edition on the real story of what’s going on for women in remote Aboriginal communities. You never know, she might even translate some of it into Warlpiri.

This article was first published in the Daily Telegraph on 6 June 2018.

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Posted by Elizabeth Henderson on June 28, 2018

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