Denial, Guilt and Racism
Aborigines are a dignified people, with a sustainable, spiritual culture that enabled their people to become wiser as they grew older, and keep things on a balanced, even keel over tens of thousands of years, whilst living in a high degree of harmony with the environment. They have a very long history being able to really enjoying basic subsistence living, where their necessities were met, whilst minimising their material needs, to enable them to be mobile. So they have never needed a lot, just the necessities. Living attuned to nature ensured they were well nourished, and enabled them to be the absolute masters of thriving on meagre resources, through employing naturally developed skilful means. This kept them realistic and sensible, and enabled them to live sustainably throughout their entire existence.
It has been said that Australia has two histories. The black armband history, and the white blindfold history. The black armband history has become well established amongst a minority, and has been argued against over a considerable period of time by those wishing to preserve the status quo, and perhaps assuage their guilt. The Apology to the Stolen Generation of Aboriginal children – now adults – in Feb 2008, by the Prime Minister, was the first official Federal Government public acknowledgement that such maltreatment occurred, and that it should not have. Implicit in the apology is the tacit acknowledgement that denials of maltreatment have long existed, and had been in fact the official stance of Government, and thereby of the mainstream Australian population. In other words the white blindfold view has always been the default, de facto and until now, the denied Australian view of its own history.
Some 18 months later, the Prime Minister apologised to the Forgotten Generation of white children, now adults, for basically the same practices, and acknowledged that last century some half million such persons were victims, including several thousand who were taken from Great Britain. What was also acknowledged was that widespread institutionalised abuse took place for many, if not most of them, and that it continued over a long period of time. It appears to have been systemic, if not actually systematic, and given the enormous numbers of victims involved, may have been a means of creating emotional trauma as a way of inducing total and permanent submission for post-institutional life. This abusive treatment has created widespread, long-term emotional damage throughout Australia where emotional healing is almost unheard of and unknown, ensuring it lasts a lifetime, and is spread around and passed on. Many claim they have never healed of such horrors.
All that we deny to ourselves, we reject out of our waking conscious awareness, and force into the subconscious. We do this because it involves matters that cause us to feel bad about ourselves. But assigning things into the subconscious causes a vague, underlying, ongoing sense things not being quite right about ourselves. We can resolve this by being willing to look at things honestly. Alternatively, we can engage in compensatory pursuits to try to help us feel better about ourselves, but this complicates matters by adding a layer between the conscious and subconscious, which locks the denials into the subconscious, where it continues to undermine the true esteem of the person.
The unabated, abominable treatment of the natural custodians of the land has generated enormous underlying guilt and shame in succeeding generations that still persists after more than two hundred years, and adds to the denial and guilt they have of their own history. Even today, few descendents of early settlers can bring themselves to look in any depth at that period of history. Many suspect themselves of being tainted by inheriting so-called ‘criminal genes’, either from the original crime, resulting in the transportation, or from the subsequent gross misconduct perpetuated on the native peoples.
This sense of guilt and shame has created a culture of denial in Australia, which since settlement has stifled the emotional development of all Australians so affected. All that is denied and rejected is lodged in the subconscious, where it becomes a complex of distorting filters through which we actively misperceive, misinterpret, misunderstand and misrelate to the world around us. We then regard this as evidence of so-called faulty human nature, when in fact it all arises from our mis-relationship with ourselves.
All that we have rejected out of consciousness and into the subconscious becomes the active filter through which we see the world outside of us. This creates projection, and we subconsciously project outside of ourselves all of the negativity that we have disowned. This is especially projected onto the perceived source of discomfort, the hapless victim. This is why so many Australians feel difficult around Aborigines, and are then inclined to reject them as less than worthy people based on the sense of discomfort. This is the underlying basis of persistent and unrelenting racism, yet in truth is our own best measure of how we feel about ourselves, beneath the surface. Racism is not natural and does not exist in young children.
There are two kinds of racism: emotional racism, and intellectual racism, and many people suffer from one or the other, or both, using one to support the other. Emotional racism is usually fairly obvious and is often of the ‘I don’t like those people’ variety. It often manifests as the blatant spreading of disparaging anecdotes, often false, as a way of seeking agreement and confirmation of the rightness of their own racist views. This imposes emotionally racist attitudes on others and keeps racism energised and perpetuating, often whilst denying that it even exists.
Intellectual racism is far more polite, which makes it more insidious, and more difficult to eliminate. It is more inclined to be applied against traditional Aboriginal people, and is more like ‘Well, we like them, and accept them, but it will take another 200 years or so before they will be ready to take their place along side us in society’. This creates a self-fulfilling prophesy, by treating people as lesser and unworthy, through the enforcement of bad policy, or the unenthusiastic, half-hearted or even less effort to implement helpful policy, all of which produces little outcome, and results in clients tending to become as they are treated. Then the blame is shifted to the victims.
Intellectual racism becomes Institutional racism when it becomes an underlying, often unspoken, predominant view within an organisation. We now know that Australia has an unbroken history of prejudiced, cruel and uncaring institutions and bureaucracies, which have too often acted to disempower and seriously abuse the very people they were created to help. Yet many Australians and Australian institutions are unable to even acknowledge their own biases, prejudices and racist attitudes and behaviours, regarding them as essentially justified attitudes, actions etc, towards, in their misperception, ‘undeserving’ people.
The institutional abuse and mistreatment of Aborigines has never ceased and continues to this day. It energises a general racist attitude in much of the public which is then ‘normalised’. Until all forms of institutional abuse ceases, there is unlikely to be much real progress in closing the gap. What is required is a complete change of attitude and behaviour towards Aborigines that accords them the dignity and rights due to all fellow human beings.
Acknowledgement is the first step to becoming free from racism. Politically correct denials of being racist only serve to keep it invisible and locked in place. What many ordinary Australians regard as normal may appear quite bizarre to an overseas visitor. One international traveller said publicly that Australia is the most racist country he has ever visited. Yet who in Australia would ever admit to being racist in a country that cannot bear to admit and acknowledge its own history?
It is a psychological truth that the way we regard another, we unavoidably hold the same regard of ourselves at deep subconscious levels. Disregard and disrespect towards others is what creates blocks that prevent us from accessing and experiencing our own inner being of wisdom, love, truth, compassion and inner peace. Some people have never experienced the great benevolence their true self, and instead believe all human nature, including their own, to be fundamentally bad, sinful, evil or flawed. The only way out of this bind is to practice what the saints, sages and world religions have been telling us since forever: treat others as you would have them treat you.