Systemic racism against Aborigines
The United Nations has pointed out yet again that racism is systemic in Australia.
This year it was the turn of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. It condemned the ”unacceptably high level of disadvantage and social dislocation” of Aborigines and the fact the Australian Government does nothing but talk.
Right on cue the Minister for talking about aboriginal disadvantage, Jenny Macklin, pontificated about Labor’s aspirations for addressing the life expectancy gap.
Earlier this year a UN report, State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, found that Australian aborigines have the worst life expectancy rates of any indigenous peoples in the world. In Australia the life expectancy gap is 20 years. In Guatemala it is 13, and in New Zealand it is 11.
Last year James Aneya, the UN special rapporteur on indigenous rights, said racism was entrenched in Australia and that the Northern Territory intervention was an attempt to disempower Aborigines. “It undermines the right of indigenous peoples to control their own destinies, their right to self-determination,” he said.
The racially discriminatory Northern Territory intervention and the huge life expectancy gap are the two most obvious indicators of this entrenched racism.
The most recent example of this systemic racism is the hate mail and abusive comments Ken Wyatt has been receiving. Wyatt is the first aborigine to be elected to the House of Representatives in Australia.
This racism is important to the Australian ruling class. Capitalism was built in Australia on a campaign of genocide against the Aboriginal people. That genocide – dispossession, massacres, poverty, assimilation, stealing the children, disempowerment – continues today overtly and covertly.
Racism also divides workers and shifts the focus of anger from the ruling class and its exploitative system to aboriginal people and more recently refugees and Muslims.
But there is an honourable tradition of resistance to ruling class racism - from the aboriginal freedom fighters of long ago to today.
One example is the Alyawarr people’s walk-off. The Labor Government compulsorily “acquired” their community for five years. Their welfare income was quarantined, meaning a basics card replaced half their income. The card means they have to go to certain shops to buy basics like food.
The excuse the Liberal and Labor Governments use to justify the Northern Territory invasion is to protect children from neglect and abuse. It’s a lie.
The intervention is about stealing aboriginal land and disempowering aborigines.
There is massive overcrowding in Aboriginal communities. After 2 1/2 years the intervention had not built one new house. Since then a few have been built in hub towns. This is a way of removing aboriginal people from their traditional lands.
Earlier this year unions and activists got together and built a house at Ampilatwatja to highlight Government inaction and racism. It took a few days to build it.
There is a wider message here. Liberal and Labor politicians used the Little Children are Sacred Report to justify the Northern Territory intervention.
That report had at its heart aboriginal empowerment, giving the communities the power to address the problems. Howard, Rudd and Gillard ignored this and have imposed racist solutions on the aboriginal people of the Northern Territory.
The UN has highlighted Australia’s embedded racism. The Alyawarr people’s walk off and the community and union house building at Ampilatwatja show an alternative to systemic racism.
A long term solution must involve recognition of prior ownership and sovereignty, paying the rent and negotiating a treaty with aboriginal people.
Only a mass movement from below involving hundreds of thousands of people across Australia can win that new Australia.
Ultimately, to be successful, the fight against systemic racism must be a fight against the system and its racism.