What happens when Black people organise?
From the WAR’s 7 days of resistance (which included a Captain Cook makeover and eviction notice), to IndigenousX’s call out to #ChangeTheNation with an article per day from Black writers in the lead up to Invasion Day, to the record-breaking crowds that turned out across the country to hear our mob speak loud and proud, to the public show of support from international celebrities and acts of solidarity across the globe, and yeah those signs… it’s clear that times are changing.
But what happens when Black people affect change, more specifically how do the settlers respond to Black resistance?
Well, in the colony, the settlers (if that’s what we have to call them) freak out.
Rather than conversing about any number of these aforementioned stories, the mainstream media in so-called Australia decides to reassign us to our usual role as villain or victim, or more specifically rapists and rape victims.
Evil, agentless and hopeless. And to be fair, it is almost like an ancient tradition among the settlers, particularly their womenfolk, whose existence has been predicated upon their exclusive hold on the role of virtuous saviour. From Dianne Bell to Nanette Rogers, Jedda’s mother or Nicole Kidman’s portrayal of Lady Sarah Ashley in Australia to Cathy McLennan and Pru Macsween to government-funded church-run NGOs; extolling the ills of the Black folk while claiming to be the only one who really cares about ‘them’ is a thing in the colony.
And so I’m not surprised by the Kerri-Anne Kennerley affair; the television veteran who claimed to be "trying to stop rape of Aboriginal women and children" by vilifying the protesters at the Invasion Day marches. Neither was I surprised of the panel response when the Woman Of Colour, Yumi Stynes, was demonised for not turning up to work and the Aboriginal women pitted against each other, all the while watched on by the apparently innocent and upstanding White folk on the panel and the pearl-clutching crowd. We see you Sarah Harris.
Studio10 claims to have brought Jacinta Price and Lydia Thorpe to the table, the day after the morning before, to ‘weigh in on the debate’ which, if memory serves me correctly, was actually about whether or not Kerry Anne ‘sounded racist’. I thought maybe there was going to be a conversation about the operation of race, the utility of racialised logics in dismissing the legitimate claims and concerns of Blackfullas in the colony or something to that effect.
Okay I’m kidding, I knew it would the same old narrative with the same old characters, the inauthentic, political, urban Aborigine versus the authentic, traditional, remote Aborigine engaged in a debate premised on yet another false binary; that if you care about abolishing Australia Day you can’t possibly care about the violence that Aboriginal women experience. And while I’m here, can someone please tell Kerri-Anne and her new Aboriginal best friend Jacinta that you don’t need to go to a towncamp — or as KAK calls it, “The Outback” — to find an Aborigine?
But it’s not like we haven’t heard it all before. Who can forget ABC’s satirical news and current affairs show Frontline, specifically Season 3, Episode 13 ‘Epitaph’, when Mike Moore decides to make Indigenous health ‘his’ legacy. If that’s too far back, perhaps you remember Lateline (a real ABC news and current affairs show) where presenter Tony Jones and journalist Suzanne Smith seemingly wanted to save Aboriginal women and children from sexual assaults and screwdrivers? Back then, their coverage included false claims of abuse and sexual assault by an unidentified youth worker who later was identified as an advisor to the Indigenous Affairs Minister.
What followed was an emergency policy intervention that required the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act (*ahem*, because the policy was racist), and involved the compulsory acquisition of leases over 65 Aboriginal communities.
You see it was never about Aboriginal women and children; it was about land, and more specifically, *clears throat* our land. And in the colony, any conversations pertaining to the Blacks that the settlers engage in, ultimately are about our land, and that’s why we are excluded from participating in them. The Racial Discrimination Act has only ever been suspended three times and each time it has been applied to the native folk to further enable the illegal occupation of, and control over our land.
Kerri-Anne’s simplistic and crude attempt to divert attention away from Indigenous peoples successful and sustained resistance against colonial control and its associated violence by demonising Indigenous peoples would be laughable if she didn’t have so much backing. She is not a lone wolf or bad apple, nor is her ‘heart in the right place’. She invoked the same tired narrative of Black inadequacy and dysfunction to undermine Black resistance and strength. She was able to maintain her claim of virtue because she supposedly cares about ‘our problems’ by insisting that our existence (including our acts of resistance) can only ever been known as a problem, thus rationalising the continued control over Black peoples’ lives and lands. Kerri-Anne, like her fellow panel members (excluding Yumi Stynes, of course!) and mainstream media more broadly are doing more than just their job. Every day, they are doing the work of the colony and we really shouldn’t be so surprised.
What was hilarious, however, was the closing line in Kerri-Anne’s most recent monologue on Studio 10 in which she claimed that she “always has been and always will be Australian”. Stealing the very line that Indigenous peoples have chanted year in and year out (the same ones she was complaining about) was so very colonising of her, but also evidence of how disingenuous she and mainstream media “always has been and always will be” when it comes to Indigenous affairs, in my opinion.
Regardless of what Kerri-Anne has to say about the protestors who turned out on 26 January 2019, those of us who turned up, know full well who and what we were representing.
So Imma just leave this right here...
Dr Chelsea Bond is one half of the Wild Black Women radio program (with Angelina Hurley) on Brisbane’s 98.9FM. She is an academic and writer, focusing on content about Black women, for Black women. Follow Chelsea @drcbond
Catch Wild Black Women with their regular segment on The Point tonight, 8.30pm on NITV (Ch. 34)