It begins with a notice posted on the UniMelb home page. I can’t remember what exactly it said anymore and I’m not sure why I was even looking at this noticeboard because I was stumbling to the safety of a barstool in a club, but it was that old clunky question of: “Are there any Indigenous people out there that can relive their personal trauma for my essay/personal benefit?”
Email address at the bottom of the page. I transmitted ones and zeros through the electric blue so that it landed in her inbox.
The short of what I said is something like:
– I’m gonna gobble you up Bunyip-style baby, ankles first.
If your characters don’t sound white then the dialogue is jarring, alarming, stupid as fuck—the old classism and racism, two for one.
I will give you a longer version here:
When I was eight years old, a shape came into my room in the night. A misty consciousness like something long-forgotten. A thrill like the thrill of remembering a word on the tip of your tongue. A mystery revealed to me. Maybe all my childhood I was obsessed with stories and dreams because I needed out of a house where my parents kept my history from me. But there I had found it, in the darkness of my Barbie-plastered room. Back then, no one had ever told me I was Aboriginal, except for the ancestors that came to me in my sleep. Our conversations happened in my dreams or in my veins or, if I wanted to hear the voice in the daytime, I could listen to the cyclical static of the cicadas.
There was a horrible longing inside of me.
Browbrownbrown brownborn bornbrowwwwwn nobrownnotbrown notblaknotnotblakc notblacknotblakc not blak, Not Blak Enough.
– Next time you have opinions like this, I truly recommend expressing them in a more polite way—maybe then people would actually take you seriously.
All the best,
“I do not see how this could be anything but beneficial for your people.”
“Beneficial for your people.”
How do you respond to this, still in the swirling light, smoke, night. Politeness a tool of oppression, a tool of keeping us quiet and not loud. Don’t test my mouth; the truth is my sound.
What is the most terrifying thing that ever happened to you? Was it the kind of turbulence that touches your stomach (are the oxygen masks about to drop down?), or an accident involving a car, or someone/something following you home? Was it when you tried a nang for the first time and thought you were going to die inside the rotating, metallic sound? Or does it involve past lives? Skin colour, systematic racism? Dreams from your ancestors and the constant cries from the dust and bones buried beneath you? Waking up in the middle of the night screaming bloody murder because your own language has disintegrated and all you have left is the language of the very person who killed you in the first place? And then you are dying in obscenely slow motion like ham left out to rot on the bench.
Or that time I worked for a magazine for two years and was assigned every piece the whitefellas wrote about walking Uluru, cuz if I touched it that made it politically correct (but dude I’m not even Anangu).
If this stranger “white saviours” me then I’m indebted to them but I need the world to hear my trauma trip forth from my own tongue.
It’s like the whitefellas never understood that we weren’t put on this earth to please them.
– A lot of people in the rest of the world have no idea about your situation and how brutally you have been colonised and I do not see how sharing this could be anything but beneficial for your people. We live in a world with freedom of speech—you trying to shut me down in this way and tell me what I can or cannot write about is, in my opinion, a very old-fashioned idea.
All the best,
You give me something at the same time as you are hurting me. A pinch, of sorts.
– Before you have seen my final writing, please do not make any assumptions about it and more importantly, do not make any assumptions about me as a person (which I have not made about you at all if you took a minute to notice that).
All the best,
Or like people only ever wanting to publish the version of my history that they want to believe, the version of my future they want to believe—the versions where I’m savage, sorry, helpless or Dead.
I ask Patrick to make a magazine with me, something autonomous for First Nations people, a platform for our voices, maybe a place for us to land. But all day my mind is like: am I really Aboriginal enough? Who am I to claim this part of myself, me who walks white-passing through the world, lives without immediate prejudice inflicted upon me—I hear this call from my subconscious so often. The severed connections of colonisation and the thought: I don’t feel like I can claim my heritage. It strangles me like velvet gloves coming up around the throat, it feels like something intestinal, your hand reaching into my chest to clasp onto this thing I love that lives inside of me.
I’m the ultimate whiteman’s blackfella cuz I look white, smell white, went to private school.
I feel the strength of this ancestral spirit that lives inside of me, of this ancestral pain that lives inside of me, and the pain that lives inside the spirit of the land. Yet I am not sure where to place myself or what I am allowed. I write each word with precise measure to culminate in hopefully anything other than the tragedy porn you would turn me into.
All day, my mind is like: why does this white bitch think she has some ownership over my story?
Like I guess it doesn’t matter what you do cuz you’ll never know/feel/see what I know/feel/see.
– Still, I do not see myself (politely!) asking from Indigenous peoples to share their opinion or past as inappropriate or colonialist behaviour – if you do not wish to share it, that is your own decision but there is no harm in asking, I am not going to use your words just for my profit.
All the best,
You don’t understand what it means to me.
There are people who hate us. People that hate us just because we exist outside of their idea of us. We are supposed to choose a role and perform it. There are only a handful of roles that we are supposed to play.
Somewhere in the midst of colonialism, white society bestowed upon itself the power to deem what was and wasn’t “Aboriginal”. As if some patchwork of stereotype can contain a complex cultural framework, as if an ingrained image is enough to detect the nuance of community and family. We are supposed to choose from this handful of roles and perform it. Transform from the people that we are so that we fit into this quilt stitched together by bigotry.
It’s like: there’s a limit to your love. Like: this isn’t love, these people are not love, you do not love me. The choking concrete of Melbourne doesn’t love me. The tarmac and the high rises do not love me, these cars don’t love me. There’s no love in the smog, the purebred dogs, the trams.
We see the world in such strange, intense, creative ways, we see the world so separately from you and even each other (can’t lump us together so easy). We who are most likely to be murdered, abused, we see a world more worthy of capturing in art. You can’t replicate that shit motherfucker!
But the ground beneath the concrete and the tarmac, which sits under high rise, which sits under smog, and the earth’s crust and the upper mantle underneath that, the outer core beneath that and the molten core even further below… They love me. The sky and all of its birds—cockatoos and crows alike. Stretching up and up, love from the clouds, from the lightning, from each kiss of star through space. Each bush, tree, rock, clearing, each possum and rat and even the sugar ants.
All the natural things in this world, everything that was here before you came across and started suffocating it.
Love love love love for me and everyone like me and all in a way you’ll never know.
When you steal my story, no birds sing. And no bees buzz. And no flies fly, no kangaroos hop. And the weight of the waratahs and the wind… will crush ya.