(from my notebook): The embassy is spread across three camp sites, each a few kilometres apart. It is a beautiful stretch of bush, a land signposted by awesome gums with secret hollows and gnarly limbs – the sacred birthing trees of the DjabWurrung people. You feel the presence of history in this country, of lives having passed through here for millenia, existing in symbiosis with everything this landscape provides. And all fully framed by the stunning, imposing presence of the sandstone outcrops and ranges known as Gariwerd. The highway cuts through like a scar, and the state of Victoria now intends to prise it open, creating a seeping, exposed wound.
DjabWurrung Heritage Protection Embassy stands as a blockage against the incessant flow of colonising, state violence that attempts to wash away all trace of the cultural and environmental custodianship that Aboriginal people claim over this land. In this moment, that violence takes a most banal form – a state infrastructure project to widen the already existing highway between Melbourne and Adelaide. This would eradicate a site of sacred importance to the DjabWurrung people, including an 800 year old birthing tree that has seen over 50 generations born in the hollow of its trunk (more here).
“We will be beggars so long as we accept as universal the political divisions that cut up the white world and through which they conceive of the social conflicts and struggles that these divisions will engender. We will be beggars so long as we remain prisoners of their philosophy, of their aesthetic and of their art. We will be beggars so long as we do not call into question their version of History. Lets accept rupture, discord, discordance. Lets ruin the landscape and announce a new era”. – Houria Bouteldja
white person once asked of me “can’t you be less antagonistic when challenging
racism”? It was less a question, more a direction, imbued with all the
faux-innocence and partitioning of ‘civilised rationality’ as a quality
specific to whiteness, and therefore necessitating white people to preach the
word. The imperative that justified colonisation as the bringing of
civilisation to the barbarians, is now repeated by white liberals espousing
‘rational’ and ‘civilised’ debate in the face of racism and white supremacy.
The first time I heard a non-white migrant use the word
‘settler’ to describe all other non-white migrants in so-called Australia, I
recoiled at this naming that felt so unfamiliar to my experience. I didn’t
associate with being a settler because that term seemed to place me within the
same racialised group as white people – and I had my own familiarity facing their
In any case, the discomfort of that moment provoked some
thinking on my part, as well as a few conversations with Aboriginal people, non-indigenous
people of colour and white folk. After initially feeling that my position as a
brown migrant bore no relation to white colonialism, it became apparent that for
many Aboriginal people it most certainly did. Dispossession from country, loss
of access to resources, and the struggle to hold onto cultural forms are all
ongoing effects of an unceasing colonisation that remains in full swing. While
racial power in this country is still specifically invested in whiteness, there
are significant material benefits that non-indigenous people of colour have
been able to access as an effect of colonisation.
A look back at 2018 and how white fragility describes a developing trajectory of white supremacy at a national level. How this shifts understandings of white fragility beyond simply being an individual weakness to reveal the interplay between interpersonal and structural racism.
2018, much like every single one of the preceding 230 years of this un-ceded land’s ongoing colonisation, managed to mark itself in the pages of racist infamy with the latest bouts of hysteria, paranoia, dog-whistling and racial-profiling. Considering the genocidal nature of that history and everything else that has passed, it might be possible to assume that there is nothing new to see, or be said, here. However, to effectively track and counter the active threat that racism presents, it is important to stay attuned to the variations in trajectory that occur in terms of discourse and action. One aspect that has become noticeable, if not to the same extent as in Europe and the USA, is that the far-right has managed to use a generalised state of hyper-racialised paranoia to find ways to enter the mainstream. While tracking this will not be the focus here, it is related to the discursive trajectory that I will be exploring in this article: how a sense of white fragility is increasingly articulated as a justification for the re-assertion of this country as a white space.