As the Australia Day hype pretty much dies after it happens, there has been a recurring image online that has sparked controversy. Quite frankly, it is just an ill-informed post looking for some quick attention from an equally ill-informed crowd.
The image shows the US and Japanese flags together, the UK and German flags together, and the Australian and Aboriginal flags together. For the first two it has hands shaking on either side, saying no one blames modern Americas for Hiroshima and no one blames modern Germans for WW2 atrocities respectively. On the Australian section, it says “So why are white Australians still being blamed for what happened in the 1700’s?” The hands over the flags show the white hand willing to shake but the black one retracting.
As a white Australian, I must ask the question – when have we ever been asked to continuously apologise, or even apologise at all, for what happened during colonial times? I genuinely want to know, because I agree – there is no need to apologise about what happened then, because obviously those of us alive today can’t change history. But what a number of the comments stemming from this image shows is that the people angry about ‘having to apologise’ don’t seem to know very much about this history they’re so proud of at all, nor what the Indigenous people have actually been asking for all these years.
After the nuclear bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the US basically took control of the Japanese military and, from there, launched the brutal Korean War. Even today there are peace activists in Japan that are calling for the closure of US military bases in the country, and the museum and remembrance site in Hiroshima is a constant reminder of what happened on the 6th of August 1945. I’ve been there, and had the honour of listening to a man who was a child at the time who survived – many people he knew did not. The grade 1 and 2 students took turns going out of the city to help with war supplies, and his grade 2 class was there. None of the grade below him survived the blast.
We don’t blame modern Americans for what happened in WW2, but that history must never be forgotten and recognised for the atrocity it was. Most importantly, efforts towards the disbanding of US bases and the international campaign to abolish nuclear arms are still being carried out almost 75 years later.
After WW2, Germany went through an extreme period of change and only recently finished paying reparations to all the countries that were affected by Hitler’s horrific endeavours. The word Nazi received equally horrific connotations, and while I have never been to Germany, I am sure there would be museums dedicated to documenting that history.
We don’t blame modern Germans for what Hitler and the Nazi Party did, but the history must never be forgotten and recognised for the atrocity it was. Reparations have been paid, and the people of Europe very much remember what occurred and are currently facing a growing threat of a potential resurgence of such forces.
From the time the Australian colony was established to 1930, hundreds of thousands of Indigenous peoples had been killed, a number of massacres having now been documented and more being researched. Even after that, it was only in 1967 they were recognised as actual people and citizens with rights. From being a population that had been here for over 60,000 year’s minimum to being a mere 2-3% of the current population has left its toll, including such things as the Stolen Generation.
No one is blaming white Australians for the treatment of Indigenous people over the last 250 years. They are asking that we never forget this history and recognise it for the atrocity it was. What the Indigenous people are asking for is recognition, the right to represent their own interests – rather than having the likes of Tony Abbott do so – and a treaty, like most other nations have with their indigenous. We don’t need to apologise for our history, and we sure as hell don’t need to apologise for being white – anyone who parrots that that is what is being asked of us needs to read a damn book and get their head out of their, dare I say, white arses.
As a white man I recognise that the history of colonisation has left a horrific mark on our Indigenous peoples, and ensure that I keep myself informed of that history and of modern concerns. It is not much to ask, and will lead to much more understanding between our two cultures – an understanding many people sadly lack. Sharing and shouting slogans built atop ignorance does not make you intelligent, it just further proves the need for true reconciliation. The changing of the date, as I have said before, is a superficial issue that simply needs to happen so we can move on and focus on real problems.
Everyone says they want to move forward as one, so why do people seem so hellbent on not doing so?
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