Aboriginal Exclusion of Europeans

From Reference 27

Just as whites exclude Aborigines from much of their social life, so the Aborigines have a number of institutions quite apart from the white community. The religious congregations of the white community are paralleled by the Pentecostal movement which has gained a large following and great influence over the last two years. There is no doubt that the feeling of worth that membership in this movement confers is in part a reaction against the inferior status assigned to them by the whites.

It is tacitly accepted, and often claimed quite openly, that though the whites have all the good things of this life the Aborigine can expect to be compensated in the next. Much is made of the parable of Lazarus and Dives, particular emphasis being placed on the ability of Lazarus to look down from Heaven and exult in the torments of the damned. It is claimed that the ' first shall be last and the last shall be first' that the Aborigine, because he was the last to receive the Gospel, and is also the last in social prestige, is the most beloved of God.

Distinct from the ultimate rewards of the next life are the immediate mystical 'gifts' that are showered upon the Aborigine to the virtual exclusion of whites, the 'Gift of the Holy Ghost' which has its external manifestation in 'speaking with tongues'. The values in terms of which the Aborigine is assigned an inferior status are rejected, and replaced by religious values which make him appear in his own eyes far superior to the most exalted white man. It is significant that this movement is led by Aborigines, and is regarded as being in a measure opposed to the missionary led U.A.M. (United Aborigines' Mission), which it has almost supplanted.

See Racism and Language

Although not developed to the same degree, the Aborigines have certain stereotypes of whites more or less comparable to those which whites have of Aborigines. Often these are intended as an answer to the European stereotype. For instance, in reply to the stereotype that the Aborigine is shiftless and permits his relatives to sponge on him, it is said that the white man has no feeling for his kin, that he is hard-hearted. Sometimes a justification of this aspect of Aboriginal life is couched in scriptural terms and is seen as charity to the poor. Being poor is itself justified as being ' Christ-like,' while the whites are represented in something in the light of the Roman soldiers crucifying Christ.

The more sophisticated Aborigine will also reply to the stereotype of the promiscuous, libidinous Aborigine in two ways. He will claim that the Aborigine is honest about his sexuality, whereas the white man is covert and hypocritical. He will also defend the Aborigine on the grounds that all his sexuality is straightforward and unencumbered with perversion, whereas with the white man it is often 'unnatural'. This was made the subject of a sermon by a Pentecostal preacher who had lived in a Sydney slum during the Depression. Homosexuality in particular is presented as characterizing the white group, perhaps with some justification, as I heard of only one case in these Aboriginal communities over the last five years.

Possibly this attitude to the white group goes rather deeper than an intellectual justification in the above terms. Though pre- and even extra-marital relations of a woman with another member of the mixed-blood community is considered more or less normal, relations with a white man are most reprehensible. In disputes between two women, accusations of this are always shouted across the station as the ultimate insult. The implication is certainly that money or liquor has been accepted in return for such sexual favours, but there is also a suggestion that there has been something unnatural about the liaison. One woman, explaining the presence of a son by a white man, excused herself: '... honest, I was so drunk I did not know what was happening that night'.

The same feeling of shame is not a feature of liaisons between Aboriginal men and white women; in fact males boast of such adventures. Here the dominant motivation is the degradation of a white woman by conquering her sexually. Symbolically, the Aborigine defies the 'superior' white man by degrading his womenfolk. This was stated explicitly by certain Aboriginal women to show that their menfolk at least were 'one up' on the white man.

See Racism and Language

Boxing also, sometimes, but certainly not always, provides an avenue for the expression of hostility. On several occasions I have been told by Aboriginal boxers that they will only accept fights against white men, that they will not fight 'their own colour'.

The foregoing are regularly occurring opportunities for the expression of intergroup hostility. Now and again some particular happening will trigger off similar often much more exaggerated reactions from both groups. While I was at X in 1955, a twelve-year-old schoolgirl was raped by a young Aborigine. In the bar of the hotel on the evening after the event some of the white men present acted quite hysterically, calling for revenge on the Aborigines (significantly as a group). One man stated that he would like to take a bulldozer and 'push their houses over', while others were for forming a lynch mob to seek the culprit. Though hostility was freely expressed in the most extravagant terms, no action whatever was taken.

The first reaction of the Aborigines was to disown the ravisher. It was pointed out, quite justifiably, that 'he does not belong to X', that 'his tribe is quite different from ours'. A small minority held that ravisher or not, he was still an Aborigine and that they would give no assistance to the police. Despite the fact that the man did not belong to the X community, there was a very apparent feeling that in some way the group was responsible, and that all members could expect to be made to suffer by the whites on account of it. One man told me that a visit to the town caused him acute embarrassment. He felt that all the white people were looking at him and wondering whether he were a ravisher also. He would not go into a shop when he noticed that a relative of the girl was inside.

The evening after the occurrence a fifteen-year-old boy asked me to drive him into town to look for his mother. When questioned, he told me that she was late home and that he feared for her safety, that the white men in the town might rape her to even up the score.