Identity Issues – Everyone’s Got ‘Em

So I missed my July 09 column for the Crescent Times (I’m sure my Editor at CT hates me lol) – but I was back with a bang for August 09!

Identity Issues – Everyone’s Got ‘Em

By Eugenia Flynn

Having spent time with a wide variety of people throughout my life, I can safely say that many people have a difficult time wading through the identity politics that surround Indigenous peoples and communities. 

Stemming from the coloniser’s mindset of divide and conquer, assimilate and annihilate, many erroneous views on the identities of people of colour have been permeating minds for years upon years.  As someone who has spent time dealing with the devils of her colonised mind, I believe I can recognise in others the remnants of colonisation – the subconscious and conscious drive to move toward ‘whiteness’ – whatever that may be perceived as being. 

In the Indigenous and wider community, I see these remnants manifesting themselves in the politics of identity.  For Muslims, even if they are white they are viewed by non-Muslims as non-white – conversely these white Muslims are sadly sometimes viewed as not Muslim enough by non-white Muslims. 

For Indigenous Australians the concepts of half-caste, quarter-caste, full-blood, et cetera have been used since invasion to ingrain in Australian society the concept of levels of whiteness and the concept of breeding more whiteness through breeding out blackness. 

In contemporary Australian society this means that whilst most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people view their indigeneity as connection to family, country, language, culture, people, community and more, many people outside of the Indigenous community view indigeneity as darkness of skin, closeness to ‘traditional’ culture, place of residence and more. 

I recently had a fellow Muslim ask me if the other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people I work with are shocked to find that I am in fact Aboriginal, as I ‘do not look Aboriginal’.  This question, in turn, shocked me as I rarely consider my looks when I consider my indigeneity.  As an Aboriginal person who also maintains strong identities as a Chinese person and a Muslim person, I am happy to break down wrong notions of Aboriginal identity.  What makes me Aboriginal is my family, my connection to my land and my people. 

Just as I ponder these matters of identity – religion, culture, race, gender and more – I invite you to ponder them too.  Go forth, and ponder!

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