Righting our wrongs

White Australians like to think of our nation as the land of a “fair go”. But when we scratch the surface, it is clear that our perception does not accord with reality.

Why is it that we are so unwilling or unable to recognise the shameful aspects of our nation’s past (and present)? When did it become so hard to say, “I’m sorry”? What do we fear will happen if we acknowledge our sins?

The author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates, in  his searing analysis of the African American experience in the United States, has said:

Reparations, by which I mean the full acceptance of our collective biography and its consequences, is the price we must pay to see ourselves squarely. The recovering alcoholic may well have to live with his illness for the rest of his life, but at least he is not living a drunken lie. Reparations beckon us to reject the intoxication of hubris and see America as it is: the work of fallible humans.

Coates, again:

You have to love your country the way you love your friends, the way your spouse loves you. The people who love you don’t blow smoke up your backside… They tell you hard truths.

What is it going to take for us to look critically at our nation, its past and present? When will we stop living the drunken lie? It seems to me that this is what is needed for healing. Yet I am not hopeful that significant change is imminent.

Nevertheless, we must persist, without hope or despair.


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