What We Mean When We Talk About 'Ending White Supremacy'
Photo by Maxine Tuyau/image courtesy of Kish Lal
Opinion

What We Mean When We Talk About 'Ending White Supremacy'

"Black people in Australia are galvanising. We are angry and we are connected."

This is an abridged transcript of a speech given by Nayuka Gorrie at the Disrupted Festival of Ideas in Perth.

My name is Nayuka. My country is over in what is now known as Victoria. My parents are both black, and both from Victoria. I'm now living in Meanjin (Brisbane). Fun fact about Queensland's connection with Western Australia:

White folks in Queensland in the late 19th century got super angry because the Chinese were making mad money from opium. I mean, white folks didn't even want the Chinese in what was meant to be their perfect white utopia, let alone making mad coin, so they initiated this legislation called Protection of Aboriginals and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897.

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No, that's not two separate acts. I know the two very separate subject matters would make you think it's two, but it's one.

This fun little piece of legislation was used to control and disenfranchise Aboriginal people through a perverted caste system that classified us according to skin tone. And not one to miss out on all the fun, Western Australia modelled their own piece of legislation on it. How good.

So I've come bearing gifts from the sister state: Opium! No, I jest.

The gift is a mirror of some sorts. It's the kind of mirror that has too much lighting. The kind of lighting that surrounds those fancy hotel bathrooms. The kind of mirror you'd pluck your chin hairs in, and be secretly repulsed by how fucking big your pores are. The kind of mirror you look at masochistically. You resign because you want to look your best.

It's the kind of mirror that makes your white guilt go into overdrive.


WATCH: Nayuka Gorrie meets Sarain Fox, host of RISE on SBS VICELAND

At the frontline of Indigenous resistance, Sarain Carson-Fox travels to Indigenous communities across the Americas to meet people protecting their homelands and rising up against colonisation.

RISE screens 9.30 PM THURSDAYS on SBS VICELAND and On Demand


A little over a week ago, the 56-year-old white man who killed the 14-year-old Aboriginal boy Elijah Doughty was found not guilty of manslaughter. According to many people, Elijah's death was justified. You see, apparently Elijah had stolen a motorbike. Yes, the new punishment for alleged theft is death.

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He was riding a bike and this man in his 4WD chased Elijah down and then ran him over. This man, leading up to Elijah's death, was posting racist things online and apparently stalked Elijah. Alas, not murder, not manslaughter. He'll be eligible for parole next February, after being sentenced for reckless driving. You know, like hooning. You know like the boys.

Boys like to hoon. Boys will be boys.

Boys will be boys.

Elijah will always be a boy.

Earlier this week, the trial of Lynette Daley's accused killers started. You might recall Lynette Daley's death. An expose was done on Four Corners last year. You might recall that she was an Aboriginal woman. She died of loss of blood from injuries sustained during what these men say is consensual sex but others say was rape and that she was too drunk to consent. So who knows? Lynette isn't here to tell us what they did to her body. They broke it.

Boys will be boys, hey.

Protestor against the sentence of Elijah's killer. Photo by Ben Thomson

The world is so wild and unpredictable and I don't know if it's because I'm a Virgo but I will always find solace in the lengths this country will go to protect white people. In a world so wild, it is the one thing on which we can depend.

You can call Aboriginal women cash cows on national television. You can paint your face black and keep your job. You can kill a 14-year-old Aboriginal boy and still be found not guilty.

You can kill three Aboriginal children in Bowraville and still not be arrested.

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You can arrest a black man after he calls out to you, "Who let the dogs out?" and you can nearly cleave his liver in two with your knee and get promoted. You can rape a black woman and keep your job, which, incidentally, is working WITH BLACK PEOPLE.

You can call a black woman a junkie when she is dying of septicaemia under your watch, and you can sling her body around and accuse her of lying as she's dying, and keep your job. You can tell Aboriginal boys to suck your dick and keep your job.

You can hog tie black children and place spit hoods over their heads and keep your job. You can massacre black people and keep your job. Fuck, we will erect a statue, name a university, streets, an electorate, a lake after you, remember you fondly, if you massacre black people.

Photo by Ben Thomson

I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make this all to be about you, White Australia. So here are some words for black Australia:

You can quit after months of booing from the crowd because you dare challenge racism or be proud of your culture. You can make a Facebook status after taxi drivers won't pick you up. You can be super famous and the hospital will assume you are drunk. You can be a pregnant black woman and die in a hospital because staff have assumed you are an addict and not give you the treatment you require.

You can wait for the world to care after your town has been ravaged by a cyclone. You can be made to prove your continuing connection to country to the very same people who tried to destroy your connection to country just so you can access your country.

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You can be asked how much free shit you get from Centrelink.

You can have your kids taken and have the department control your life and keep moving the yardstick by which they measure you. You can have your own means of a decent education in the form of having to leave your community to go to a private school in a town thousands of kilometres away in a project that sounds a lot like assimilation.

You can have gross white men on Tinder tell you that you are "hot for an Aboriginal."

You can have your own kind proclaim on national television that they prefer white people. You can have your land stolen, your kids stolen, your culture stolen, and have all of it denied and be expected to cop it all with a smile.

Photo by Ben Thomson

I'm sorry I was meant to get up here and probably tell a nice story. I was probably meant to say something hopeful, but this week I don't feel hopeful. These past few weeks have been a reminder of the cruelty of White Australia—its psyche and its injustice system. I feel sad and I feel mad. I want to scream into the void.

I have imagined setting fire to this black blood-soaked continent. I have imagined shedding white blood. I have imagined a world where white people don't exist, or at least don't exist on my country. I have had panic attacks. I have cried. I've been kept up at night.

As I wrote this I was sitting next to a white man on a plane and I imagined chopping his arm off because he kept taking up my space and called me "lad." I know I'm not alone. Black people all over this country have feelings that we cannot contain.

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I know we are meant to be good and polite and then maybe, just maybe, you will all get it. Maybe, just maybe, if we dress good enough or speak proper enough or live the Australian dream just enough, you'll be nice to us.

Maybe if we have enough HECS or HELP debt, or a mortgage on our own stolen land, you will learn to tolerate us just enough to not kill us. But I don't think anything will ever be good enough for White Australia.

White Australia is white supremacy. White Australia will always defend White Australia.
White Australia locks up people of colour on Nauru and Manus Island, where kids are trying to kill themselves or they are raped or murdered by guards. White Australia is The Bachelor with a cast entirely of white women, who all look the same, no offence.

White Australia is Mia Freedman.

A Kalgoorlie local addresses the Melbourne #JusticeForElijah march. Photo by Ben Thomson

White Australia is pride marches that let the cops come, even though cops kill black people and perpetuate violence towards trans people and queer people. White Australia is reconciliation action plans. White Australia is the Indigenous Advancement Strategy which gave more than 50 percent of its money to non-black organisations. White Australia is the Recognise campaign.

White Australia is white people on morning television talking about whether or not something is racist—the answer may surprise you: It isn't! White Australia is Peter Dutton. White Australia is a jury with no black people on it. White Australia is the Northern Territory Intervention. White Australia is every single parliament.

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White Australia tells people to go back to where they came from.

But I'll tell you what isn't from here: White Australia.

The Macassans have a longer history with this continent than you do. If human habitation on this continent were 24 hours, White Australia has been here for five minutes. Long enough to take a quick dump. Long enough to introduce weeds. Long enough to dry out water. Long enough to have the worst mammal and language extinction in the world. Long enough turn a black population from 100 percent to two percent.

I'll give you that, you are fucking quick.

I wish I could leave this fucking joke of a country. I wish I could go. But this is where I am truly and utterly from. I belong here more than you ever could. I wish you'd all fuck off back to where you came from. I wish you'd get back on your convict boats. But that isn't viable. It'd be a bureaucratic nightmare. So we have to live together. But we will not go quietly into the night.

Black people in this country are galvanising.

I saw a video this week of a young man you tried to destroy—Dylan Voller—at a climate justice summit surrounded by other young black people. And although we can depend on White Australia defending white Australia, you can also depend on black people resisting. We wouldn't be here otherwise.

We are fucking angry and we are fucking connected. We are more connected than ever. We are in your institutions. We are increasingly on your screens. We are taking over the charts. We are literally stopping traffic. We are building our own platforms. We are getting more of your support.

We are talking to each other and you better believe we are plotting the demise of white supremacy.

Thank you.

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