Thursday, September 30, 2010

White is the new black

My friend Leonie visited last night, though really, I don't know why anyone would want to expose themselves to this virus, it's absolutely horrible. As I write this I feel that I'm on the mend because my temperature broke during the night and I'm greatly improved this morning.
I should give a bit of a plug for the current exhibition ~ Video: Art from the archive being held at Faculty Gallery, Art & Design Building, Monash University as Dr Leonie Cooper was one of the curators. Works on display are by Sadie Benning, Bonita Ely, John Gilles, Bruce Nauman, Luis Valdovino, Wendy Vasulka and Geoffrey Weary. What a pity that the catalogue essay has been printed in 8 point ~ it will be a real struggle for me to read it.

On an entirely different note, I've been following with interest the fallout from Andrew Bolt's blog entitled 'White is the new Black' in which he argues that many people are being opportunistic when it comes to declaring their aboriginal heritage ~ no matter how distant. See:

and the following, which outlines how offensive some people thought his comments.

I think that these conversations go to the issue of authencity and how 'real' aboriginals are determined. I personally believe that it is the indigenous community who should decide, given they are more likely to know whether that person has been involved in their culture. However, having said that, the Australian Council uses the following critera in determining whether the applicant is indeed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander:

In defining Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identity, the board uses a definition that combines three elements: descent, identification and acceptance. An Aboriginal person or Torres Strait Islander is defined as someone who is of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, identifies as an Aboriginal person or Torres Strait Islander, and is accepted as such in the communities where he or she lives or comes from.
My experience working with Indigenous students is that many are concerned about not being 'black' enough, which is usually a reference to the color of their skin. They have taken on the anxiety of authenticity, meaning that they worry that they have opportunities lacking for their darker skinned counterparts in remote areas of Australia ~ people that they perceive as 'pure' aboriginals. What I think is being expressed here is dissociation of identity and culture, in which fair skin becomes not only an external signifier of genetic adulteration and cultural formation, but it is a powerful visual reminder of being separated from an original ontology. And there is such a huge divide; aboriginal people from remote areas don't have the same opportunities for education, employment, housing and social services as those of mixed genetic identity who live in large cities, so perhaps the issue is not why do light skinned people of aboriginal descent get funding and other kinds of assistance, but how can we, as a nation, ensure that aboriginal people in rural areas are given equitable opportunities. What might we do to address the health issues, the infant mortality rate, drug and alcohol abuse, lack of employment and suitable housing opportunities?

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