I hadn’t spent much time thinking about Donald Trump until he was elected President of the United States. Now that he has, I feel moved to write a response to him and his “movement” as an Aboriginal person.
Since the British settlers arrived and founded the United States of America it has always been, for them and their descendants, a prosperous nation. A nation held up as a shining example of “liberty” and “democracy”.
But all over the “white” world the great liberal democratic experiment of the last 500 years is coming to an end. White people have culturally and militarily dominated the planet during that time—the colonial era. Many of them have become accustomed to affluence and the world being shaped in their own cultural image.
However, those previous certainties are vanishing and the American white working-class doesn’t seem to like it. They don’t particularly care that other groups suffer or have suffered for long periods of time—since 1788 for some of us—but now that the old colonial world model is ending they aren’t prepared to take it anymore.
They’re angry. So they are “taking back” and “reclaiming”.
Well, their “country” apparently. But all the “white” countries are either colonial thefts (USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, etc) or have become used to an artificial national lifestyle based on colonial plunder and largesse (United Kingdom, France, etc).
Now the rest of the world is catching up and is no longer willing to be exploited anymore. The 500 year-old European colonial “party” is ending.
As it ends, some settler states such as Australia are looking toward their Indigenous population to help approve of their legitimacy as they can no longer justify appealing only to the “manifest destiny” of white superiority. These states were founded upon the racist notion that the original inhabitants would somehow vanish.
Thankfully, we didn’t. So the settler state now wishes to “reconcile”.
These ideas of reconciliation in Australia, whilst ostensibly noble in their intent, are flawed. The reason I, and many other Aboriginal people, are sceptical of them is for the simple reason that within a colonial democracy the state is made in the image of the coloniser. It continually fulfils the task of colonising the Indigenous population.
Reconciliation is also flawed because there was no initial conciliation in Australia. The colonisers just barged ahead… “discovered”, drew up plans for invasion, invaded, stole, raped, murdered, imprisoned (in missions and prisons), attempted forced assimilation, constructed a nation-state (Australia) based on all these previous things and—lately—have wanted to smooth over all these past wrongs with a quick “sorry about all that—will you please sign here that you’ve forgiven us”.
Indeed, the reconciliation movement (or what the late Chicka Dixon called the “kiss and make up mob”) starts from the basis that we should all be able to “get along”. The problem with this thinking is that it requires Aboriginal people to “get along” under a system not of our own making in which our culture is not central.
For a practical example of this, of how much Australia really cares about Aboriginal people… consider that there is not one public holiday to honour Australia’s Aboriginal culture, people or past. Not one. All the Christian festivals (culturally European) get days. ANZAC Day is a holiday, the various “foundation” days when the colonies were set up are honoured, Invasion day is “celebrated” and, most cruelly, the symbol of British rule—the chief coloniser herself—the Queen, has a Birthday set aside.
But no day for Aboriginal people. Not even NAIDOC, the great day of resistance. Nothing.
That’s Australian (white) culture for you. In practice.
But back to America for a moment.
The US election was all about race. Just as in Australia, race exposes the deep wound at the core of the American settler project. This election result was the “White Lives Matter” response to 8 years of a black president.
It split America right down the middle.
Looking at the voting map in America shows the west coast and North-East as democrat and everywhere else (pretty much) republican. As long as the union holds together this split doesn’t seem so important.
But new questions now emerge, such as: What do settler states like the United States of America, and Australia, actually stand for if not for race and the supremacy of European whiteness upon which they were founded?
If the settler states have changed markedly in the past 100 years from colonial European land grab experiments in settler white supremacy, then what have they changed to? Their institutions have not changed much in that time. They were set up in a white supremacist mindset for white people and continue largely unaltered from that period.
This is the gap in European settler history Donald Trump has neatly entered: “Let me restore calm by reasserting the old certainties of whiteness/greatness”.
Where does this leave Indigenous people?
Without being able to change these national settler institutions themselves, looking on as outsiders, refugees in their own countries, Indigenous people must ultimately look to their own systems of governance to run their own institutions and communities.
This is ultimately the certain future for Aboriginal people on the “Australian” continent—secession and statehood.
The election of Trump, Brexit and the rise of political movements like One Nation, “Reclaim” and “Recognise” in Australia mean trusting that a just reconciliation will happen is unrealistic. The colonial state is set up for the coloniser.
In Australia the constitution was written by the very same people who wrote the White Australia policy.
This is the same constitution Aboriginal people are being told only needs a few minor tweaks to be an inclusive and culturally representative document.
It certainly does represent a culture—the colonial European Invader culture. It validates their invasion and legalises their theft.
It must be rejected at every turn by Aboriginal people. It was never in our mobs interests. In fact it was written to actively diminish us.
What, then, are Aboriginal people to do? What do we want?
We want sovereignty.
Just like we always had, have always had. It is given to us by our ancestors who created this country. And we will have it back, politically, in the future.
Article 3 – Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
Article 4 – Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means for financing their autonomous functions.
Practical sovereignty means the creation of our own institutions and our own state. Because the Australian state does not value Aboriginal culture. Never has. If it did none of our precious sacred sites would be continually desecrated. It simply is not possible for Australia to obtain Aboriginal cultural understanding because Australia is a European colonial state.
And that’s OK… as long as we don’t have to be a part of it and Australia respects our sovereignty. Better to be respected as an equal full nation state sharing a continent than be a fourth or fifth order concern to 97% of the population within a single nation state—the self-same settler majority which has just delivered the Presidency to Trump.
When Aboriginal people run our own institutions Australia will respect us in a way they don’t at the moment. Our own University, Governments, Police, Correctional Facilities (no more Don Dale), Schools, Housing, Cultural Sites, Courts, Child protection, etc. Compare this to our current institutions which are being “mainstreamed” by the white ministers in charge of them who are alien from our culture and understanding. We are ultimately not important to them because they are disconnected. Which is just another way of the colonising state invading all over again.
How do we achieve our own nation-state?
Through a condominium between us and Australia. Two equal sovereigns sharing the one continent. We finally get control of our culture and people back and they get legitimacy through our approval of their settler state, something they have never asked us for. This is the true basis for a meaningful treaty.
This is not “apartheid” as some Australians would claim. Apartheid was about one race dominating and subjugating another. Condominium means sharing a continent in peace as respectfully equal partners.
Indigenous people all around the world face a difficult time presently because of the very same recolonising forces which white Americans voted for based on racism and fear. Our sisters and brothers in America need our support. They are strong, like us they have survived invasion and genocide.
I dream of the time when Indigenous people will have control of our nations to follow what our ancestors taught us about living the right way within culture on country. For this reason I’m not thinking about Donald Trump’s recolonising madness too much, because he can’t stop us regaining our rightful sovereignty. Only we can.