Features Australia

Brown on white guilt

27 June 2020

9:00 AM

27 June 2020

9:00 AM

I can’t sleep because of the guilt. I have not been able to do so since I was 16. That was in 1956, the year when University High School performed Enduring as the Camphor Tree as our school play. I played the demanding role of Shen Lo, a Chinese merchant involved in palace intrigue and protecting his daughter from some nameless horror, a bit like having a Mandarin lesson from Kevin Rudd. I wore a straw hat and flowing robes and shuffled around like Mickey Rooney, saying ‘Ah, so’ and ‘Velly lice’. But when I reflect on this scene after 64 years, it is humiliating and embarrassing to think that the whole ensemble, including me, were engaged in a nasty piece of racist abuse of the Chinese in the same way that I would be smearing our black American brothers today by singing ‘Pardon me boy, is that the Chattanooga Choo Choo?’ Anyway, I apologise for my appalling indelicacy and I promise to spend the rest of my shameful life making amends for that racist exhibition of 1956.

The first step in my rehabilitation has been to see participants in the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in a far more favourable light. If the truth were told, I had tended to be on the other side of that sort of argument over the years and I actually loved Gone With the Wind and hated Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and my favourite book was Tintin in the Congo. But having spent some quality time examining the campaign to destroy racist, colonial statues and monuments of the past, I have become an enthusiastic convert to that noble cause. Until then, I had naively thought that if the Aboriginals were entitled to have their culturally significant sites preserved and protected, why can’t we have statues and monuments to recognise our own heroes, without their being destroyed, vandalised and covered in graffiti? I have come to realise, however, that that is an antiquated view, fashioned by the evil, subconscious racist disposition and colonialist prejudice that infects us all. So I have had what you might call a conversion on the road to Dandenong and I am now a passionate born-again advocate of knocking down and destroying all the racial, imperialist symbols that link us with our evil past. (Note to Ed. First cab off the rank should be to rename that racist rag Flat White as Flat Black).

Take, for example, one of the prime candidates for removal and destruction, the statue of Cecil Rhodes. Frankly, it should be torn down and smashed to smithereens. What did Cecil Rhodes ever do for us? It is all very well for right-wing reactionaries, neo-imperial apologists and fascist lickspittles to say that he created new countries, started mines and industries, created millions of jobs and did more for education than any other human being of his time. So what? At heart he was an imperialist and white supremacist and should be the first to go.

More importantly, the African continent is replete with many, far more inspiring leaders and champions than Cecil Rhodes and it is they who should be beatified in statues and plaques that could become rallying points for the lofty ideals and achievements that they represent. Look at what Robert Mugabe, a true hero of the Left, did for the black man. For instance, in public health; while the rest of the world has struggled to lose weight, the people of Zimbabwe have found it easy. As the well-known philanthropist, activist and celebrity Maria Carey put it: ‘Well, I would like to be skinny like that, too’. Moreover, Robert avoided public waste by having only one political party and no elections. He brought nations together into international brotherhood by employing North Korean army consultants to counsel his wayward citizens. His mastery of the economy put our miserable efforts to shame; we struggle to get our sluggish inflation rate up to 1 per cent. Mugabe achieved 319.4 per cent! And what other genius could issue the $100 trillion banknote to buy a potato?

And there is no shortage of other heroes of the people who are well in line for statues to replace racists like Rhodes, imperialists like Churchill and those vile Australian slave traders. Take Fidel Castro, another statesman who never wasted public money on elections. He revolutionised medicine by sending everyone to Miami, reduced the cost of education by teaching people only the things that were good for them and freed his country from the scourge of foreign investment. And he had his priorities right; values, he said, were far more important than food, shelter and clothing.

Mao Tse-Tung is a true hero of the people and definitely deserves a statue. He has been wickedly defamed by the false narrative that 80 million people were starved to death in the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. But research at the Wuhan Polytechnic Centre for Truth has shown that it was only 40 million. Absolute tops! Then there was his handmaiden Che Guevara, whose cultivated beard and dishevelled hair became a symbol of more lost causes than Saint Jude. Where would revolutionaries, Hollywood celebrities and the fashion industry have been without him? Jimmy Carter, too, showed what love and turning the other cheek could do in negotiations with Iran. And Gough Whitlam, as opposed to slavery as Wilberforce, knew the people of the Baltic states really wanted to be incorporated into the Soviet Union as he decreed.

Finally, I am working on my latent misogyny, so I am inviting three enlightened women to join our long march to the new dawn of anti-racism, with statues to match the charm , modesty and inclusivity of all three: Greta Thunberg, Hillary Clinton and Sarah Hanson-Young. I just hope that we ditch Cecil Rhodes and his racist and colonialist fellow travellers and build worthy memorials to the real heroes of the people. Only then, will I shed my hideous shame.

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