Monday, 22 February 2016



Update Tuesday 23 February 2015, 12.30pm:  This blog post was prompted by a recent incident in Australia.  
Rob Thomas best known as singer/songwriter of Matchbox20 is currently touring. 
He said some things at a concert. It triggered a social media firestorm.  He apologized quickly, twice on Facebook (links included below). That was good enough for me.  
I decided to make some comments of my own. Rob Thomas’s response is also linked below.  
If I had known the page hits to my blog post would be over 30,000 in 24 hours I may have taken longer than an hour to write it, but it is what it is.  Thanks for reading.  

The last time I heard Smooth, it was a Sunday afternoon in January. A cover band was playing at the country pub down on the corner from my house.

It sounded pretty good.  It wasn’t Santana featuring Rob Thomas, but it was kind of awesome to listen while sitting on my verandah. It's a good song.

Smooth was on repeat play in my car for months in 1999 and into the turn of the century.  I know all the words.  My young cousins would hear that song now and say, 'that’s Aunty Siv’s song'.

For that reason - and a growing uneasiness because I couldn’t quite work out what had happened on Saturday night - I decided to take a closer look at the latest outrage flaming across the internet. 

People who know me know I’m a maverick. You wont see me on any outrage trains.  But I can't help but notice them when they are on Twitter.

Anatomy of an Outrage

Melbourne, Australia.  Saturday night.  Rob Thomas had a few words to say while they were sorting out his stage set.  Banter, they call it.
“When you get on the plane on your way here, you start drinking,” Thomas said. “And then I drink until I think I’m Australian. And then I keep drinking until I think I’m a black Australian.”
This is what he said. It is confirmed when you look at the video tape.  He has a great voice.  Clear as day you can hear him say those words.

And that’s when the trouble started.

Accusations of racism and perpetuating negative stereotypes about Indigenous Australians abusing alcohol were being tweeted while he was still in concert, then later that night, over the next day, and now on Monday morning, it’s still going. 

The furore around the remarks has crawled into a Monday, which if anyone who follows Twitter will know, is when the molten core of online outrage erupts.  People are returning to work. If they didn’t catch it on the weekend, they have a perfect water cooler topic to discuss.

And Australia barely goes a month (a week?) without racism being a hot issue.

That’s one way to look at The Incident.

But while you are looking at it, take a look at the video that is available of the night.  So far, I have only found the version that is 18 seconds long.  You may notice that there is booing, cheering and it fades into silence.

Rob Thomas apologised the morning following the concert. He then followed it up in his second apology and clarified what it was that he had actually said, and mentions the words that you don’t hear on the audio recording.

From Rob Thomas’s second apology:
I said I drank until I thought I was Australian. Then I drank so much that I thought I was a black Australian and then I drank so much I thought I was a little Australian girl. These were 3 things I chose at random to represent 3 things I’m not. I’m not Australian. I’m not black and I’m not a little girl. Again, if I had any idea of the stereotype I would have chosen another example. There was absolutely no malice even in jest.
Now listen to the audio again. Hmm, it doesn’t include the reference to the little girl.

Does that change anything?

Well, yes it does.

It changes it significantly.

Now just imagine a different scenario.

Rob Thomas makes some cheerful banter with the audience.  He could have just said ‘Hello Melbourne, so happy to be here’ or “how about them … women cricketers’ or ‘I cant wait to see a koala’.  Lots of things he could have said.

But he chose to make a joke.  I’ve heard variations of that joke before.  I think anyone who has seen a fair amount of comedy would say transformations is a common subject, a rich source for comedy.

And just suppose Rob Thomas’s remarks were self-deprecating.  He was making fun of himself.  And welcoming Australian fans into his show.  And paying homage to Indigenous Australians.

If you think that it is common for visiting musicians up on stage facing their adoring audience – in fact any musicians - to acknowledge Indigenous Australians, you are dead wrong.

If I had been at the venue, I would have got the joke, as soon as I heard ‘little girl’.

And I would have sensed the chk chk boom as people tweeted what they had just heard and it rapidly caught fire on Twitter.  In 140 characters, who has space to include the reference to the little girl? 

There was booing in the crowd.  Black Australia is 3% of the Australian population, so it’s good to hear that the largely nonIndigenous Australians were concerned about what at first appeared to be a blatantly offensive remark.

It wasn’t until Rob Thomas had apologized twice in writing on Facebook that the full story emerged.

And I am choosing to believe him. 

Why wouldn’t I?  He has made a public apology and given a full account of him self.  People would readily dispute his claims, if he hadn’t in fact said what he claimed in his explanation.

So, he hadn’t intended to draw on a racist stereotype, and one that Indigenous Australians have reason to be sensitive about, at all.

But saying he knew Indigenous Australians existed will not be sufficient for some.  I know that. We are so diverse, you are lucky if you can get two people in a room who can agree on what to call us, or how to refer to us.  And that is our right.

For example, I am black.  I am a black Australian. I am other names as well, but black Australian doesn’t offend me one little bit.

How would a visiting musician know the undercurrents specific to Australia's particular brand of loathsome bigotry?

If people in Australia can continue to post photos of themselves in blackface, and claim they didn’t know it was offensive, how does a man from another country have any idea you can’t link alcohol to black Australians without concerns it contributes to ongoing and disastrous repercussions for how we are perceived in our own country?  

Of course, we’d be in the same boat if we travelled to another country.

Take the US for example.  It takes quite some digging to get the nuances of Black American politics.  It’s obvious already from previous intercontinental Twitter wars that there are even areas of dispute between ‘Black' and 'black’ people.

We have quite different approaches to what is known as ‘passing’.  In Australia, our narrative tends to favour the notion that it is a choice whether an Aboriginal person with 'lighter' skin colour accesses their 'white privilege'.  When a person claims they are aware they have it, but don’t access it, they’re rarely challenged.  (This is bound to change in the future, of this I am certain).

But from what I gather – and true, I got it from the internet, so I can't vouch for 100% accuracy, - but the US position is that as far as 'passing' goes, it is not an opt in, opt out situation.  The world issues the pass, whether the recipient wants to access the benefits they automatically receive or not.

A highly contentious issue, with quite different perspectives. 
So why raise it?

Because bringing down the force of ten thousand midday suns on a bloke who didn’t mean to offend, or insult anyone is unfair. It is gravely unfair.  It is way out of proportion to any offence he may have committed.

And because there is no tribunal, no central governing body of commentary, no authorizing agency for black opinion in Australia, no one to sort this out, I am free and feel I need to respond in my own way.

I am not ok with bullying.  I don’t want to be associated with bullying.  I am black….so I can’t escape being associated with the bullying when it is done in black Australia’s name.  People are entitled to their opinion, their hurt and their anger. 

Quite frankly, Indigenous Australians are entitled to be furious all day long.

But unless it is plainly said, the impression is that Aboriginal Australia all think alike.  Of course we don’t.

But even if it is only me, I wouldn’t be my mothers daughter if I was silent.

Now what..what should happen with events like this?

I don’t know what the penalty is for not knowing – and it is an injustice that Australia is not well aware - of the murderous and devastating consequences of settlement.  Or for not having studied over 200 years of bad social policy in Australia, before you decide to tour here.

Is there one?  Or are two apologies, and the courtesy of screening the full audio tape on line and on TV so people can make up their own minds – is that enough to get us past this?

12.56pm Update:  link to FULL VIDEO is here

To be clear, the hurt felt from casual and careless words is real for Aboriginal people.  It is life shortening.  People die from a broken heart.  Intergenerational trauma is an affliction that we have yet to find a cure for.

I am dark skinned so I know discrimination.  I’ve seen the micro aggression that flashes across even the most po-faced stranger.  It has happened millions of times in my lifetime. 

I am treated like I am a bit simple.  You should see how people try and negotiate contracts with me. 

And as per the most recent The State of Reconciliation in Australia Report, only 26% of Australians agreed that Indigenous Australians were held in high regard. 

My interpretation of this dismal finding is, if you do not trust me highly, what is medium trust, or minimal trust? If a person doesn't trust me 'highly', will I get that job I applied for, or the rental property, or the benefit of the doubt?
According to this year's Closing the Gap Report,  unemployment figures are higher now - there are less of us in jobs compared to the average Australian figures - than there were in 2008. 
Some of our more alarming statistics are stalled or going backwards. 
I could tell you these stats all day long, and because I have worked in most states in the country, I know it is Australia-wide.

So, no, I don’t underestimate our despair.

I am from outback New South Wales.  My family were forced to work for little or not pay for generations on sheep stations. We come from an area that was still segregated into the 1970s. 

The biggest thrill in town was to go to the pictures.  Our entrance was on the side, a door in a tall fence.  We walked down to the front and the seats were rows made from deck chair fabric, suspended across two poles.  

We were divided from the other patrons who sat in chairs undercover at the back, with a tuck shop for drinks and candy. When it rained, us up front, we sat in the rain.

My country is the land of the rain dancers.  I remember the rain, but I don’t remember getting any candy. 

And when people talk about the Stolen Generations, I know these stories well because I am from the land where they were stolen.  When a child is removed, their family never stops waiting for them to come home, even after death.

What Rob Thomas said isn't life or death, though he has said he feels very sad about what has happened.   If I went to another country and slipped up, talked about their passing or called them the wrong name, I wouldn’t want to be spread across their online spaces as a bigot and a fool.

Where I come from, until you did us wrong, we gave you the benefit of the doubt.  We already had enough to deal with without looking for more conflict.  And if you said the wrong thing, even when we pointed out the problem, we’d probably tell you to take a good hard look at yourself.

Rob Thomas doesn’t need my words of encouragement, but I’ll say them anyway – welcome to our country and I hope you enjoy the rest of your tour. 

Gimme your heart, make it real 
Or else forget about it


Siv Parker
A black Australian

Siv Parker. thank you so much for this blog. for the history lesson, as well as finding the rest of my "joke" online to...
Posted by Rob Thomas on Sunday, February 21, 2016

For more information about Indigenous Australians see Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies


  1. Hi Siv. An interesting commentary on the event and I agree with you that it's important to put this into perspective with the bigger issues facing indigenous Australians. It is however a very stupid comment for Rob to make. I don't know if he actually said the comment about the Australian girl at the show but regardless, he should be smart enough to know that many people are rightly offended when called "black", whether you're in Australia, USA, UK, South Africa etc. etc. He's travelled the world enough to know this.

    1. Hi Mike, in the US, using terms like White or Black is common when discribing an individual. We use these terms for police reports, college applications, job applications and so forth. Even the news and politics use the term black when referring to African Americans.

    2. Hi, I've got a link to the full video now - a reader was kind enough to pass it on via Twitter.
      The video is 9 minutes long, and includes all his speaking to the audience.

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    4. Oops typo - need to correct a word..

      I refer to my self as black. There have been some people who have tried to introduce new words, but I have always referred to myself as black for over 30 years. It is the word we use out home 'blackfellas' though that is usually a word reserved for black people to use. But black is not offensive. It is problematic for some, if it invites questions of 'but you don't look black' and for others it is a reminder of when the word was used in an insulting way. But I am comfortable with black, and would be distressed if country expressions were erased by people who have moved off the country to the cities.
      There are lots of different names for Aboriginal people and no universal agreement. Increasingly, the word 'Indigenous' is used for official documents, and in social media, it is less characters than the expanded term 'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander'. I'd rather just say 'mob'. It is an informal word but I use it freely on Twitter, in particular.

      The only thing most people will agree on is Aboriginal and Indigenous must have a capital letter. Some media insist on not using capitals but in all cases, I use capital letters for both words.

    5. This is a really interesting discussion! Just had to echo what Nate above said. Here in the US "Black" is the indisputable #1 way people of African descent refer to themselves and how others refer to them. It is 100% polite, acceptable, normal, everyday and not in any way controversial, rude, or racist. In fact it still has the 60s connotation of Black is Beautiful and Black power. ...The most well-known grassroots civil rights group is called Black Lives Matter. Obama is proudly referred to as the first Black president. (One of our nightly comedy shows, hosted by a Black man named Larry Wilmore, has an ongoing sketch "The Unblackening" about the 2016 presidential elections because Obama is leaving.) February commemorates Black History Month. People joke "Oh, sure, give us the shortest month of the year!"..... Black is interchanagble with "African American" but neither is considered superior... And I don't mean any disrespect to the person who thought otherwise, I just wanted to point this out. I know it's different everywhere. I lived in Melbourne for a few months 20 yrs ago and I was so surprised people used the expression 'coloured'....'cuz in the US, no, no, no. LOL....That and Negro are considered backwards/condescending, etc. and racist, like a person still having a segregation era mentality. Of course, any word, if used by a racist can be racist. Its so complicated! Im so glad to know about this blog, though! Thanks! PS: We capitalize Black over here. We also now often call people who are not white "People of color" ....

    6. I can't speak for everyone, but as a black American who grew up in 50s and 60s south, we prefer being called "Black Americans" and not "African Americans". Most blacks in America, do not know who came up with the identity of "African American". No one is ashamed of their African heritage, but Africans (both white and black) from Africa should be the ones called African Americans if they are made citizens of the US. Not the blacks that have been here in America for many generations.

    7. Thanks Beth and Jus visiting for your comments.
      I really appreciate you both explaining the terms to me.
      The problem we have in Australia is there is govt terminology and then different terminology from different regions of Australia. We once had 750 distinct social groupings, the legacy of which is a lot of different preferences for names. Then there are space issues - Twitter is 140 characters, plus who wants to type out Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, every time. then there have been regimes who broadcast their opposition to using any 'government words'.
      There is a whole lot of politics involved. It is confusing for people who don't understand how we organise - we have very well entrenched secrets because we did not have a right to be Indigenous for a very long time. Despite being the most studied peoples on Earth - so they say because we continue to fascinate anthropologists and researchers because we have the world's oldest continuous culture - not a lot is really known about contemporary Aboriginal Australia.

      I was motivated to comment on what happened around Rob Thomas partly when I detected the issue around 'black Australian'.
      I'm guessing someone has cautioned RT that black Australian is an insulting term.
      But it isn't offensive for many of us. In fact, efforts to erase the use of 'black' by a small group are alarming because it has not been well thought out. It can only lead to conflict because our names are what we value, and there has been no consensus sought before, for example, telling touring musicians what he can and can't call us. There is no way to gain consensus, not really. Personally, I don't mind what people call themselves, so long as they don't prescribe their preference as universal terms.

    8. Very interesting about the term ‘African Americans’. I've used that because I've read it in articles coming out of the USA, but just as in Australia, I may read another writer and get a completely different terminology.
      I think I will use Black American from this point on. :)
      We see #BlackLivesMatter often trending - there was a documentary screened here late last year that had a lot of interest.
      I follow a number of prominent Black American writers but it can be confusing working out the cultural references, and I am never really sure when the subject is taboo. What is fascinating is we seem to be 50-60 years behind the US. An Australian social commentator can rehash ideas from a US Black writer from the 60s, and it will look insightful because 'race relations' is still an emerging public debate here. Most of our efforts have been on land rights. Really we have more in common with Native Americans but because of dark skin, we cross over into both movements. That is a clumsy way to describe it, and I apologise for the brevity. But I guess it is another reason why the confusion around names. There is a strong preference to be known by a person's country. But if you don't know where Yuwallaaraay country is, for example, my identifying as a woman from there just tells you I am Aboriginal. And obviously it only refers to me. There are 100s of language groups...
      A visiting US feminist last year made the big mistake of tweeting 'are there any black Australians?' Of course Twitter exploded but it didn't become a media story because it was resolved on Twitter. What she meant was 'are there any black people from the African continent who live in Australia?'

      From time to time, people will ask a question, or say something and it ignites a furious response. More often, the refrain is 'people should know this' or 'how dare they be so insensitive'.
      I think after repeated trips down this road it should be becoming obvious that people don't know. The expectation that people need to educate themselves, about what they don't know, is problematic because sadly, the broader populace are just not that attuned to the feelings of black people. Actively racist, or careless, has the same result in a diminished quality of life for black people.
      The term 'people of colour' POC has entered general usage here in the past few years. I wonder why, perhaps because it is used commonly in the UK and for a long while that is where most immigrants to Australia originated from.
      With so many influences and backgrounds it is no wonder we have so many names.

      I appreciate your insights!! :)

    9. The bit I don't think I've heard reported, but I heard with my own ears, was when Rob said to the audience 'don't be racist' as he thought them booing was racist. Whereas they were booing as they thought he was. I was one that gasped and went ohhh, knowing what was to come sadly. We had all cheered when he said the first part, happy to equate Australians with drinking - is that racist or just a stereotype? But then he continued :-s Nothing about him, or his lyrics - often about black & white people and peace, strike me as racist. Quite the opposite. I believe him when he says how hurt he is by what he said unintentionally. There are ethnocentric people everywhere, for how are they to know unless they're taught or seek out the information. I am going to the next Vic gig at Rochford, and hopefully he is forgiven for a mistake.

    10. This comment has been removed by the author.

    11. It's the 'oohhh', and knowing what is to come that is more destructive than a careless line or casual offence or how ever people choose to describe what happened. There is the whoomp before the outrage detonates. Then the onslaught of opinion pieces, the abuse on Twitter where people can be directly targeted via their personal social media accounts. That burns out of control, dies down, and another incident enflames it again. I've heard people say, 'well people need to stop saying these things so the outrage doesn't ensue'. Well, no body is perfect and outrage attracts a mixed bag of sincere and otherwise responses. I think in this case, the clarification came too late for some to do a uturn. People are entitled to their opinions but not their facts - there should have been an acknowledgement that the video was trimmed at 18 seconds, and the longer version presented a different picture. I know that people may not have liked the second picture either. That is their decision. I am thankful that I get to make up my own mind. :) Thanks for your comment.

  2. Thank you for taking the time to explain your feelings on this. As someone at the concert, I knew that a furore might comeout of the comments the moment he said them but I felt that he wasn't meaning any offense. Some media have written their was wide booing, there wasn't (or at least not from where I was sitting). Some might "blame" the crowd for not being more outraged, but the adhock (due to technical difficulty) piece he was doing didn't seem it was coming from the wrong place.

    Plus the media never playing the "Full piece" with the little girl parts (and wife parts) makes it sound like he was making a joke where the "Black Australian" part was the punchline. So for anyone reading this that didn't hear the full bit, you can get it here (if it doesn't make this comment as spam for having a link. ;-) ):
    All the best!

    1. Agree...I was also there on Saturday night and there was certainly no booing. There were a few groans from the crowd when he said it and them laughs whem he made the comment about being a little girl. I certainly didnt appeciate the joke but understood where he was coming from and in light of the technical difficulties they were having. I think 2 apologies are enough!

  3. Thankyou very much Molly. I have updated the blog as well and included the link. Very much appreciated.
    And yes, I do not think it was meant to be offensive. I know my opinion may be different for others, but I am a fully grown adult, and I am not part of any collective or alliance beyond being a member of a very large family, may of who continue to live on our land and Rob Thomas's words didn't make me think he was diminishing my mob in anyway.

  4. I can attest he definitely said the little girl part in the conversation.

    I thought oh bad choice of words. When booed by some he said dont be racist!

    We need to educate and grow xxx

    I believe it to be just a miss guided words and lack of knowledge. .

    Not sayings its ok . Just saying i dont belive it was intentional xx

    1. Thankyou for leaving a comment. I absolutely agree. I have waited all my life to have these sort of grown up respectful conversations. :)

  5. I also have the recording. But choose not to share it to the media and a like. :)

  6. I was at the concert and know 100% for sure that he meant no malice by his comments. He is a beautiful man with a big heart and I feel for the pain that he is putting himself through by having a slip up. As a "white" Australian I was also proud that much of the crowd did react to the comment too, it shows that we are aware of what is happening with our Indigenous people and we care. Rob forgive yourself, we all had before we event left the stadium. Your show was brilliant.

    1. I was also there and got the impression that Rob thought we were being racist by the few boo's. He is the last person I'd accuse of being a bigot.
      Such a shame to accidentally put his foot in it.

    2. I was also there and got the impression that Rob thought we were being racist by the few boo's. He is the last person I'd accuse of being a bigot.
      Such a shame to accidentally put his foot in it.

  7. So glad somebody finally has stood up for Rob and told the whole story. Now you need to learn to forgive yourself Rob.

  8. Michael - I live in the US (Ohio) and it is very common and not frowned upon to refer to African Americans as "black". Rob was making a joke about himself. I think VERY few Americans know what a "black Australian" is - I had to Google it when I read his heartfelt apology. As a fan I can 100% guarantee he was not being malicious.

    1. I totally agree. I am white, and my family is interracial. My (perfect!) nephew is half white and half black. That is the way it's said, no second thought. I also am American, and had no idea there was this whole sensitive issue in Australia, which means I am also ignorant. If you know anything about Rob Thomas, you know that he is open-hearted towards everyone... as am I. He did right by sincerely apologizing and becoming aware of something new. Because of him, I'm also now aware of this. Please stop this nonsense of him being a racist. It is absolutely 1000% not true!

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  10. Who cares?? People make a big deal out of this !! Move on !! ✌

  11. fabulous article Siv. I hope our press stop now. I can't wait for Rob to return, I'll be front row :)

    1. Thank you for your comment. It's a problem how fast even a misunderstanding can ignite on social media. I think it has subsided now. :)

  12. I'm not Australian Rob, nor was I at your concert when you fucked up, but I want you to know that none of us are perfect. Your music and words are introspective and uplifting. We all need artists like you in our lives. You're quick to beat yourself up. Slow down sir. We still love you. It's not like we've never fucked up before. Chin up sir. Turn that frown upside down and keep being the best.

    1. Yes, exactly. It was just a remark and because it was tweeted and took off it turned into a major event. I hope he is uplifted by his fans and moves on. Really, where I am from, we'd be laughing about this already. :)

  13. i don't know what you do for a living, but you really need to consider going into politics.
    your words are very moving, and i'm so glad to count you as a rob thomas fan. thank you for supporting him so beautifully and eloquently.
    i'm american and can attest that people, on twitter and off, can be bugshit crazy over the silliest thing in the twitterverse. rob will make some silly joke, and next thing i know, he's scrambling to explain something to some witless idiot who took umbrage.
    the human race, the majority, is just a take-umbrage bunch.
    i think i can safely speak for rob fans worldwide when i say, thank you, thank you for your understanding, it is GREATLY APPRECIATED.
    i will happily follow you on twitter, always.
    shelley n kennedy aka
    my cautious angel, @kellygrrrl7379 on twitter.

  14. Hi Kelly,
    Thankyou! I write for a living. :) Different mediums, fiction and commentary, website content and now I am working on some scripts as well. And now have been invited to do some writing with a local theatre company.
    He is a traveller. I am from the country and we have a long tradition looking after travellers, especially if they are lost or in trouble. :)
    Rob Thomas has a lot of fans who seem to have been inspired to be absolutely lovely. I didn't expect such warm and friendly feedback, so I feel very lucky now.
    Thankyou so much for your kind words - I appreciate them. :))

  15. Thank you for your piece. I was also there on Saturday night. He meant no malice, I knew what he was trying to joke about.... It was that he felt that he is part Australian because he has been coming here for 20 years and loves the place. I hope he continues to tour here and love this beautiful country.

  16. Thank you Siv I have spent yesterday and today defending Rob. I was there, I have a full recording/video of the incident. He truly believed we were being racist with our response to his use of the words black Australian and when he finished the joke which was at himself I was aware he never intended to insult anyone at any time whether that be white, black, alcoholic or little girls. He apologised straight after the show once made aware of how it was interpreted and our Australia history. Many wouldn't have, until it hit the fan and some not even then, so that in itself shows what kind of human he truly is

  17. Thank you. :) I know people who have been here for several generations but have never met an Indigenous person, and know very little history. There is also a large blindspot to Indigenous sensitivities. There was another incident of 'blackface' in the past couple of days. I have lost count how many times Twitter, Facebook and opinion pieces have flared up over blackface in the past year. So even 'online outrage' is not penetrating the national consciousness.
    So I look for other ways. Thank you for you comment. :)

  18. This was an interesting read. On first media reports - thank-you sunrise and newcomau the audio was trimmed and did not explain the full context of what Rob Thomas was saying. The full audio makes more sense and I'm not going to suggest to anyone what they want to be called - but as someone who has travelled the world people do use words that we find offensive and likewise I am sure is the same. I have followed RT on social media for years and he has always come across as someone very grateful and humbled by his success, someone trying to hold it together for his wife - who seems to have been ill for the last decade - someone who crusades for animals - and someone who supports other artists. Every single day he promotes someone else's song. Every. Single. Day. See you next week Mr Thomas. Thank-you Siv Parker

  19. It's quite a long read but I felt if I was going to comment, it would be useful to explain why I wasn't offended, and give some background to the complexity of Indigenous diversity.
    It also puts this whole matter in perspective and giving RT the benefit of the doubt was the reasonable thing to do.
    Thankyou for your comment. :)

  20. Thank you for posting this, and believing RT. It was also on the news in the US this morning to which the media left out certain parts as to make him out to be racist. He is far from it. He is a true humanitarian as is his wife. As a true RT MB20 fan it makes me feel TERRIBLE for him as well as his bad joke. But I loved reading this and now we are all aware.

    1. It's disappointing to hear that certain parts are still being left out in media stories.
      I'm glad I posted some of my thoughts now because I get frustrated when I see media beatups, where I wonder just how sincere people are in their outrage, or if all that 'angry face' activity will have the stated intent of reducing racism or what ever the principle is that the person at the centre of the media firestorm is being roasted over.
      Writing as an act of 'doing something' makes me feel less like a bug on a spinning ball.
      I am a writer, but I am a black Australian. We're a diverse lot. People like me are in a small demographic, simply because we have lower life expectancy than the general population and generations of migration to cities has also brought changes.
      People like me, older, strong ties to our country, with memories of the old ways and having been exposed to traditional storytelling from our old people, are not really designed for the younger version of black activism. Outrage doesn't suit our storytelling or our knowledge systems for a very simple reason: it is not healthy either for a person, for the perpetrator or the receiver. Modern medicine tells us what the effects of stress are on the body. Aboriginal people already knew that, for thousands of years. A storyteller needs to tell a story that protects themselves and educates and entertains the listeners. It doesn't mean we give a sanitised account of our existence and avoid insisting on justice, it means we are smarter about how we interact with people. It's clear that messages of caution and condemnation, delivered and heard under pressure, have little impact. Here in Australia, we haven't managed to eliminate 'black face'. No one yet has given, as far as the general populace is concerned, a compelling enough reason cease this abhorrent practice. Pockets of the population are still oblivious to the sensitivities, or determined to ignore them. In fact, I'm now seeing examples of people intellectualising or appealing to people's 'common sense' - yes really - for why blackface is 'not so bad'.
      Black activism here runs from civil disobedience and disruption, to capturing hearts and minds, and everything in between. My goal is that observers know we can't use only one tactic - it would be impossible because we are all made differently.
      A 25 year old trying to emulate me would look like they were wearing an ill-fitting suit. And I have no desire to look like the world's oldest hip hopper.
      I can't see how lambasting someone for ~25 words spoken during a music concert changes the world. But the outrage will fly around the world.
      Thankyou for your comment. I appreciate it. :)

  21. I don't hear what he said as being racist at all. A lot of black people I know (self included) actually like Rob Thomas, where we first saw him singing Smooth on Carlos Santana's CD, but where i really liked him was on Real Time with Bill Maher. This guy is not racist.

    1. It's a funny old world. If someone had told me at New Years that I would spend several days thinking and writing about Rob Thomas I would have been VERY surprised. Yet here I am. I loved Smooth. I was a Santana fan from way back and Matchbox 20 had some good songs.
      I am beginning to think that even with a dictionary definition to point people in the same direction, the word 'racism' is still causing a lot of confusion. How I come at it is, did he intend to be nasty towards my people? No. Did some people think he was? Possibly. Am I upset about what he said? No, I have heard a lot worse. Do I think it energises people who discriminate and persecute black people? Not really, those people are fuelled by an inner hate, something is broken inside them. Was this an example of appropriating a black life without acknowledging the suffering that goes with it? I think it goes to the measure of a person. Does that person elevate people in other ways? Are they sensitive and contrite when some point out their concerns? I remain firmly convinced that being mentioned at a concert, in what was intended as a friendly overture, is an attitude that lightens my load.
      Thanks for your comment. :)

  22. Yaama Siv,

    Very interesting read. I am from up your way too. A Kamilaroi woman or as my old people say Gomeroi woman. I also don't object to being called black. Seems you are a fan of Rob Thomas and his music. I will be meeting up with him to take some photos and have a yarn at his Opera House gig. Want to pass on any messages?

    Barbara McGrady (photojournalist)

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  24. Well written post but you've made an error , either you've misphrased the statistic or miscomprehended its meaning, I don't know which one it is because I couldn't find the original statistic quoted. The statistic quoted is "only 26% of Australians agreed that indigenous Australians were held in high regard" You then stated "simply put,74% of Australians don't trust aboriginal people" . So did you misphrase the 1st statistic or miscomprehend it ? I'm not being a smartass or pedantic its just that I think its an important statistic if you have only misphrased it.

  25. Thankyou! I've checked it and realise now that I have linked that data to the wrong report, which was released the same week as the PM tabled this years Closing the Gap Report.
    The information came from here::
    Reconciliation Australia Report: The state of reconciliation in Australia
    "Trust between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians is low. Only 26 per cent of the general population believe trust towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is high."


    My interpretation of that is, if you do not trust me highly, what is medium trust, or minimal trust? If a person doesn't trust me 'highly', will I get that job, rental property, or the benefit of the doubt?
    Or 26% believe we are held in high regard, but the remaining 74% weren't too sure, even though 'they' themselves did?
    Rather than confuse anyone, I will take one line out.
    Thanks so much for picking me up on that. I appreciate you asking me because now I can link it to the right report. :)

  26. I posted about this blog entry on my facebook page.

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  28. Hi Shelley-Lynne,

    Thanks for sharing my blog.

    When I joined Twitter in 2012, I found it confusing to read some tweets because the content sounded very familiar, but then I'd find that the story was about First Nations People in Canada. A good indicator of this was in Australia, we capitalise the a 'Aboriginal'. A tweet out of Canada uses 'aboriginal'.
It is also interesting to find (comments above) that in the US, they write 'Black American" whereas in Australia, we've tended to use 'black' and the more common expression, 'blackfellas' (which is Aboriginal English for 'black fellows' - Aboriginal English is a really interesting subject and I'm excited to see the emerging research being done around it now).

Last year, an Australian dictionary proffered a suggestion that 'black' was falling from use in favour of another word. I won't use that other word here - these ideas gather traction every time a word is used, it becomes a bigger thing that it is.
    I don't know how a dictionary is able to measure what words are in frequent use, but I am sure there is a program for that. Because of the internet, Indigenous Australians voices can now be heard unfiltered and as often as we put it out there. But we have very little control over a dictionary. I know this because I contacted them. Their response was they could see a new word was emerging. I am sceptical about their sources - for such a monumental change, there has to be more to it than simply running a program on a computer, and if not, is it just a few black voices, or even one that confirmed this amendment? Of course I am intrigued by the dictionary's motivation to do this.
    Aboriginal Australians are entitled to define ourselves for ourselves. We are a small number, spread across a vast country. There are lots of names Aboriginal people use. I have never seen the problem with having different names. Who says to an Italian person, 'look this is really confusing, couldn't we just call you European?'
    Discarding 'black' was an alarming and deeply distressing idea to me - people are entitled to call themselves what they prefer, but regardless of their political agenda or creative practice, they cannot erase the words that take me home, the words that I and many others continue to use. 

    'Black' was partially what triggered my response to the Rob Thomas issue. Much of my work is to write the black Australia that I know.
In the future, if a researcher looks back, they may note, that there was a push to have 'black' disappear from the dictionaries in 2015. We - blackfellas - are not gone yet. I write like I am being chased and need to get the words down while I run, but now I feel an even more urgent need to write us into the pages of this country. I am not negotiating 'black'. This is my final word. 

    Thanks for reading. :)