I live in a town in Central Australia, a racially diverse community, with a large Aboriginal population.

A white person like me, with progressive anti-racist friends, could choose to try and fool myself into believing that the different races, cultures are living side-by-side more-or-less in harmony. Nobody would deny there’s inequality, poverty, social problems – but we’re all working to fix those historical issues, right?

Wrong. This is a racist town. Perhaps not more or less racist than the next, but any racism is too much.

The racism is here all the time, built into the structures and culture of the place, part of the daily lives of Aboriginal people.

But there have been some recent local incidents which have brought the racism out into the open, got people talking about it.  In July, a young Aboriginal man was murdered by five white men. One charming local man responded to this by producing and selling white power t-shirts. Most recently, a cross erected in memory of the murdered man was  burned.

It takes the really ugly stuff which finally gets us privileged, well-meaning white folks to do something.

A couple of weeks ago there was a community announcement in the paper signed by over 300 locals offering support to the Ryder family and denouncing the racist acts.

Yesterday there was a community speakout against racism. A group of black and white people got together to talk about racism, the recent attrocities, as well as the more ingrained, long term structural stuff.

It was a powerful event. The kind of thing this town has needed for a long time. Bringing it out in the open.

And it was just a start. More is planned.

All of this has made me thing about how to introduce race and racism to Wren. We have not spoken about race yet and there’s a part of me that would like it to stay that way. But it’s becoming more apparent that it is something that can’t be ignored. I love the way he has no (obvious) prejudices now: he plays happily with kids of any colour, smiles at the homeless people in the mall. But no doubt he has noticed differences in skin colour, and over time some significance will become attached to that. It must be spoken of.

He came to the speakout yesterday. There were lots of kids. He was too interested in the balloons to pay any attention to what was being said. But for me, it was important that he was there.

I could try to keep him in a privileged cocoon, pretending there’s no such thing as race. But if he was another colour, it would be a different story. And it wouldn’t be right, not in the long term. If he is to understand the place where he is growing up, the experience of the black kids here, it must be spoken of. If any of us are to address our ingrained racism and privilege, it must be spoken of.

Arwyn at Raising My Boychick has just written an excellent post about the problems with colour-blindness and talking about race with children. She says it all better than me and I love her for it.

Also, I just read her link to this fascinating article, which really shows how trying to get rid of racism by ignoring it just DOES NOT WORK.

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