This text mentions the continued colonial violence in the direction of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals
This week, actress Sam Frost made headlines for the usage of the phrase “segregation” in an Instagram video. Frost, who’s white, spoke emotionally about how her alternative to stay unvaccinated made her really feel “much less of a human” in Australian society.
The video, which Frost has now deleted, refers to New South Wales easing restrictions on journey and socialising. She complains that vaccinated persons are allowed out of lockdown as of October 11, whereas unvaccinated individuals have to attend till December 1.
The put up acquired important critique on social media the place some referred to as it an expression of white privilege.
By invoking segregation to explain what she frames as prejudice towards her vaccination standing, Frost likened her experiences as a white settler with unimpeded entry to free well being care to the violent racial discrimination, incarceration and compelled elimination skilled by Indigenous and migrant communities in Australia.
Feedback like Frost’s display ignorance in the direction of the numerous structural inequalities skilled by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and different marginalised peoples in Australia.
Settlers co-opting language they’ve used to oppress
Frost’s feedback are a part of a pattern of white public figures and officers co-opting language describing racial violence and colonial authorities insurance policies for their very own means.
White settlers are co-opting phrases like “medical apartheid” and “lynch mob”. These phrases are used to explain inconveniences reasonably than the systemic injustices and violence they really consult with.
In 2019, Donald Trump, then president of america, referred to his impeachment inquiry as “a lynching”.
Earlier this yr, a deputy president on the Truthful Work Fee, Lyndall Dean, likened vaccine mandates to “medical apartheid”.
Whiteness within the time of COVID: Australia’s well being companies nonetheless leaving susceptible communities behind
Utilizing phrases like these is controversial not solely as a result of it seems to trivialise the mistreatment of marginalised individuals, but additionally as a result of language communicates energy. That is very true in settler colonial nations like Australia and america. In these international locations, white settlers use language to manage, terrorise and marginalise Indigenous peoples, refugees and migrants.
Settler governments use language to create racial insurance policies, together with the pressured elimination and segregation of Aboriginal individuals. This entailed shifting households off their homelands and onto missions and reserve lands the place many individuals nonetheless stay to today.
So when phrases like segregation are used, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons are reminded what they actually imply. Even when the particular person invoking it is just speaking about having to remain inside.
The pandemic has highlighted privilege
White settlers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples haven’t been impacted the identical by the COVID-19 pandemic. White ladies like Frost be happy to disclaim free, doubtlessly life-saving well being care. Aboriginal ladies with COVID-19, in the meantime, are turned away from hospitals and fined for driving to get groceries.
Racial discrimination and segregation in Australia just isn’t a factor of the previous. Neither lockdown measures, nor the COVID vaccination rollout, have been equal or racially impartial.
Many have famous the variations of lockdown measures throughout suburbs. Western Sydney, which has one of many largest Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and migrant populations in Australia, was closely policed throughout lockdown. Whereas, the prosperous japanese and interior metropolis suburbs had extra relaxed restrictions.
The New South Wales authorities has not prioritised regional Aboriginal communities in COVID-19 plans. In consequence, communities in Wilcannia, Dubbo and Bourke have been topic to lethal outbreaks, slower vaccination charges, and navy presence.
As states and territories start reopening, the degrees of hysteria and dread are rising in these communities – particularly in locations the place lower than 35% of Aboriginal and Torres Islander individuals over the age of 12 are double vaccinated.
That is one cause why Aboriginal well being companies are racing to verify individuals in our communities are getting vaccinated.
Hidden ladies of historical past: Isabel Flick, the tenacious campaigner who fought segregation in Australia
A historical past of medical apartheid
Any vaccine hesitancy in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is comprehensible contemplating the historical past of racialised medical violence in Australia. This contains medical experimentation in “lock hospitals”, the place some individuals by no means returned from.
African-American medical ethicist Harriet A. Washington has researched comparable cases of what she refers to as “medical apartheid” within the US. Washington writes of the way in which western medication each neglects and depends on the abuse of Black and Indigenous peoples.
In Australia, Aboriginal community-controlled well being organisations proceed to answer points brought on by racism in mainstream well being companies. We’re solely simply starting to see how a lot lockdown measures and limitations to accessing well being care have harmed and endangered marginalised communities.
A lot of what we all know up to now is because of numerous journalists protecting occasions as they unfold at ABC, SBS and NITV. There has additionally been grassroots protection from marginalised communities by media retailers equivalent to IndigenousX and Transdemic.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are additionally battling vaccine and COVID misinformation. Commentary from Frost and different Instagram influencers just isn’t solely harmful, but additionally spreads inaccurate narratives of white victimhood.
It’s a privilege to reject life-saving well being interventions whereas others expertise structural limitations to acceptable medical care.
The authors don’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or group that may profit from this text, and have disclosed no related affiliations past their tutorial appointment.