As a fair skinned Aboriginal, I have been at the forefront of racism. Anita Heiss “Am I black enough for you” speaks volumes to how I am treated by society (as a generalisation). What saddens and hurts me more is when our own people judge us and try and tear us down. The tall poppy syndrome is alive and well. As my friend and colleague Kristal Kinsella-Christie says “it’s the crabs in a bucket syndrome, when the crabs at the bottom pull back the ones trying to escape.” What causes it? I do not know? Ignorance, jealousy, greed… all of the above?
Lateral violence can also be referred to as intra racial conflict. It is the use of destructive behaviours to have power and control or manipulate another person. It is also described as ‘internalised colonialism’ R Frankland and P Lewis, Presentation to Social Justice Unit staff, Australian Human Rights Commission, 14 March 2011.
Indigenous women experience multiple layers of discrimination, just like women from other marginalised groups, including those with disabilities, who are refugees or identify as LGBTQI. We are also extremely resilient.
Resilience is the courage to not let your mistakes or battles define your journey. Someone once put it to me, it’s falling down seven times but getting up eight. To me it’s being able to face a battle, remain professional, passionate and ethical whilst working at being an agent of change.
We need to start supporting each other. Collaborating rather than competing. Owning our cultural space and eliminating jealousy. Whilst fractured we cannot have a strong voice, but united we are unstoppable.
It is important to point out that lateral violence is not holding people accountable for breaching protocols or doing the wrong thing. That is in fact having the courage to call out poor behaviour and show that it is not accepted, because the behaviour you are willing to walk past, is the behaviour you are willing to accept.
Addressing lateral violence will require significant courage, goodwill and determination. But it will have a positive impact on the mental health of individuals and the associated impacts and pressures of their families and support systems.
As a multidimensional First Nations woman, I applaud and thank those who went before me and their fight for social justice and equal rights. Thank you for allowing me to stand on your shoulders. Thank you for the confidence to lean in, take a risk, ask for help and step up to the challenge. Thank you for your sacrifices.
And to my fellow First Nations brothers and sisters, let’s work together. Let’s unite. Let us support, guide and encourage one another for our own economic empowerment, self-determination and cultural acceptance.
Imagine if people practiced lateral kindness instead of lateral violence... how powerful would a unified voice be!