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Greer maintains rage of racists

By Marcia Langton - posted Thursday, 21 August 2008

Racism and the highly evolved strategies that some white Australians use to dismiss, obstruct and trivialise Aboriginal people are like a virus: just when you think you have inoculated yourself against it, another version of the attack hits you when you are unprepared. Germaine Greer's astonishing attack on me in her slight essay, On Rage, struck me as one of these mutant attacks.

It is a cleverly disguised but nonetheless racist attack on Aboriginal people. Some will find this conclusion shocking, but let me explain.

First, the attention-seeking behaviour of Greer and her publisher is not helpful. She and her media entourage should stop baiting Aborigines for a response to her essay. Most of us are too busy with tasks of much greater significance for the wellbeing of the Indigenous people of this country.


We are trying to ensure a dignified future for Aboriginal children. This goal is not one that interests Greer in the least, as her essay abundantly demonstrates.

Noel Pearson and Hannah McGlade's responses are correct. Perpetrators of violence and abuse should take responsibility for their behaviour. We are not in the mood for failed leftist excuses for the rising levels of homicide, femicide and suicide.

During the course of her little treatise on rage, Greer lays out some of the evidence of the crisis of alcohol and drug abuse, violence and suicide in the Australian Indigenous population, albeit in a crude fashion. Then she attaches to this medley of statistics a few notes from randomly selected anthropological studies and proposes a universal theory of hunter-gatherer society patterns of violence. This is the foundation of what she calls black male rage.

We proceed then to a 1970’s style argument attributing the causes of Aboriginal male alcohol and drug abuse, violence (especially against women and children) and the misery of their condition to a string of slogans used in the many Aboriginal street marches of the past 40 years (while Greer was abroad).

These sweeping generalisations concerning invasion, genocide, stolen land and so on explain, she suggests, the humiliation of the Aboriginal male. And it is this past, Greer asserts, that fuels their inherent tendencies to rage and violence. This is a circular argument, one that marshals evidence to support a preconceived proposition.

Finally, citing a short newspaper article rather than the much longer published version of my article "Trapped in the Aboriginal reality show" in the Griffith Review, her astonishing conclusion is that I will be condemned by Aboriginal men for contributing to their further degradation following the final racist triumph of the Northern Territory emergency intervention.


In relation to this last point, she is only partly correct. Most Aboriginal women who have been victims of the anarchy and violence now endemic in some sections of the Aboriginal population welcomed the intervention.

Most of the objections to it, from men as well as women, concern the land leasing arrangements for township areas.

There are Aboriginal men who have vilified me publicly, but not one of them lives in the Northern Territory, and all of them have a vested interest in the old order that permitted violence against women and children without any proper interventions by the police, the courts and other responsible agencies.

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First published in The Australian on August 19, 2008.

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About the Author

Professor Marcia Langton holds the foundation chair in Australian Indigenous studies at the University of Melbourne.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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