Indigenous peoples and individuals are free and equal to all other peoples and individuals and have the right to be free from any kind of discrimination, in the exercise of their rights, in particular that based on their indigenous origin or identity.United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
As I read Article 2 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), to me, it seems as though it has two parts to it:
- Indigenous people are free and equal to all other people.
- Indigenous people are free from discrimination, in exercising their rights, in particular based on their indigenous origin or identity.
1) Indigenous People are Free & Equal to All Other People
Indigenous people have the right to be free. And Indigenous People are equal to all other people, including you.
This may seem like common sense to you but if the above sentence made you feel a squirm or some sort of tightness in your body, there may be a chance that this isn’t a belief that is embedded within you. Please note, my blogs are not intended to make people feel guilt or shame, there is far too much of that in the world as it is. Let’s just acknowledge that those feelings were experienced and find out why it could be happening.
There’s a possibility you’ve learned this belief from society. Society and social culture play a big part in the unconscious biases and beliefs we have.
Fortunately, no matter how ingrained that belief is, the neuroscience around the plasticity of the brains synapses supports that ‘unlearning’ can, and does occur. Though, for something that goes against the beliefs of the social norm, I’d suggest that it’d require active and deliberate participation in the unlearning process.
All over the world, colonised countries have had political, economical and social systems established that put Indigenous people of that country at a disadvantage. Australia is no exception.
These systems over time actively contribute to the paradigms constructed around Indigenous people (and their perceived status) in all aspects of society as a collective belief of the dominating culture. Essentially, the systems that our country is currently built on and governed by are constructed without Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander input, perspective, culture or kinship in mind. They are destined to create a ‘them’ and ‘us’ mentality, with Aboriginal people generally not ‘fitting’ authentically within those systems unless they are skilled at code-switching or assimilating into whatever is required of that system. These systems often leave Aboriginal people at a disadvantage by displacing them from their land, their families, their community, their language and their culture in general.
These are not systems that Aboriginal people can thrive in. When compared to counterparts from coloniser backgrounds, who occupy a huge majority of government, a huge majority of executive type roles and who occupy the majority of the most wealthiest people in Australia, it’s almost natural to draw the conclusion that Aboriginal people must not be as intelligent, as hard working or as aspirational. Not being seen as thriving in those areas gives a perceived perception that Aboriginal people are lesser than, and also perpetuates the continuing disadvantage faced by Aboriginal people. Not to mention the constant negative images, stories, political propaganda and associations that the News Media and political parties stream to Australians, seemingly without regulation or the requirement of fact checking.
How can Aboriginal people as a whole thrive in these systems that don’t take their social or cultural needs into consideration?
To start creating a fairer, more equal and inclusive society in Australia, supporting and upholding the Aboriginal rights as defined by the UNDRIP and a First Nations Voice as proposed in the Uluru Statement from the Heart will begin the process of decreasing disadvantage within the Aboriginal community.
2- Indigenous People Have the Right to be Free from Discrimination, in Exercising Their Rights, based on their Indigenous origin or identity
Part 2 from Article 2 of the UNDRIP says that Indigenous people have the right to be free from discrimination, particularly based on their Indigenous origin or identity when exercising their rights.
If you read my blog last week on Article 1 of the UNDRIP you would have read that all people of the world have 30 human rights which are outlined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (to read the blog or to see a full list of our 30 humans rights as a global citizen, you can read it here: “Our Human Rights“).
The Indigenous People of the world have the UNDRIP as an accompanying declaration of human rights. Special Rapporteur Professor S. James Anaya summarised the following in his 2008 report.
The Declaration does not attempt to bestow indigenous peoples with a set of special or new human rights, but rather provides a contextualized elaboration of general human rights principles and rights as they relate to the specific historical, cultural and social circumstances of indigenous peoples. The standards affirmed in the Declaration share an essentially remedial character, seeking to redress the systemic obstacles and discrimination that indigenous peoples have faced in their enjoyment of basic human rights.– Professor S. James Anaya
All people have a right to enjoy their human rights without discrimination. The UNDRIP addresses this right. In particular this section of Article 2 focuses on discrimination around the Indigenous origin or identity of that person.
In simple terms, what it’s talking about is racism.
Racial discrimination can present itself in the form of:
- Blatant racism
- Casual racism or…
- Systemic racism
Ok, so let’s flesh these out a little so we can understand some of the types of racism that can (and does) impede on Indigenous people’s human rights. But before we do that, let’s quickly define what racism is. According to the Google definition racism is:
racism /ˈreɪsɪz(ə)m/ Learn to pronounce
prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.Google Dictionary
Blatant Racism is the deliberate and direct racial discrimination in which a person tries to exert their perceived racial superiority over another person, the persons race or the persons racial identity. It is an open and outward expression of a persons bigotry, chauvinism, intolerance and xenophobic tendencies, which are all behaviors that are rooted in fear of difference or change.
Unlike blatant racism, casual racism is an unintentional form of racial prejudice that stems from societal norms. They are racially fueled comments, jokes or image associations that are present within society that are not overtly recognised by the dominating culture as racist.
Often, well intending people participate in casual racism because it’s viewed as socially acceptable within the community as a whole. This acceptance isn’t necessarily by conscious decision making but rather by default of the events and social developments that’ve occurred from settlement until now.
Here are two examples of casual racism.
“How come you made it and the rest of your people can’t seem to get it together?” — Black, 43.
When I was young, my mom told me that black people are less able than white people. When I challenged her, she said that it says so in the bible. I am ashamed to admit this. No wonder why I am an atheist. — White, age 50.For more real life examples of casual racism around the world, check this site out here.
Systemic racism is so harmful to the mental and spiritual well being of an Indigenous person. It absolutely denies that person of their human rights. It’s a latent and constant form of racism that Indigenous people live daily.
Systemic racism is a form of racial discrimination where creating or facilitating disadvantage of a person based on their race is woven through the fabric of the system frameworks, infrastructure and processes. The racial prejudice was built into the systems the society was based on.
Systemic racism is often evident in places like government or big industry where Aboriginal people are under represented. Or in systems like prisons or welfare institutions where Aboriginal people are over represented. They are systems which can either keep people out (or in) based on the lack of inclusiveness, cultural consideration or Aboriginal representation throughout each stage of its conception, design and delivery.
I will leave you with this short clip from Akala on everyday racism / casual racism. Next week I will be blogging about Article 3 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, please follow my blog by clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page. And if you found this blog beneficial in any way, please share it with others so they may benefit from it too.
Until next time, much love joy and peace to you