Strategies to Face Adversity: Enduring

Aboriginal people have endured, tolerated or suffered past government policies and racism in society.   

“I feel my sister and I are more empowered than my parents and grandparents ever were. They tended to endure and cope with the adversities they faced. They put up with the terrible treatment dished out to them. They allowed white people to walk all over them. They were submissive and even today my mother believes everything a white person tells her.”

rsz_2007_0116walpole0104The word ‘endure‘ was used occasionally by some participants, but most used the word ‘suffer‘, which has a similar meaning to endure. Another word used by some participants was ‘tolerate’. Other terms used throughout the interviews were ‘put up with’, ‘accept’ and ‘allow’.

Many Aboriginal people endured under past government policies. Prior to 1967, they had no rights, as they were not considered citizens of this country. Many participants spoke of these times explaining how their parents and grandparents endured these hard times as a way of surviving.

For most, it was during a time when government policies were fully enforced and many Aboriginal people felt oppressed and disempowered. It was easier to endure or put up with adversity, go along to get along and survive. Some participants discussed how their parents and grandparents endured many adversities:

“The only thing I found hard was watching them both just accept any treatment from white fullas. I used to get angry, so angry my blood used to boil.

Dad he always thought of the white people he used to work for. He used to tell my brothers, ‘Don’t go fighting with them, I have to work for their father tomorrow. Just go along with them, don’t rock the boat.’ Yeah, my poor old dad, he suffered a lot just to survive. He would suffer the name calling and the put downs ignoring what people said.”

One female participant spoke of her time spent at school and the racism she suffered. Her parents and grandparents accepted racism as a part of life and their way of dealing or coping with racism was to ‘put up with it'; they obviously felt disempowered to do anything about it:

“I found it hard at school with the racist taunts. My parents’ and grandparents’ favourite word was ‘tolerate’. Mum would always say, ‘You just have to tolerate it’, or gran would say, ‘Put up with it and they will get sick of teasing you.’ I personally couldn’t see why I should have to tolerate racism and I wouldn’t if I could help it.”

Another female participant explained how her parents and grandparents endured and coped with many adversities. However, like many other participants, she believed that her sister and she were more empowered than their parents and grandparents, since they do not just endure or cope with adversity today:

“I feel my sister and I are more empowered than my parents and grandparents ever were. They tended to endure and cope with the adversities they faced. They put up with the terrible treatment dished out to them. They allowed white people to walk all over them. They were submissive and even today my mother believes everything a white person tells her.

I always say sarcastically in my mother’s presence, ‘If you’re white you’re right.’ It is bad of me to do this, but I just get so angry and it’s so frustrating. The worst part about all of this is I know they suffered and put up with all of this in order to survive. And yes they survived a horrible part of our history. I want more. I don’t just want to survive. Just surviving is not enough for me and my children.”

Most participants spoke of endurance, not from their own personal experience, rather endurance was spoken from their parents’ and grandparents’ experience. Most participants, who were fortunate enough to have older parents and grandparents still alive, witnessed firsthand how their old people were still disempowered and would stay disempowered in order to survive.

However, in saying this, most participants interviewed had moved on from where their parents and grandparents were. Most participants reiterated that they don’t just want to survive. Just surviving is not enough for them, they want more. It must also be acknowledged that none of the participants in this study were just surviving. They had moved on and were doing much more than just surviving.

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