It is a sad fact, but insults are a common part of life nowadays. Just listen to election campaign rhetoric, a Jerry Springer episode, or an Eminem song. Everyone has heard insults at some point. Those of us who are part of a marginalized group have heard them a lot, often directly. That hurts, to be sure, but when it is a lovely human with a kind heart who is unfairly castigated, the sting is even sharper.
I was directed today toward a post in the blog of Andrew Bolt, a right-wing conservative writer for the Herald Sun. Bolt's long-standing views opposing the historical veracity of Australia's stolen generation are hard to swallow. His comments in this particular post, in which he lambastes our friend, Larissa Behrendt, for choosing the name "Mr Howard" for a villain in her award-winning book, Home, are no less bitter. It is, however, the dozens of vitriolic comments that the blog post inspired that are profoundly troubling. The disparaging comments about Dr Behrendt largely have to do with her looks, specifically that she is too white to be an Indigenous Australian and, therefore, knows little about or has little right to discuss the subject matter contained in her book. The comments, some of which are from self-identified Aborigines themselves, reek of a kind of racial hatred I haven't seen since I left the States. There are laws in Australia that prohibit racial discrimination and hatred. I wonder if they might not apply here. At any rate, Dr Behrendt is a good friend of ours, and I respect her work in the field of the rights of indigenous peoples immensely. I am sure that she has developed a rather thick skin by now and certainly doesn't need me to defend her. With her dazzling intellect and enviable sense of tact, she will undoubtedly rise well above the detritus littering the Australian social landscape.