Thoughts on “Rabbit Proof Fence” & Other Historical Examples of Structural Oppression

I wanted to touch on the deep impacts of watching the movie “Rabbit Proof Fence.”   I knew a little about this shameful history from some prior research and movies I have seen.  “Australia,” although a fiction film, is roughly based what happened to the “stolen generations.”  I think it is appalling that every indigenous population I have studied has been conquered by settlers and decimated in a cultural, social, and/or physical sense.   The abhorrent acts of the oppressor make me ashamed.

thAPBJF41A.jpg“Australia”

thVPG2XLNI.jpg” Rabbit Proof Fence”

I am in awe of Molly’s bravery and stamina in “Rabbit Proof Fence.”  Her story is a testament to the struggle and resilience of her oppressed people.  It was shocking in the end to read about how she kept getting sent away and her children suffered at the hands of the Australian government, even after she escaped and nearly died the first time.  The fact that she lived a long life and was able to share her story with the world is truly incredible.

One particular horror from the movie was the “disillusionment” of the Australian government.  How did they really think that what they were doing was 1) morally acceptable and 2) not a permanent stain on the Australian history?  Because this was so recent in history, I think we often see these acts of blatant separatism and assimilation as even more alarming.  The truth, however, is that regardless of the time that these heinous acts are committed, it will never cease to disrupt society for the generations to come.  Whether it is Nazi Germany liquidating the Jews, Americans massacring and displacing Native Americans and enslaving Africans, Dutch South Africans creating an apartheid, etc. it seems the oppressor knows no bounds.

One important thing to note is the role of structural oppression in the examples shared above.  Oppression at the structural level saturates all parts of society and invades the personal mentalities and attitudes of individuals.  Oppressive power from a governmental level has the ability to tear apart families, wipe out culture and take lives for the sake of an irrational cause.  Structural oppression infiltrates the laws and policies of a society and creates a national effort to eradicate all “otherness” from the dominant group.  As we saw in this movie and throughout history, structural oppression is an epidemic.

I wanted to find a TED Talk to share with readers addressing systematic racism and structural oppression.  Interestingly enough, I found a video of Australian Kyol Blankeny talking about the institutionalized racism of aboriginal human rights.   I learned about how this problem is still impacting Australia today.

He finds a few problems with how Australians have internalized the aboriginal, thereby reinforcing the oppressions they have faced and still face:

  1. Branding – criminals, violent, aggressive, pedophiles (“They are the problem”)
  2. Breaking down morale – impact of media depicting negative stereotypes creating embarrassment of self and culture
  3. Unanimity- the aboriginal must come together and decide as a community how to confront internal affairs to lift themselves up – he speculates this will never happen
  4. The myth that this is person-based and they can pick themselves up on their own
  5. Stepping up to the law- creating a stand to reform must happen but has not yet changed
  6. Encourage the law to step in- this is pointless because justice is not balanced

Interesting, sounds like a history similar to ours. This video is STRICKINGLY similar to the data we see in our minority youth and adults in the United States.   Enjoy-it is very powerful.

Furthermore, I wanted to provide my classmates with more information on the “Stolen generations.”  The plight of these people parallel the sufferings of the indigenous peoples of our nation.  Using information from http://australianstogether.org.au/stories/detail/the-stolen-generations, I was able to gain some more insight on how the Australian government portrays the long-term impacts of removal seen in the “Stolen generations.” (See the website for more information)

PH0238-2149.tif.preview[1].jpg

Impact of forcible removal on Indigenous children:

  • Many of the Stolen Generations were psychologically, physically, and sexually abused while living in state care or with their adoptive families
  • Efforts to make these children reject their culture often caused them to feel ashamed of their Indigenous heritage
  • Many children were wrongly told that their parents had died or abandoned them, and many never knew where they had been taken from or who their biological families were
  • Living conditions in the institutions were highly controlled, and children were frequently punished harshly, were cold and hungry and received minimal if any affection
  • The children generally received a very low level of education, as they were expected to work as manual labourers and domestic servants (see Unfinished Business)
  • Medical experts have noted a high incidence of depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress and suicide among the Stolen Generation

Impact on Indigenous families:

  • The loss of having their children taken away was devastating to many parents, who never recovered from their grief
  • Some parents could not go on living without their children, while others turned to alcohol as a coping mechanism
  • The removal of several generations of children severely disrupted Indigenous oral culture, and consequently much cultural knowledge was lost
  • Many of the Stolen Generations never experienced living in a healthy family situation, and never learned parenting skills. In some instances, this has resulted in generations of children raised in state care

 

 

6 thoughts on “Thoughts on “Rabbit Proof Fence” & Other Historical Examples of Structural Oppression

  1. Kelsey Corr says:

    Noreen,

    I feel with you when you discussed how upsetting it is to learn that every indigenous population you have studied has been conquered and oppressed by White colonizers. You mentioned how taken aback people are when they realize how recently these horrors took place in history, and I think what really struck me here is that the reason we find the recency of these acts and the horrific nature to be so shocking is because we compare it to where we are at today. Yet that in itself speaks miles because it shows how we, to this day, continue to fail to see the extensions of these horrific acts that are visible in various forms of structural oppression today. The Ted Talk you posted was lovely, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it and learning from it. The forms of structural oppression that pervade Australia today certainly are very comparable to the forms of oppression that minority groups are currently faced with in the U.S.. Thank you for the post!

    Best,

    Kelsey

    Like

  2. RogelioCastro says:

    Hi Noreen,

    One thing that really stuck out to me is the statement on how recent the acts against the indigenous communities in Austria occurred. When we think about injustices to native communities we tend to think of them happening a very long time ago but the fact of the matter is that they are still happening today. There’s still a lot of debate over the way the indigenous people in Oaxaca, Mexico are treated. Most of them are marginalized and living in poverty. So I think that in general people live with his idea that indigenous communities are no longer present so there is no discrimination against them but that is not the reality.

    Like

  3. jungtaechoi says:

    Hello Norren,

    I enjoyed reading your post, and I love your point about how oppression at the structural level could devastate indigenous people’s lives. Especially, I like your description of how forcible removal could negatively influence their lives. Nowadays, I feel like we have been living in society where it is ok for winners to take all of things. I mean many people tend to believe if they have power, it is natural to control and dominate other people who do not have power. In order to prevent this wrong and discriminated concept, we need to keep discussing this sort of topic frequently and try to find the best solution.

    Thank you for the post. I enjoyed it!

    Best,

    Jungtae Choi

    Like

  4. Mike Spencer says:

    Noreen,

    Your blog this week is so powerful. Not only do you tie the movie into structural oppression, you provide us with further resources for learning. Very powerful Ted talk. May I repost your blog to mine?

    Mike

    Liked by 1 person

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