The fight against race
As a Blackfulla, I don’t claim to speak for a people, but I do write from a place. A place of power. Mine.
I write this from a place in which I am meant to be powerless, literally.
At the time of writing this essay, I had just made the decision to withdraw a race and sex discrimination complaint I had taken against my employer, the University of Queensland, and two white male academics. The complaint lodged almost two years earlier had progressed through the Queensland Human Rights Commission and the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission conciliation processes, and failed settlement talks, each of which had taken up a considerable amount of my energy, intellectually and emotionally. And here I am walking away, like Craig David and Adam Goodes.
My decision to drop the case came just one week after National Reconciliation Week, having been threatened with a claim for costs by the university and having been abandoned by the National Tertiary Education Union, which also chose that time to tell me that I would have to find and fund my own legal representation. Up until this point, the NTEU had agreed to represent me, but despite being on the case for more than a year they had failed to pursue witness statements or discovery documents to build my case, which was now before the courts.
Not only did I make the decision to withdraw my claim but I also decided to relinquish a tenured position with the institution, a sandstone nonetheless.
My walking away could be narrated in all kinds of ways. Some might frame it as one of loss and a lesson on the futility of race discrimination processes, the racism inherent in calling out racism, while others might tell of this story as one of winning and the power of white supremacy prevailing.
But I didn’t lose. You see, the place I write from—Yugambeh country, Lamington National Park—is a mountaintop, quite literally. And it is in this place that I am reminded of my power, one that is not derived from the vast and expansive views it offers over all other things, but instead via the roots that ground me to this place, culturally.
I’ve never been too impressed with the metaphoric mountaintop that Black race scholars and civil rights activists have typically been concerned with, of a promised land and a dream of one day transcending race as described by the good Dr Martin Luther King Jr (King, 1963). As appealing as it sounds, I don’t believe that such a world will ever be possible in a settler colonial state. This is not because I don’t believe we are powerful. I just know the place that they have built for themselves was established and is sustained by racial violence, and all of their institutions are unrelenting in their viciousness towards sovereign Black bodies.
Disentangling their violence from our power is a challenging task, but a most necessary one in the fight against race. Race, even in our resistance against it, remains inescapable. To take up a fight against racism marks a refusal to accept its terms, but in the fight against it we are nevertheless forced to engage on their terms, all the while taking the blows to our body. Yet here I stand in my power. To stand in one’s power is not to ignore the violence visited upon us; it requires us to refuse their account of it, in which they deem it all of our making or imagining.
It is in this moment of walking away that I want to share what I’ve learnt in the fight against race. Some might argue that my walking away represents a giving up of the fight, but it is far from it. It represents a stance that demands a standing still and staying strong.
Mohawk scholar Audra Simpson (2014) has talked about the politics of refusal as an exercising of sovereignty, and certainly this is how I came to understand the stance that Adam Goodes took in his fight against race, from the moment he refused to play on having been racially taunted, to his refusal to accept the victory lap and Hall of Fame honours from a game that booed and bullied him week in and week out (Bond, 2016).
Refusal is indeed a most powerful stance in the fight against race, and my decision to walk away from UQ and the complaint process marked a refusal to allow them to exercise any more power over me than they already had.
So I come down from the mountaintop not to speak of winning the fight against race, but rather a strategising for a never-ending fight that is indelibly bound up in a sovereignty that also refuses to cede in what Singh refers to as ‘sovereign divergence’ (Singh, 2020). It is afterall our power, Black power, that forces us into this fight, but it too is Black power that sustains us in the midst of it.
To take up the stance of Black power in the fight against race is to fight on a battleground that has been strategically selected without the lofty elevations of white validation or affirmative white verdicts, but one that affords us the martial advantages of a grounded sovereignty. It is a stance that is embodied, and it is in this embodiment that we are reminded of our power. Kwame Ture, co-author of Black Power: The Politics of Liberation (1967), in his speech to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1966, argued that the significance of Black power, beyond the slogan, was in its ability ‘to provide the community with a position of strength from which to make its voice heard’. It is this articulation of Black power that I draw from to articulate a Black power as I understand it here, in this fight against race.
Race must be named
For once, Black people are going to use the words they want to use, not just the words whites want to hear. And they will do this no matter how often the press tries to stop the use of the slogan by equating it with racism or separatism … Black power can be clearly defined for those who do not attach the fears of white America to their questions about it. (Ture, 1966)
I remember the times when the University of Queensland rewarded me. It first welcomed me at the age of 17 as an undergraduate student through an alternative entry process to study Indigenous health. I would go on to graduate with first class honours and receive a medal for academic excellence. I continued to postgraduate studies and received a Dean’s Commendation for my ‘outstanding thesis’, completed in under four years while having the eldest three of my children. I would later be rewarded with a Young Alumnus of the Year award, and soon after a tenured position, not in my discipline, but in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit.
It wasn’t until I received a prestigious Australian Research Council grant for a three-year early career fellowship that the institution suddenly became less welcoming. I was shifted around between two faculties and three different work units and I was no longer on the guest list for Indigenous events on campus, including Indigenous graduation ceremonies involving students whom I had supported. My son too, years later, would not be welcome, not even to an arts degree through an alternative entry process, although he would gain entry to a different institution.
I was deemed unappointable to a leadership position in an Indigenous health research centre where I had been leading all but one of the grants they administered and where I represented the public face of the centre across a whole range of activities. That leadership role was instead filled by a white male who was directly appointed despite having no track record in Indigenous health. He would be permitted to hold that position in a part-time capacity for some two years. At a time when I had invited keynotes to almost all of the national peak Indigenous health organisation conferences, as well as international Indigenous health forums from Aotearoa to the University of Oxford, the selection panel would claim that the scholarship of the only PhD-holding Indigenous academic in the centre did not align with its objectives.
You see, my scholarship, that prestigious fellowship I won, sought to explicitly examine how race operates in the production of Indigenous health inequalities. In speaking of race, even intellectually, I had become a problem, long before I spoke of racism in a legal frame. I was considered no longer deserving of the rewards the institution had bestowed, or even the most basic of entitlements afforded other workers some days.
Prior to this, my scholarship spoke mostly of culture, of identity, of strengths and health behaviours. I hadn’t realised that all this time I had been rewarded for being silent about race. I also naively thought it was possible to fight race intellectually within an academic institution, much like those professors who are cast as valiantly fighting cancer. This was not the case. Mine it seems was not a just war deserving of the institution’s support or approval.
But this is the very fight against race; it comes and is confronted when we name it. Those who claim to have found a way of fighting it through avoidance, or some form of excellence that demands they not speak of it, have not risen above or overcome their racial position. They have instead reinscribed it, in having agreed to trade it in their ‘urge toward whiteness’ (Hughes, 1926).
There is no way of dealing with race through diplomacy and non-violence. And, in fact, we must know that the violence they visit upon us in our fight against race is not reflective of a flaw in our strategising, but instead reflects the stuff of power bound up in notions of race. I now measure my success in the fight against race not by their awards or applause but by the weight of the blows they level against my body. Our power as a people is witnessed in the force of their resistance to us. When an institution directs so much of its energy and resources towards breaking us, it speaks to their fear of our power, and not our powerlessness.
To name race means a preparedness to relinquish their rewards and those mountaintop moments in return for dehumanisation and marginalisation. It means accepting that our scholarship, even in its excellence, will be dismissed as substandard, just like our racial positioning. Ture reminds us that our strategising cannot be one of self-preservation, of attaching their fears of it to our actions. We must stand in our own power, for it is only in knowing ours that we know the false claims of theirs.
This is Black power.
Rage must be the register
There has been only a civil rights movement, whose tone of voice was adapted to an audience of liberal whites. It served as a sort of buffer zone between them and angry young Blacks … An organisation which claims to speak for the needs of a community … must speak in the tone of that community, not as somebody else’s buffer zone. This is the significance of Black power as a slogan. (Ture, 1966)
I remember attending a national racism roundtable for Indigenous health researchers where one of the more senior non-Indigenous scholars suggested that ‘when talking about the “r” word we should put systemic in front of it’. Her reasoning was that it would make people feel more comfortable about talking about racism, and by people, we can be certain that she meant white people. While at the time I thought this was laughable, I realised that in my fight against race I too had subscribed to a strategy that appealed to whiteness.
In lodging the race and sex discrimination complaint, I had agreed to fight in the register required of the Queensland Human Rights Commission processes. I had to make my articulation of race fit within their parameters, parameters so narrow that it could refuse all of my experience of racism and sexism, because despite having what I believed to be compelling evidence, countless witnesses and clear comparisons of differences in treatment on the basis of race and gender, there remained a requirement of ‘motivation’. It is not enough to have experienced a negatively racialised outcome to prove that racism exists, the intentions of the perpetrators must have been expressed somewhere to someone. The additional requirement that I distinguish between race and gender, as though I didn’t embody both at any one time, also spoke to the violence of the parameters of this process, which of course has been captured in Kimberlé Crenshaw’s theory of intersectionality (1989).
In vesting my power in this process, I had largely been silent about my experiences of racism at work. I handed my story over to a process that refused to see me fully, including the full extent of the injuries I and my family had sustained. I persevered with the indignities and assaults in the process, I think because I was too invested in the idea of winning on their terms. But I realised that, even if I were to win, it would not be grounded in Black power, because so much had been ceded in an appeal to white sensibilities.
I am not suggesting that we don’t use these processes to complain and to compel change; we must anticipate the lies and limitations that inevitably follow, especially clear in their supposed impartial adjudication. These limitations do not reflect the merits of our case, or our ability to articulate it. They speak instead to the violence of the battleground that they’ve designed for us to fight on.
This battleground is the mythical middle ground, and it has been the most brutal for Blackfullas. It presumes a level terrain and an impartiality and objectivity that simply don’t exist in the fight against race. It is through a performance of objectivity, a trait deemed exclusive to white people, that the power of race is sustained to mark difference and to subjugate. It is always white people that are the arbiters of racism: in race discrimination conciliations, tribunals and court rooms, as coroners, commissioners and administrators. The clinical and judicial dispassion performed in these settings always works to the advantage of the perpetrator, who can assume the ‘benefit of the doubt’ or balance of probabilities inherent in the idea of dispassion.
I remember being relieved to discover a Black conciliator in my race discrimination case, yet unlike other occasions where I had a white facilitator, this Black facilitator found herself saddled with an additional co-facilitator who happened to be white and who was presumably there to ensure that dispassion did not give way to emotion. In other conciliation settings with white mediators, there had never been the necessity for an additional co-facilitator, even in my being outnumbered as the sole Black body in a room. It was not lost on me that this additional co-facilitator, a white woman, in her performance of objective mediation, would at the end of the failed deliberations offer assurance to me that the accused perpetrators, all white men, ‘did respect me’.
It was here that she revealed how little difference there is between denialism and objectivity when it comes to the fight against race. And to take up the position of proclaimed objectivity is tantamount to taking a side, the wrong side. Those supposed neutral and impartial processes always seem to stack the odds against Black people, and their conclusions are always in solidarity with the perpetrators, and in harmony with the innocence they see in themselves. The idea that there is an objective take is one grounded in white universalism and supremacy, of seeing racism as occasional and aberrational, if one sees it at all.
Thus the fight against race is not well served by the processes the perpetrators have established to protect themselves and the register in which we are required to perform. We must reject their claims that theirs, filtered as they are through objectivity and impartiality, are better attuned to the prospect of change. bell hooks (1995) insists that it is Black rage that will bring an end to white supremacy. She argues, ‘As long as black rage continues to be represented as always and only evil and destructive, we lack a vision of militancy that is necessary for transformative revolutionary action.’ In honouring her own rage, hooks was motivated ‘to take pen in hand and write in the heat of that moment’. Indeed, when I made the decision to drop my race discrimination claim, I too took my pen in hand to tell my story, here.
This is my rage. This is Black power.
White innocence is white supremacy
Can whites, particularly liberal whites, condemn themselves? Can they stop blaming us, and blame their own system? Are they capable of the shame which might become a revolutionary emotion? (Ture, 1966)
Contrasted against Black rage is white innocence. It serves to sustain white supremacy and appears in the fight against race, more specifically in the fight against accusations of racism.
I remember 8 August 2019 when the crowds gathered on the lawns of the University of Queensland’s Saint Lucia campus to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture as part of its NAIDOC Week festivities (UQ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit, 2019). It was the day on which senior executives were reported to have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation (UQ News, 2019). Having not been enlisted in any of the institution’s Indigenous cultural celebrations, I joined a small number of academics and professional staff who gathered in protest outside the chancellery to voice our opposition. As the only Blackfulla there (at least from what I can recall), I got to see how effectively Indigenous peoples and culture could be deployed as a form of virtue signalling for Western civilisation. It would be one month later that I would lodge my race discrimination case against the university.
Angela Davis once said: ‘In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist. We must be anti-racist.’ Apart from a human resources policy entitled ‘Prevention of Racism’, which is unaccompanied by a guideline or procedure that may give the policy substance, the institution doesn’t appear to have a clear stance or strategy against racism (UQ, 2011). It is a signatory to a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) that claims to be a ‘commitment to the building of respectful relationships and opportunities between Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous peoples’ (RAP, 2019). While some may argue UQ’s signature on both an RAP and an MOU with the Ramsay Centre has a real Rio Tinto energy, it does tell a truth about the institution’s position on race generally. If you look at their RAP, you will find not one reference to race or racism, beyond a quote from one of my postgraduate students who references my scholarship.
Within days of having threatened me for costs in my race discrimination claim, the institution would boast of its commitment to Reconciliation Week. On 27 May 2021, UQ’s Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences executive dean, Professor Bruce Abernethy (UQ News, 2021), would announce the ‘Yarning for Success’ program, which claims to provide a supported career pathway program for a total of nine Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff members in the faculty. These nine staff members were new appointments made through a recruitment drive in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at any stage of their academic career were encouraged to apply for a position in any one of the faculty’s schools and centres. Professor Abernethy in the media release stated the program would ‘provide a safe space for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff, students and partners to fulfil their potential … with a focus on key leadership roles’.
In my time in that faculty, I did not know of any other Indigenous academics with PhDs, nor did I ever get a sense that there was to be such a substantial investment in boosting our numbers. The institution would likely claim that it was an expression of their commitment to its Reconciliation Action Plan, but I am also fairly certain that the story of this investment would have featured in their defence against my claims had the case progressed. White innocence is a key feature of resistance in the fight against race, and we see it deployed when we hear reference to intention, motivation and unconscious bias. I have no faith that white people or white institutions will ever be capable of expressing the shame necessary for disrupting the existing racial order of things. They have absolutely no shame.
But this is why we must take action to fight race not in the institution’s internal processes but externally, whether it’s legally or taking it to the public square. It is in their defence against being labelled racist that change occurs, not in the realisation or acceptance that they are indeed racist. As such, the beneficiaries of this defensive manoeuvre won’t be the victims of racism who had the courage to call it out, it will be all those who follow, who will be far greater in number than the lone and supposedly vulnerable complainant. That is Black power.
Black people must be believed and believed in
Only Black people can convey the revolutionary idea that Black people are able to do things themselves. Only they can help create in the community an amused and continuing Black consciousness that will provide the basis for political strength. (Ture, 1966)
In the fight against race as told by them, the Black complainant will always be cast as the troublesome protagonist in the institution. And they will have no difficulty enlisting other Black people to reinforce our pariah-like status, for there are those who in their mediocrity will happily accessorise for the rewards afforded them. They will too happily speak in hushed tones about that troublesome Black who refuses to adhere to the racial order of things. ‘They’re too political,’ they claim. ‘What is wrong with them?’ they ask. ‘Stay away from them,’ they insist.
Yet I feel not so much a sense of betrayal from Black people who stand in solidarity with white supremacy, but rather a sorrow. Langston Hughes (1926), one of the leaders of the Harlem Renaissance, explains the misfortune of ‘the urge toward whiteness’ as follows:
One of the most promising of the young Negro poets said to me once ‘I want to be a poet, not a Negro poet’ meaning I believe ‘I want to write like a white poet’, meaning subconsciously ‘I would like to be a white poet’, meaning behind that ‘I would like to be white’. And I was sorry the young man said that for no great poet has ever been afraid of being himself and I doubted then that with his desire to run away spiritually from his race this boy would ever be a great poet.
Never to know one’s greatness is the real tragedy in all of this, rather than the Black complainant’s supposed marginalisation in white spaces. It means a life of mediocrity, of constant disappointment and dissatisfaction as all kinds of opportunities are lost in the effort to appease one’s oppressor. You see, despite having been cast out of the health and humanities faculties at my institution, I managed to lead a research team that secured another prestigious Australian Research Council grant, one far greater in value than the earlier one that first placed me in the fight against race. This ambitious $1.77 million grant involves the establishment of an Indigenist health humanities as a new field of research, building the very intellectual community that I could not find at the institution that employed me. This community is being forged through the values expressed in the Inala Manifesto (McInerney, 2019), a call to arms for carving out a transformative Indigenous health research agenda, reconfiguring the researcher’s role as a public intellectual and change-maker. Here I came to learn of the power, not of my own making, but the power of a community brought together through a critical Black consciousness to build something that was beyond the imagining of the academy.
The institution struggled to deal with me, not as a problem, but in my excellence, failing for weeks to find a desk for me and my team to sit at, not even in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit that I had been returned to. Eventually we would be housed in a building some distance from our organisational unit, on the floor that was home to crop scientists and a mixed bag of others who couldn’t be situated in their work units, for one reason or another. Over the past three years, I had become accustomed to the stories explaining why my office wasn’t in their school, on their floor or in the faculty in which I was employed. It didn’t matter the location they reserved for me, it never altered the sense of my worth as a Blackfulla or as a scholar.
I always knew the institution would never appreciate the impact of my work, and it wasn’t because it existed beyond their imagining or their reach, but because my work refused to be of service to it. The institution was the place where I went to work, but it was never the primary beneficiary of that work, because the fight against race lies in contesting the racialised knowledges they have produced.
Black power is not, however, derived from being believed, or believed in, by white peoples, processes or institutions. Some Blackfullas will appeal for our sovereignty to be seen by them, but it need not be, because it just is. Black power is embodied by Blackfullas. It exists because it exists in the minds and the bloodlines of Blackfullas and it need not matter if it exists nowhere else. I am not speaking of a race transcendalism of pretending race isn’t real, but instead I speak of a way of dealing with race head-on in our own damn heads, in refusing to accept their parameters for which they insist we exist. To speak of Black power as a place in our imagining is not to reduce it to an illusion or delusion. It must be as real in our heads as it is in our lands and our lives, and it must also be reflected in our work in the academy, intellectually, politically and culturally. This is Black power.
Black power is Black love
Black people do not want to ‘take over’ this country. They don’t want to ‘get whitey’; they just want to get him off their backs, as the saying goes … The society we seek to build among Black people, then, is not a capitalist one. It is a society in which the spirit of community and humanistic love prevail. The word love is suspect; Black expectations of a response from the white community, which failed us. The love we seek to encourage is within the Black community, the only American community where men call each other ‘brother’ when they meet. We can build a community of love only where we have the ability to do so: among Blacks. (Ture, 1966)
In strategising my fight against race, I must confess, I had entertained the idea of crowdfunding the costs of legal representation, to muster all of my energy to fight until the death. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t in all good conscience ask people to invest in a cause that was my own, that sought only to serve my interests, interests that weren’t a matter of life or death. When mob are crowdfunding funerals and legal campaigns for loved ones killed in custody and the colony, I hated the idea of diverting scarce resources away from these most pressing causes. What I know about the fight against race is that me not securing a leadership role in a white institution isn’t the real fight that I want to exhaust my energy on. But I did have to check my ego.
The radicalism of Black power in its rage is its love for Black people, a love that extends beyond the self, yet centres a collective Black self-love, unconditional and unwavering. Thus at the heart of the fight against race are not individual grievances, wins or wealth, or what Cornel West describes as installing ‘Black faces in high places’ (Reese, 2017). It must not be one of reforming violent institutions, of quotas on boards, of redrafting complaint policies, awareness-raising, diversity training or deck-chair shuffling tasks for committees or taskforces. It is not a fight for an alternative subjugation, for revenge or retribution, but a call for a different society to be born; one that is no longer structured according to race, but a genuinely shared humanity that, in reckoning with sovereignty, abandons the hierarchies that sustain white supremacy.
In walking away from the University of Queensland, I was not walking away from the fight against race, but instead I was choosing a battle more worthy of my time. Vine Deloria Jr insisted that ‘the problems of Indians have always been ideological rather than social or political or economic’ (1969). He states, ‘it is vitally important that the Indian people pick the intellectual arena as the one to wage war’. And oddly enough during this time I was offered several alternative places to wage that war, with additional resourcing, including physical space not just for me but for this growing community, the combined value of which far outweighed what was originally being sought through the process of my race and sex discrimination claim. This war against race is not waged to gain an advantage or status or to exact revenge, but seeks to restore and redeem. This war that has been waged thus is one of love that builds an intellectual community committed to a Black humanity and is capable of advancing the interests of Black people instead of breaking them.
In the midst of this fight, I should acknowledge that there was a moment when it almost took me out. As the case progressed, my health was profoundly affected and my five children deeply impacted, all of which we are still attending to. So violent was the power of white supremacy, I almost lost sight of the significance of Black power. I am not ashamed to share this, as I know that racial violence is meant to break Black people; that it has always had a dispossessing function. But it was in this moment that I was reminded too of our sovereignty as unceded. And it wasn’t at the mountaintop that I discovered this, but at the kitchen table of Aunty/Dr Lilla Watson in a series of conversations where she challenged the terms on which I had been operating in my fights.
Black power is not just a slogan derived from elsewhere, it finds itself expressed in Indigenous sovereignty. While I speak to the articulation of Black power and resistance to racial violence by African-American scholars and Indigenous scholars from elsewhere, our people have long articulated a fight against race through sovereignty, of a power derived from being the first peoples of this land. We witness this in J.T. Patten and W. Ferguson’s insistence of ancient bloodlines (1938) and Michael Mansell’s articulation of a strength in adversity as evidence of an intact sovereignty (2007), to Aileen Moreton-Robinson’s (2015) declaration that the bodies of Blackfullas in life and in death signify our title to this land, and to Cathy Freeman’s account of her 2000 Olympic gold medal–winning run (Billiet, 2020), in which her opponents faced not just her but also her ancestors, the first peoples to walk this land.
When Blackfullas speak of power we speak to the power that is derived through our embodied relation to Black land. Black power originates from the place in which we became human and demands a humility not often expressed in the militancy of a Black power divorced from land. It is recognition of a power that is greater than ourselves, even at our most excellent. It seeks not a proximity to whiteness that is marked by myths of progress or of climbing racial mountains, walking or winning, but of standing in our own power. It is not a demand for theirs.
This standing in our own power is reflected in the cries of ‘still here’ and ‘always was, always will be’. I never needed the coloniser’s court to determine whether what I experienced was racist or sexist or both. It is in my experience that I come to know about race, the validity and veracity of which is charted in my scholarship, including the story that I am now free to tell. That is why silence can never be seen as a ‘successful’ resolution in the fight against race; it binds us to the perpetrators and renders us complicit in their violence, helping no-one, not ourselves, and most certainly not those who follow, who will never hear of it.
Hughes, in his rejection of ascending the racial mountain, speaks instead of ‘the mountain free within ourselves’ (1926). And I think that is one of the most foundational elements of a Black power as understood here. The most transformative Black acts have taken place at the margins, on the fringes of towns, among Black communities and collectives, Black minds, souls and hearts rather than at white centres, whether they be boardrooms or tearooms or university chancellories. The exiled location they insist we occupy is not the place of marginalisation they would have us believe, for this land is ours, all of it. And it is in knowing our place in this place that we are offered freedom, freedom to move, to coordinate, to innovate, to agitate and demand more, because we know that as Black people we deserve more than what they have begrudgingly offered us.
The realisation that I had received all of the things I had sought from the complaints process, but not achieved through it, offered the ultimate sense of freedom. It was in knowing it all came through our power, and not theirs that I came to see their battleground as little more than a playground that no longer amused me.
This realisation would never free me from their clutches. At the time of writing, the institution was still deliberating on whether to continue the fight for costs, and of binding me to them longer than I wanted and longer than necessary for them operationally. Thus, in their underestimation of our power, we should never underestimate their investment in the fight against race. It is after all, they who have the most to lose.
While I may not know what they will do, I will never forget the place from where I come. And that is Black power.
Acknowledgements: I wish to acknowledge Aunty/Dr Lilla Watson for reminding me of the power of Blackfullas, including my own, in what I once mistakenly believed were my most powerless of moments. I also would like to acknowledge the mentorship of Dr David Singh, who has helped me consider, intellectually and politically, the solidarities and incommeasurabilites of critical race scholarship from a place elsewhere, in making sense of the fights I find myself in. •
Chelsea Watego (formerly Bond) is a Munanjahli and South Sea Islander woman and Professor of Indigenous Health at Queensland University of Technology’s School of Public Health and Social Work.
Laurence Billiet (dir.), Freeman, General Strike and Matchbox Pictures Production, 2020.
Chelsea Bond, ‘Refusing to play the race game’, the Conversation, 2016, <https://theconversation.com/refusing-to-play-the-race-game-66043>.
Kimberlé Crenshaw, ‘Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics’, University of Chicago Legal Forum, No. 1, 1989.
Vine Deloria Jr, Custer Died For Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto, University of Oklahoma Press, Oklahoma, 1969.
bell hooks, Killing Rage: Ending Racism, Penguin, London, 1995.
Langston Hughes, ‘The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain’, The Nation, Vol. 122, 23 June 1926, pp. 692–694.
Martin Luther King Jr, ‘I’ve Been to the Mountaintop’, Church of God in Christ Headquarters, Memphis, Tennessee, 3 April 1968.
Michael Mansell, cited in Aileen Moreton-Robinson, ‘Introduction: Sovereign Subjects, in Moreton-Robinson (ed.), Indigenous Sovereignty Matters: Sovereign Subjects, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2007, pp. 1–11.
Marie McInerney, ‘The Inala Manifesto: A call to arms for Indigenous health researchers’, Croakey, 2019, <https://www.croakey.org/the-inala-manifesto-a-call-to-arms-for-indigenous-health-researchers/>.
Aileen Moreton-Robinson, The White Possessive: Property, Power, and Indigenous Sovereignty, University of Minnesota Press, 2015.
J.T. Patten and W. Ferguson, ‘Aborigines claim citizen rights! A Statement of the Case for the Aborigines Progressive Association’, Publicist, Sydney 1938, <https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-241787110/view?partId=nla.obj-241788701#page/n0/mode/1up>.
Hope Reese, ‘Cornel West: Neoliberalism Has Failed Us’, JSTOR Daily, 25 December 2017, <https://daily.jstor.org/cornel-west-interview/>.
Audra Simpson, Mohawk Interruptus: Political Life across the Borders of Settler States, Duke University Press, Durham, 2014.
David Singh, ‘Racial complaint and sovereign divergence: The case of Australia’s First Indigenous opthamologist’, Australian Journal of Indigenous Education, Vol. 9 No. 2, 2020, pp. 145–152.
Kwame Ture, ‘What We Want’, The New York Review of Books, Vol. 7, 22 September 1966, <https://web.mit.edu/21h.102/www/Primary%20source%20collections/Civil%20Rights/Carmichael.htm>.
UQ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit, ‘UQ NAIDOC Festival 2019 a Success!’,
9 August 2021, <https://atsis.uq.edu.au/article/2019/08/uq-naidoc-festival-2019-success>.
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