SO Iggy Azalea. A person I had never heard of until I hosted the rotational curation twitter account @IndigenousX last week has decided she can go on radio in America and educate Americans on Aboriginal culture.
I had no idea who this woman was. The name sounded familiar. A quick google search turned up articles about her moving to the US when she was 16, being signed to Def Jam Island Records, a very public spat with American Hip Hop artist Azalea Banks. A lot of conversation around the fact Azalea raps and some deeper critique of her appropriating African American space to perform music.
I cannot speak to this, nor would I ever try to. I cannot speak to the appropriation of anyone elses culture but my own. But I will say this. If I ever came forward and heavily criticised anyone for appropriating Australian Aboriginal culture, I would expect my voice to be heard in a clearer context than the person appropriating my culture would be. This is something I do on a daily basis. Oppressed voices have much more traction in the way I critique modern society.
See what I did there? I admitted ignorance. It’s not hard. I really cannot in any meaningful way participate in a discussion on the appropriation of Hip Hop culture. The only way I can ever have any real input into that conversation is to support the person/s whos culture is being appropriated by another for financial, cred or ‘edgy’ gain. That’s it.
Some background. This is the link in the tweet I received http://ramblinggirle.tumblr.com/post/65563612956/iggy-azalea-on-aboriginal-australians-face It’s a link to a video of Iggy Azalea being interviewed by Real Sway for his radio program. At around 1.05 is where the question is asked by Real Sway “How ya’ll treat the Aborigine people, how are they being treated now, are they still being ostracised”?
Azalea answers that “You know what, I’m gonna be real with you, I think that they are, yeah I think that they are”. Even the most ignorant people in Australia cannot refute this fact. Aboriginals are the most racially ostracised people in this country. Oh yes, we are the gold medal winners of the oppression Olympics. Yay for us.
Real Sway interjected with ‘Why ya’ll doin that to the black man in Australia”?
To which Azalea replied “Yeah I know it’s bullshit isn’t it? But it’s the truth, it’s the truth, if I can be honest about my country, I love Australia but I will say that I do still think that there are a lot of Australians that, um, have unfair stereotypes about Aboriginal people”.
If only she stopped there. Because up to that point, she was hitting the nail directly on the head, insofar as the reality of Australian societal insight. I was thinking, hmm, I don’t know who you are, but you seem to have a pretty good grasp on what’s what over here. And carriers of truth come in many colours. (And just to reiterate, I had no fucking idea who this person even was).
But no, she didn’t stop there, else this post wouldn’t exist. Let’s continue down into the rabbit hole of Iggy Azaleas understanding of Aboriginal culture and her interpretation of the spiritual struggle of overcrowded and underfunded housing.
She goes on to say, direct quote here “The thing about Aboriginal people and why I think it’s difficult for them is because they don’t believe you should live in an enclosed structure (If I was drinking anything at this point, now is the moment I would have spit it out in disbelief) like a house, um, they sleep under the stars, it’s how they live. (My guffaws at the romanticised magical spiritual Aboriginal trope was getting a fierce workout by this point, you listening Baz Luhrmann? Cut that shit out) For us to come in, western civilisation, any colour, we often try to make them fit into our confines of what we think is civilised and better, and so often they got the, the government will build them housing or things like this, thinking that they’re helping them and it will get destroyed (Is Iggy trying to fight ignorant stereotypes with more ignorant stereotypes now? Let’s see) They’ll destroy it, um, and take all the beds and sleep outside, because that’s their culture (Insert biggest ‘oh’ face you ever saw on any Australian Aboriginal womans face anywhere, ever) even now and um, and so I think it’s kind of ignorant people think that they’re savages or… creates these negative stereotypes about them but it’s really just western civilisation being on their land and trying to push what we think is better upon them and it makes it very difficult for.. I think, some people to understand they just want to live a different way of life”.
It’s at this point Real Sway says “That’s their tradition, that’s their culture, T.I (referring to rapper T.I who is also present in the interview) you hear that? They tried to put them Aboriginal people in projects, and they tore down the projects! They didn’t go for it like we did”. I really can’t speak to what either Real Sway or T.I were thinking at this point, but Real Sway jumped on the next call button pretty quick.
Let’s talk the reality of housing in Aboriginal communities. For starters there isn’t enough. This leads to multiple generations living in one home. I’m talking up to 30 people living in one 3 bedroom house. When Azalea asserts that ‘They (Aboriginals) just destroy them” she is doing nothing more than perpetuate a pretty ugly stereotype, that makes it incredibly easy for housing providers and governments to have an excuse to not put any money into Aboriginal community housing.
I have 3 sons. And have lived all over this country. What Azalea refers to as ‘destroying’ I attribute to everyday wear and tear. ALL houses incur wear and tear. Imagine a 3 bedroom residence that is housing up to 30 people. The wear and tear would accelerate at an advanced rate. Because of overcrowding, regular maintenance is needed, but often in communities, maintenance is deferred because of budgetary concerns, concerns created by a perpetuated stereotype that Aboriginals only destroy their houses anyway. Anyone seeing a fucking circle forming here? I have lived in a house with 10 other people. By the end of it I was a wreck, mentally, emotionally and physically. Unless it’s a 10 bedroom house, I do not recommend it.
Now lets talk about ‘draggin our mattresses outside’ to ‘sleep under the stars’. I dunno bout anyone else, but when I do this it’s because it’s 40 fucking degrees inside and only 32 outside. Because the substandard fucking house I’m in doesn’t have air conditioning, it has a fucking fireplace. Who in fucks name thought that was a good idea, to put fireplaces in every fucking community house, but no air conditioning? Were they fucking Norwegians?
Sorry to bust your little romanticised under the stars myth there, but mosquitos are fuckheads, and love my black blood, snakes are every fucking where and I can’t afford a fucking tent.
Everything after about the 1.31 mark on this video that Azalea says about Aboriginals is the most offensive stereotyping there is, because these are the stereotypes that affect governmental policy. They affect the everyday lives of Aboriginal people across Australia in very real and substantial ways. They are destructive and regressive. They need to fucking end, because these stereotypes are killing us, in our thousands.
Edited to add – because it needs to be said. In areas where community housing is low, the other option is private rental. I’ve spoken to people who have worked in real estate who have told me that when the company has received applications from Aboriginal people, they go straight in the bin. I am not sure of the veracity of this statement, but I can say I had to cheat to get a private rental. This was achieved via me putting a white friend on the lease and having her go in and deal with the real estate face to face, and removing her from the lease 3 months later. This is a thing. A very real thing that occurs due to the stereotype Azalea has perpetuated. If my friend had not done this for me, I would still be living with my mother, and my children, in a 2 bedroom flat. I cannot stress enough, or more passionately, the emotional and mental stress that the racism this typecasting of Aboriginals causes and sustains in the lives of thousands of people on an everyday basis.