OPINION: Meeting Stan with my white middle class gaze
WHEN I recently met Stan Grant, I struggled to find the words I wanted to say.
The words were important.
He stood up, his gentlemanly manner congruent with his dapper deep charcoal suit, tightened around his waist with a single grey button.
I instantly saw the suave, television presenter on SBS screens. I saw the man too. Straight up and steely.
Thank you for all you are doing, I said as our hands gripped.
The Wiradjuri man, author, and journalist nodded.
He had given the Thea Astley lecture about how American novelist James Baldwin had influenced him in speaking about the issues facing Aboriginal and Islander people.
In the wake of the Don Dale detention scandal and the high number of deaths of indigenous youth, his words were more significant than ever before.
Grant said Baldwin taught him to write about indigenous Australians without softening the blow, and to write without fear of how his words would be interpreted. It was the only way to honour those whose lives he wrote about, he said.
This meant writing free from the "white gaze", Grant said.
"The white gaze - it is a phrase that resonates in black American literature," he said.
I felt my white gaze when I thanked him.
Worse than that - my white, middle-class gaze.
This country, all of us - and I mean every single bloody one of us - need strong, black leadership.
Leadership that is not divisive but honest, real and hits us in the face when we need it.
I have met Delta Kay from Byron Bay and James Fa'Aoso, from Cape York, the man touted to replace the divisive Noel Pearson.
Both know to reach an audience with their words.
Both are captivating, like Grant, in what they have to say.
Honest, unflinching and inclusive.
It is what black and white Australia needs to begin to end racism in our country.