This week in New Matilda, Jeff Sparrow asked a simple but very good question: why was there no protest over the Apology to the Forgotten Generation, as there was over last year’s Apology to the Stolen Generation?
Where were the right-wingers to challenge the Apology? Where was the scepticism over the numbers of children involved, the stout defence of the good intentions of those running institutions, the claim, for all the abuse, that many children had benefited from their experience? Where was the concern about “opening the floodgates” to compensation?
Instead, this week’s Apology passed, rightly, with strong support from all sides. Malcolm Turnbull, who gave an excellent, heartfelt speech, was praised for it in his partyroom, even praised for being willing to talk about “love”. There were no walkouts by angry conservatives.
It would be shameful if race was the determining issue, if apologising to indigenous people was somehow more objectionable to some than apologising to white Australians. It is, however, hard to think of any other explanation.
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Possibly ideological obstinacy played a part in the Stolen Generations debate, a refusal on the part of right-wingers to admit that their opponents might ever be right about anything. In contrast, the Forgotten Generations issue has been a resolutely non-ideological matter. And let us not forget that even diehard conservatives like Nick Minchin and Eric Abetz gave graceful, even moving speeches of support last year as part of the Stolen Generations Apology.
Yet the horrible suspicion remains: for some politicians and commentators, abused black kids aren’t as deserving as abused white kids.