Wednesday, June 27, 2012

We're a bloody weird mob

Been watching a bit of the old favourite Who Do You Think You Are? genealogy tv series.
Last night's episode was about actor Hugh Quarshie, born in Ghana but brought up in Britain, who found that his family were of Dutch-Ghana heritage.
During the show it was made very clear that the Mulatto (mixed) Class took great pride in their place in society and mixed freely between the Indigenous and European cultures in both business and social activities.
Also, the oral history was greatly respected of the villagers from Abee which was exactly spot on for names and facts.
The Dutch chap, Pieter Kamerling, openly acknowledged his marriage to a Ghanaian woman and their legitimate children in his will, going so far to buy the land on which the village is placed for his children and descendants.

Fast forward 12 hours and we were watching another Who Do You Think You Are? episode for comedian/actor Alistair McGowan, born in Britain of an English mother and Anglo-Indian father.
He had always been told that Anglo-Indian referred to his father being born in India to English parents, with his father vehemently denying having any Indian ancestors but this is not the case.
A Colonel, John McGowan, openly married a Muslim Indian woman named Maria de Cruz, as many British were encouraged to marry Indian women to cement ties between the two nations when the East India Company began trading.

The oral history of the Abee village proved that oral history is not only correct but vital and should not be dismissed out of hand by other cultures like the Australian Aboriginal People's oral history so often is.

The change from taking pride in mixed ancestry to denying it shows how society altered over time to white-wash over not only historical events but personal histories, influenced by media, ignorant fear and world events.

Ignorant fear and racism is still rampant in Australia due to a hangover from the White Australia Policy; it's one thing to admit and take pride in having a convict in the family tree but for some it's a completely taboo issue to find an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander in the family.  Some may readily admit to having a Maori ancestor in place of a Koori while others claim a free Negro or Samoan instead of a Tasmanian Aboriginal brought to the mainland.

That white-wash is getting a little grey in some areas but it's got a long way to go before it gets tipped down the drains altogether.


  1. The Raj used to have tests they could perform to test the 'whiteness' of those who claimed they had no Indian blood. You don't want to know the details.

  2. Andrew's comment reminds me that I read some time ago that people claiming to have aboriginal blood to claim heritage or some sort of benefits (I forget what type of benefits) had to have blood tests too.
    I hope that bucket of whitewash gets tipped down the nearest drain. It's silly really for anyone to assume they're "the best" just because they're whiter than a freshly washed sheet. Remove the skin and see how much we're all the same.

  3. An ancestor of mine jumped ship in Sydney got on a whaling boat with the Weller brothers and ended up in the South Island. He married a woman from a high ranking Maori family from the Kaitahu tribe.

    Talking about that white Australia policy watching Rabbit Proof Fence was one heck of an eyeopener for me. Terrible what they did to those families and kids. Sods.

  4. I love Hugh Quarshie, i am a closet Holby City fan! He's got a lovely voice.

  5. Randomish question for you...I have a dodgy convict rellie who married a woman in Tasmania in around 1835 who appears to have sprung fully formed out of the ether (no records at all of her birth or arrival in the Apple Isle). I've wondered if she is in fact Aboriginal...

    And River... I read a nasty crime thriller that said something along the lines of "everyone's white if you leave them in the water long enough"