Deadly Unna. A story of racism
Jelinna Santiago, Mt Lilydale Mercy College
Deadly Unna is an award winning teenage novel. The author Phillip Gwynne, says that several events from the book are based on true events from his childhood.
In South Australia, there was a small town where the Aboriginals lived on the Point, and the whites lived in the Port. Gary Black (Blacky) was a young white boy who grows to see how problematic racism is in his town. Eventually, he developed enough courage to take matters into his own hands. Dumby Red (an Aboriginal) was one of the main reasons for Blacky’s significant change. Blacky had come to discover that Aboriginals are kind, and just like any other person.
So, when people such as Slogs, Arks and Big Mac abused people of Dumby’s colour, Blacky became enraged. Although Dumby took a great part of Blacky’s development, people who angered Blacky from acts of injustice caused him to take action. The people's prejudice developed Blacky’s view of the corrupted town.
I first read Deadly, Unna over the school holidays. Honestly, when I finished the novel I was very confused. I thought that nothing much really happened in the novel. It was separated into 4 sections for me: Blacky wins the football Grand Final, Dumby dies, people are racist and Blacky paints over racist graffiti.
When I went back to school we further discussed the story and I realised how much I missed. There are so many small situations that eventually add up to one big problem: of course, that problem is racism. You can see Blacky grow from an immature boy to a confident young man. Every encounter with another character shapes his identity and opinion of the Aboriginals.
The Power of Labels
Blacky is an example of how much a label can impact a person’s life. An individual can make the choice to either be their label or not be their label. Labels and statements can stick and influence people's opinions about another.
Having a label can diminish your capability and confidence. At the beginning of the novel Blacky states that “a gutless wonder is the worst thing you can be in this town.” Soon after, Blacky’s father officially labels him a gutless wonder.
Imagine you were Blacky after being labelled a gutless wonder. How suddenly your skin feels like lava, the doubts that claw the back of your mind, the fear of making a fool of yourself. This is what I imagine someone would feel after being judged, called a name or labeled in front of everyone.
Although labels in Deadly, Unna are very influential, they don’t affect some people. We need to be that ‘some people’ to prevent racism.
Australia today - Are Australian's really racist?
In Australia today we do not call Aboriginals a boong or nunga. I myself have not experienced or seen racism and for the most part people do not practise racism these days, but a few still do. After Martin Luther King’s speech I have a Dream, racial equality started to take action. King said; "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Judging someone due to their race, culture, appearance or personality is not exceptional. An individual should be judged based on their actions and choices. Society has finally found its way through racism with the result being racial equality. Life today is so much better because we know we can freely express ourselves and be who we are without others opinions. But on the other hand, we would not have come to this point of history, if we had not experienced the fury among people from racism.
You & I Respect
Deadly Unna Goes hand in hand with an organisation called ‘You and I Respect.’ Their goal is to spread the message that equality and respect are two bases of a healthy relationship. If these two components are missing, a relationship can become abusive and disrespectful. Equality and respect is very important because relationships can affect us in many ways. Whether the relationship is with a friend, boyfriend, parent or other, each person should be equally valued and feel safe.
Relationships can change the way we behave, think, relate and our overall happiness. Having healthy relationships is vital for healthy wellbeing. It doesn’t matter what race, colour, gender or personality another has, we should always be respectful.
The outcome of an unhealthy relationship is displayed in Deadly Unna, such as the time when 3 Aboriginals were shot breaking into a bar without harming anyone.
To prevent terrible events we must continue to maintain respectful and kind relationships. Fortunately Australian's have come a long way in their respect of each other's cultures, histories and beliefs.
If you've been feeling labeled or depressed, bullied or just feel like you're stuggling or don't fit in Inspiro's counsellors are here to help. Call Inspiro on 9028 0153