In My Blood It Runs is a documentary following Dujuan as he turns 10 and 11. Aboriginal Australian, of Arrente and Gurrwa heritage, he speaks 3 languages, can drive a car, and practices traditional healing. But at school, he is seen as being on the bottom rung, academically underachieving, truanting, and having behavioural issues.
It’s important to note that none of these things actually involve hurting anyone. In fact, they are simply attempts to move out of engagement with a racist school system, one which has been used for generations to deculturate indigenous people. Dujuan gets constant letters home, suspended, and eventually expelled, and all for bullshit like “being rude” and annoying the teacher by throwing her car keys on the school roof. The consequences however, are very high stakes. His mother constantly warns him that, now he’s 10, if he gets in trouble at school, they can take him away to juvenile detention, where kids get starved, beaten, and tortured.
Juvenile detention’s population is 100% Aboriginal. Just in case anyone was unclear on how racist this system is. As I’ve said, the mistreatment that goes on there is appalling, but the aspect Dujuan most fears is the separation from his family, and inability to go back to his land.
As someone who also had “behavioural issues” in school, right around the same age as Dujuan, and not bullshit mischief, but biting and being a total shit to other kids, actually hurting people, at no point as a white lassie did I think I might be sent to juvenile detention where I might be beaten and starved. Because that would seem like obviously ludicrous overkill. The difference in our respective behaviour and respective punishments really brought home how little value is being placed on this kid’s life by society.
And that’s something he feels, and recognises in the way his teachers talk about him and his culture. While European-Australian history is taught with serious regard (and significant omissions), Aboriginal history, if it’s taught at all, is done with patronising mockery. While English lessons are long and detailed, lessons in Aboriginal languages are maximum 30 minutes long, if they are even offered by the school at all. Dujuan’s disengagement with school is the only way he has as a child of resisting the insidious indoctrination that he is less-than, and his culture is a joke.
He’s clearly bright, he’s clearly motivated, because whenever he’s taken out to the bush, he comes alive again. He asks to know more of his language. He wants to learn more to improve his traditional healing skills. He is eager to participate in life on his land.
And his family struggles to balance that. To pass on his history, his language, and the traditions that will keep him sane, while at the same time preparing him for living in an Australia dominated by white systems and society.
Another film that demonstrates all too clearly that colonialism isn’t something that happened a hundred years ago, but something that continues to happen to this day. The history of removing indigenous children from their families in order to destroy them as a people continues to this day, and the use of education systems as a tool to do that persists.