Writing in Canada’s National Post, journalist John Robson observes that “Canadians feel for aboriginals, but our patience for too many insults has limits.” Although Australians spell Aboriginals with a capital ‘A’, the situation is pretty much the same here. When non-Aboriginal Australians are told constantly that they are racist for celebrating Australia Day, applying black face for a costume party, or bombarded with the endless, accusatory rhetoric of ‘white supremacy’ and ‘white privilege’, don’t be surprised that the reaction of some will be an emphatic “Stuff you!”
Thankfully, only a minority of ‘activists’ (both black and white) have made it a life goal to promote hate between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians, but they are sufficient in number to impair race relations. Sadly, the greatest impact is on Aborigines. These activists (“whinja ninjas”, as I like to call them) are card-carrying members of the victim brigade, a topic I have addressed before.
Now consider what must be one of the most deplorable examples of promoting racial hate: a campaign aimed at encouraging the exposure of “police harassment” by a group calling themselves the National Justice Project (NJP). I have no problem with such a program — no problem, I should add, in principle. NJP is hoping to raise $40,000. Their webpage states, “Right now Aboriginal people in Australia are being harassed by police. Aggressively stopped, searched, cuffed and manhandled — too often for no good reason.” It goes on: “Aboriginal mums, dads and kids face negative interactions with police. Daily.” I wonder what their definition of “negative interactions” is? Break the law and, black or white, you can be sure of a “negative interaction”.
I am certainly all for stopping any inappropriate treatment by police of anyone. But how common is it? Perhaps those who see unqualified merit in NJP’s crusade have been influenced (or brainwashed) by promoters of the deaths-in-custody myth which insists incarcerated Aborigines are at greater risk of dying than non-Aborigines? If those behind the NJP were serious they would promote the following message: “Right now Aboriginal people in Australia are being harassed, beaten, raped, and killed by other Aboriginal people.” Given the well documented levels of violence in Aboriginal communities, this is where we should be focusing attention. Perhaps they could target the elder abuse which sees Aboriginal elders have their money taken by younger family and community members? Compare the silence on this issue in Australia with the activism seen in Canada and exemplified by the clip below.
Consider what ‘Darumbul woman’ and journalist Amy McQuire has to say in an article spruiking NJP’s appeal for donations. “It’s important that we begin to document all the interactions with police,” she says, “we can use this as evidence in court.” I certainly agree with the first part of Amy’s rant – document all interactions. But I think she might be in for big shock to find that, were she ever to express the number of problematic interactions between Aboriginal and non-Aborigines as a percentage of all such interactions it would be a very small percentage.
Race hounds sniff out racism around every corner. Whether it is there or not, the spectre of racial injustice and oppression makes a far more convenient target, not to mention fund-raising tool, than the realities of violence and child abuse in Aboriginal communities. Often, in order to discern “racism”, the most laboured interpretations are required. Consider the charge of Indigenous journalist Danny Teece-Johnson, who believes he was the victim of racial profiling because when he was drug-searched at Sydney’s Redfern Station in late 2015. He writes: “I apparently fit the description of someone they are looking for ’bout my height, brown eyes, shaved head, a beard and brown skin of Aboriginal appearance.” Given that description, who should the police have looked for and stopped? Dolly Parton? Danny notes that the reaction to that post on his Facebook page has been “huge – bigger than pretty much anything else I’ve posted”, and he then makes the heroic leap to “it shows how much racial profiling affects people.” Really? For my money it only demonstrates how many people are keen to see racism everywhere.
For those who delight in promoting ‘white man is evil and the cause of all our problems’, here’s a message I wish you would take to heart: while your agenda might be winning popularity contests, Twitter friends and Facebook ‘likes’, it might also be costing lives. Imagine being a police officer or a hospital staffer. Imagine being spat upon, kicked, sworn at, cursed, or threatened.
Although only a minority of Aborigines engage in such behaviour, if it happens enough times then coloured perceptions will be inevitable. Sad undoubtedly, but such is human nature — and NJP’s attitude and campaign can only throw more fuel on the fires of stereotype and preconception. Again, view the world through the lens of Amy McQuire, who writes, “For Aboriginal people, we see them [police] as the aggravators … as the people that you need protection from.” I can’t help but note a bit of stereotyping in that statement. The next time an Aboriginal woman is being battered by her partner the victim should consider contacting Ms McQuire, rather than the police, for help and protection and we’ll see how that works out.
Injustices do Happen
Lest members of the victim brigade accuse me of ignoring true injustices against Aboriginal people, some further comment is warranted, starting with the fact that the whinja ninjas love to cherry-pick examples in their efforts to justify a fabricated victimhood. Consider, for example, the infamous case of Julieka Dhu. I agree with WA Coroner Rosalinda Fogliani’s finding that police and hospital staff were negligent and their actions — or rather, inactions — contributed to her death. But as I have stated, surely attention and intervention should have happened long before she came into contact with the health and justice systems.
Maybe the NJP would be better off investing the $40,000 they aim to raise in preventing domestic violence, given that Miss Dhu’s father testified she had told him that her boyfriend had “flogged” her and broken her ribs.
What to do?
Given the problems of violence, child abuse and neglected elders, surely those issues can be addressed? Before pointing the finger at police, try looking in your own backyard (many of which are over flowing with garbage, literally) and clean up there. Predictably, given that I have made some suggestions as to what Aboriginal people should do, I will be accused of ‘blaming the victim.’ Well, at the risk of opprobrium, let me re-state what should be obvious: such accusers are part of the problem, not the solution.
When I see the whinger ninjas and Aboriginal victim brigade members continually painting the white man as evil, combined with the hate they have for those Aboriginal people who dare to address topics about which they are uncomfortable, then I know that “closing the gap” will be a very slow process.
In the interests of being open to challenge and introducing alternate views, I have invited Gerry Georgatos to put three questions about this article. Gerry, a researcher on suicide prevention and wellbeing, has written much on Aboriginal and social justice issues. Our Q&A exchange is reproduced below.
Georgatos: Why do 40% of Australia’s First Peoples continue to live in poverty, with a significant proportion in Third World-akin poverty?
Me: Paul Brewer and Sunil Venaik state: “Aboriginal disadvantage comes from geographical circumstances, being cut off from educational and medical resources and employment opportunities that exist in Australian cities as opposed to the Australian outback.”
I believe they are basically right. Energy directed at Australia Day protests and promoting the view that this is a racist country would be better directed at leading the people to locations where more opportunities exist.
Georgatos: How do you define racism?
Me: Much like the term ‘Aboriginal’ the definition of racism has been so stretched as to become almost useless. Paradies, Harris, and Anderson (2008), suggest racism is the “avoidable and unfair actions that further disadvantage the disadvantaged or further advantage the advantaged.” So, does that mean if I’m not disadvantaged when someone calls me an ape on Monday, that racism has not occurred; but if I am “disadvantaged” because I feel offended by it on Tuesday then racism has occurred?
Or consider the definition from Dr Google: “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.” If a motel owner refuses to give a room to a particular Aboriginal person, one for whom experience might have warned him to be wary, but then gives the key to a non-Aboriginal person, is that racism? We know what interpretation the victim brigade would give it after stripping the interaction of its specific circumstances.
Georgatos: How can people, all people on this continent, be included in discussing substantively racism and the ways forward but without the pitchfork standoffs?
Me: Many people are put off from discussing true racism where it exists, given that the victim brigade are constantly crying wolf, claiming racism is around every corner. Racism has been reduced to any event where someone can claim “you hurt my feelings.” People are tired of continued unjustified claims of widespread racism. Victims of true racism are the ones who suffer.
Your articles are a perfect example of seeing racism where it isn’t. You have stated: “I see the racism in all its forms, institutional, structural and overt. Racism has haunted me from day dot.” Elsewhere you have mentioned that your two masters degrees focused on racism and “This is why I am a prolific writer about systemic issues, about the oppressor, about the racism.”
Anaïs Nin once noted “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
Could that have relevance here?
Anthony Dillon identifies as a part-Aboriginal Australian who is proud of both his Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal ancestries. Originally from Queensland, he now lives in Sydney and is a researcher at the Australian Catholic University