Mellek Steel

To those white Australians who want to help, don’t speak on our behalf

The African gang issue has renewed an age-old problem. As the white left rushes to help, their thousandfold empathetic analysis forces the conversation away from the topic.



So, it seems that the issue of skin colour has again made its way into the discussion, and with it, the reactionary wave of support; and with that, the tidal shift of articles supporting the cause by addressing every angle of the issue.

Over the past week, we’ve seen the issue of African gangs rhetoric birthed then busted. The news cycle then shifted to Nelly Yoa, a con-man who apparently is a professional footballer, credit card pitchman and also the primary reason why we’re discussing the issue. Who is this mystery man, we wonder.



Let me be blunt. None of this helps. All it does is dilute the pool, obfuscate the issue and shift the discussion away from the one that we should be having, which is how the institutional rebirth of an ancient antagonist, the black man, came to be, and how those with darker skin continue to be the go-to cookie cutter boogeymen to provoke a nervous society. White Australia, especially those who look to help, criticise what happened until they turn blue in the face, and until their fingers bleed, but they stop short of asking the most important question: why. They merely compartmentalise their anger until the next flashpoint.

Yassmin Abdel-Magied is a great example of this. She criticised ANZAC Day, the right fought her, the left fought back, and she eventually left the country. The left fought their battles as they raged, but nothing was done to ensure that any PoC wouldn’t be railroaded the next time round; they’ll deal with it next time it crops up; which, being a so-called person of colour, is infuriating. We have all the support in the world when we make the headlines, but the everyday struggles we face, and still face after the headlines move on, don’t seem to matter. We’re a cause to rally behind, but not to solve. As the African gang issue is fast moving off the front pages, I wonder if we’ll register the existence of the South Sudanese-Australians beyond a vague, shapeless troublemaking mass to be flayed in comment boxes all over the country; to use the American example, Black Lives Matter, but clearly only to pad the statistics of news organisations. We’re not that far removed from the cotton fields below the Mississippi, and despite the emancipation proclamation, the 1960s unrest and a change of minds, it’s clear to see that institutions, in a far more palatable way, are building themselves on the backs of us.

Another great example would be US clothing house H&M’s recent gaffe, where a black kid modelled a jumper that triumphantly stated that he was “the coolest monkey in the jungle”. The Internet lost their minds, as great voices, black and white, railed against the apparent lack of thought that went into it.



For the record, I had no problem with it. I’ve been called worse daily, and that should be the issue: the very obvious existence of a second class, and why we should still be feared and hated because of it.

Longtime Melbourne journalist Benjamin Millar charted this double standard wonderfully, by listing all the incidents of violence that he’s covered since 2010, moments of great hideous violence recorded but unheralded. If you’re white, you can commit heinous acts and be tried and quietly rot in jail. Be suspected of committing a raft of lesser crimes when you’re black, and you make the front page for a week.



There’s an oft-repeated blanket we all huddle under as Australians, and that is that despite our problems, we’re not the United States. Well, having lived it, you should know that the racial divide is as wide, even if we choose not to see it. There it sits, hidden behind headlines both positive and negative.

If you truly want to help, listen to us when we talk, don’t speak for us.


Mellek Steel

Mellek Steel is a blue-collar schmo who traded the city in for the bush. Alongside his inability to write a gripping bio, he's keen on fishing and whatever footy team is presently losing the most.