Today, racist garbage will wash over the shores of St Kilda beach. I blame those in Canberra who enabled them, and those who chose to ignore them hoping that they’d just go away.
In this country, we’re a trifle confused. Some of us believe freedom of speech is freedom of reprisal. We can say these horrible things because we can. African gangs are ruining Melbourne because they are. This morning echoes the mistakes of the past, as another Southern beachside suburb is set to be the tableau for white enabled violence, enabled by the paranoia of a minority, one whose actions have been fictionalised and elevated because radical White Australia always needs somebody to hate.
Today, a demonstration is taking place in St Kilda, one enabled by two criminals, Neil Erikson and Blair Cottrell; but also by the media writ large, unwilling to label a Nazi a Nazi, and unable to stay away from poking the bear, or too, manufacturing irresponsible ‘race war’ hyperbole. Journalist Benjamin Millar put it thusly:
Erikson one-trick agitprop schtick is blunt and amateurish, yet as a marketing ploy it has already worked a treat, earning invaluable TV time. ABC has branded him an ‘activist’. Channel 9 has broadcast him belching out the classic “we grew here you flew here”, while telling us Melbourne is in the grip of a ‘race war’. In a video posted to social media and since deleted, Cottrell explained the value of this kind of strategy: “Every time we’ve ever been on television, every time we’ve ever been in the media, it’s only ever worked out for us. It only ever made our support go through the roof.” Erikson’s puerile modus operandi is to stir trouble, not start trouble. It seems a quibble, yet it’s the crux of his baiting and stunts and video-driven antics. Being Melbourne, the far-right turnout at St Kilda will inevitably be overwhelmed by counter-protest. The highly publicised nature of any potential ‘clash’ means Victoria Police will be out in enormous numbers, a very different situation to the outnumbered force in Cronulla. This fact is central to the far-right ploy. They may not say it, but they consider Victoria Police their own private security detail, ensuring their safety from a left they dearly hope will clash with police, increasing the likelihood media will run a narrative that there is somehow an equivalence between those there to foment hate and those opposed to this message.
For the non-racist white Australian, today throws up many questions. Do you go to oppose the rally, or do you stay at home to not give them coverage? Do you take to Twitter to abuse these people, or do you not? These questions are not questions. It’s easy to ignore racial violence if it is never aimed at you. Being able to not listen to the words of Cottrell speaks loudly of your own entitlement. The Cronulla riot was a tall example of this kind of thinking. The rest of Sydney could be furious at the actions of the angry few (or support it), but they could do so from home, or note the awfulness of it, before changing channels.
They were not the targets, they could afford not to comment.
While I am not South Sudanese and have never been labelled by the media as a gang member, the racial constant is the same. Racism in this country is not always overt. While it may not loudly march the beachfront of St Kilda, it regularly quietly jogs through the streets of the Inner West. It exists in the lack of eye contact between the two, it exists in the friendships not made. It exists in the all-white panel shows on breakfast television, it exists everytime we’re being spoken for. It exists with a man like Tony Abbott being appointed as a middle-man between us. It might be most obvious in our yearly tradition in racism, and the unanswered question of what ‘invasion day’ means, but the heart of division beats steadily. In Redfern, they hated us because we were there. We hated them, because they hated us. Eventually, we were shuffled out of view, quietly losing the battle to gentrification, having us shuttled out for those who can afford to live there. Our losses are handled softly, against The Uluru Statement was quietly dismissed, as was Clinton Pryor, the man who walked 6,000 kilometres across the country to sit down with Malcolm Turnbull to discuss black rights. He made it, was placated at the door of Parliament House, not the loungeroom. But, we’re still here, minus recognition, dying young, behind bars, falling to addiction, with most of the country hoping that we’ll just quietly stop mentioning our removed past, and indeed, lack of our future.
— Clinton Pryor – The Spirit Walker (@Clintonswalk) February 2, 2018
The buzzword today will be that it is “ok to be white”, but I don’t strictly blame these obviously racist few. Their views have been quietly emboldened by more acceptable voices. Our parliament narrowly defeated passing a white supremacist slogan. An elected official called for the reinstatement of the White Australia policy. One wore a Burqa to make a point she didn’t understand. Responsibility also goes to everyone who has ever demonised on assumption, who spoke into a television camera with false maudlin tones, warning of the great African crime wave sweeping over the very nice streets of Australia’s greatest city. Racism is blatant in this country, but Blair Cottrell is just the tip of the spear. The handle is grasped by parliament, its edge sharpened by those who are opposed that do nothing.
However today goes, it’s best we twist it in our minds. Just imagine if a man named Mohammed was the author of today’s rally. That reveals who we are.
For those who came up white in the genetic lottery will never understand what today represents. The violent manifestation of the fear we all suppress on a daily basis, the hill we climb over before we leave the house. Being a person of colour in this country is terrifying. Our lack of security is the spooky music that plays under the normalcy of suburbia, or work, or election day. However, we do not fear days like today, when the collective fist is balled against us, as we know where we stand. We fear the days when that hand is not present, and our existence is not noted, or is used as a tool for political advancement.
Today has nothing to do with African-Australian gangs. It’s about the normalisation of extremism. Today will probably be peaceful, under the watchful eye of the Victorian police and the assembled press. Those who wear skin like mine know that today will enable acts that will play out in darkened corners, on unknown streets and beaches, far away from the reach of the police, or the notice of the media. When help isn’t forthcoming, when we’re violently educated on the rightness of whiteness.
And that, we will not shut up about. But when we speak about it, it’s best that the well-meaning and those who hold the power, choose to hear us, and not speak for us.
I feel scared often. I feel so scared sometimes I contemplate leaving Australia.
Being scared is often part of POC experience.
I was once given a useful advice: never let anyone scare you into silence. I try to do so as much as I can. https://t.co/FVwnjPpEr9
— Nyadol Nyuon (@NyadolNyuon) January 4, 2019