Friday, January 12, 2007

The Fine Line

In the past two years Australia has hosted a variety of forms of racially motivated violence: the death of T.J and the Redfern uprising (I lived for several years in Redfern), the Cronulla riots, the Palm Island murder and riot, the murder of Andrew Farrugia and two days ago in Aurukun. This last location is home to some close friends of mine. I phoned them yesterday and they are alright but are worried for the future.
The discourse that surrounds these tragedies is disturbing. In the Sydney Morning Herald Paul Sheehan wrote of a "feral underclass that exists in many rural towns with large Aboriginal populations." In the Courier Mail outright hatred was expressed in the (monitored) comments.
The entire course of what could be termed 'race politics' in Australia disturbs me. In recent examples, starting with the commentary on the net concerning the Aurukun violence, it generally concerns chastisement and appeals to the perceived degeneracy of Aboriginal people and their inability to observe the morals of virtuous society at large. The ethics and morality of racist discourse are a major theme in David Theo Goldberg's book Racist Culture.
There are very few Aboriginal voices heard in the debates around the crimes committed by police or by protesters. When they are present it is usually as an explanation of why their people are 'failing' or dissatisfied with the agenda set for them by those they see as separated from themselves; the Australia of John Howard.
A recent protest in Brisbane seemed to express an anger (but also a pride) that I do not remember being present in 'my Australia' where I lived from 1969 until 1996. When I lived in rural Australia, sharing the school bus and the classroom with Aboriginals in the 1980's there was always a divide, but not the anger there seems to be now. As for the fear of Islam, Sydney was a very harmonious city in the early 1990's when I lived there.
What worries me is the possible truth behind what Murrandoo Yanner stated;
"This is a sure sign of things to come, not just in the Cape York and lower Gulf, but throughout Australia."
I despair............

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