|Aboriginal children on the roof of a police car during a protest|
The details are sketchy.
A fourteen year old Aboriginal child is dead. His body is found lying in the bush.
A fifty five year old man is charged with manslaughter, and the details are cautiously outlined.
The man who was arrested is the owner of a motorcycle, the same motorcycle which was allegedly stolen at the weekend. The same motorcycle found by the body of the boy.
The man is also the owner of a Nissan Navara utility. The same car that left tyre tracks along the route that the teenager took from the road into the scrub.
The police won’t say how the Nissan made contact with the motorcycle, other than to say that the man has been charged with manslaughter.
That should be the story. That a man in a big car allegedly ran down a child on a motorcycle in a vigilante attack.
Instead, it is not. And the outrage from the public is not about the death of the child, it is about the community response and crime in Kalgoorlie.
The West Australian post a video to social media – not about the death of a child, but of a broken window at a courthouse. There are angry comments from the community – again, not about the death of the child, but about the crime rates in the Kalgoorlie community. And the responses from White Australia are stunning.
The posts about the broken window are filled with outrage. Who will pay for that? One questioner asks angrily, as the protests start and the violence starts escalating. Its evidence to them that this death was ‘waiting to happen’, and they happily ignore the part they may have played in that tragedy. There’s a closed Facebook group called ‘Name, Shame and Crimes Kalgoorlie’ https://www.facebook.com/groups/388890791152883/ filled with comments (as recently as a few days ago) about ‘running them over’ and plans for revenge. There’s a joke, casually made, asking how many bodies it would take to fill all the mine shafts. The answer is ‘we’re one theft closer to finding out’.
As we speak, there are protests, riots, clashes with police, violence. In response, the Deputy Mayor of Kalgoorlie has made a worried plea to the indigenous community to ‘not take vigilante action’. There is widespread censure of the attacks on police and on the courthouse by the griefstricken mob, and not a word about the irony of the use of the term ‘vigilante’.
‘Thief got what was coming to him’, says one poster. ‘Hahahaha standard with this filthy race and the only race to get away with it. Oh well time to give them more I suppose’ says another. ‘WHITE LIVES MATTER TOO!!!!!!!!!!!’ shrieks another outraged white person. ‘Your lot are not after justice, just an excuse to have a riot. Justice would be to allow the courts and polie to do their jobs. Justice will not be served until you all are charged and convicted for your role in the riots.’
There are calls to shoot the rioters and approval for the actions of the Navara owner. Members of the Aboriginal community says that he hit the boy, ran him over and then left him to die alone.
So much hatred. And as the grieving, screaming mob tear up bricks and hurl them through windows, I wonder this.
I wonder if any of them were related to Ms Dhu, an Aboriginal woman who was locked up for not paying $3,622 worth of fines and who died after being ‘dragged like a kangaroo’ into hospital. https://newmatilda.com/2016/03/30/ms-dhus-pain-how-to-hurt-an-aboriginal-family-without-even-really-trying/
I wonder how many people present knew Mr Ward, the Aboriginal man who was cooked to death in the back of an unairconditioned prison van http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-05-05/wa-government-pleads-guilty-in-mr-ward-death/2706240 in 2011 after being transported 400km to face a drink driving charge in a Kalgoorlie court.
I wonder how many of the rioters knew any number of Aboriginal people who have been failed by systems in regional Western Australia, including Mr Phillips. http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2011/01/11/3110776.htm The children in his family played together with my children when they were young.
I wonder what the response would have been if the child who had died had been white. If the child had been run down by an Aboriginal man in a big car. If it hadn’t been in Kalgoorlie.
I wonder how many of them had experienced their own systemic oppression and entrenched racism at the hands of others, and how many came from families where children had been taken from their mothers. How many live with ongoing intergenerational disadvantage. How many were related to the child – his death is the third in his family in three weeks.
How can you live with that kind of injustice and NOT riot? It’s not just expressed outrage and grief, it’s a natural reaction to continued marginalisation, erasure, to racism, to the diminishing of human tragedy. It’s a response to a world that prioritises expressions of community outrage to the story of the killing of a child. A media storm that focuses on a broken courthouse window rather than a boy who is left to die on a muddy outback track.
There is more than a window that is broken here.
'A woman measures her life's damagemy eyes are caves, chunks of etched rocktied to the ghost of a black boywhistlingcrying and frightenedher tow-headed children clusterlike little mirrors of despairtheir father's hands upon themand soundlesslya woman begins to weep.'
- Afterimages, by Audre Lord (on the murder of 14 year old Emmett Till)