Black Lives Matter – Inclusion vs exclusion * Humanity vs Inhumanity * Courage vs Fear

During the last four or five weeks, this date being June of 2020, the seemingly ever-present spectre of violence, fear, cruel death and the power of inhumanity has been present for all in the world to see. Why is this so? Is humanity worldwide condemned to reiterate racism, intolerance, anger, hatred, war, bigotry, rampant murder, vicious assaults, division and more hatred?

We have all been awakened by the heart-rending and uncalled for blatant murder of George Floyd. Three weeks later the four officers are all facing serious charges after, across America and the world, protesters have been trying to raise the consciousness of Americans to the centuries’ old continuing killings of Black and Brown Americans, with seeming impunity from prosecution.

We have heard about the deaths of Breonna Taylor, a nurse who was shot whilst sleeping after police broke into her home. We have heard about Walter Scott and Ahmad Arbery and Justine from Australia, in her pyjamas, shot after alerting police to what she heard and thought was a woman being attacked. So many deaths that people might well call outright murder with the only non-white offending police officer being imprisoned following.

The videos, taken by courageous bystanders, of the murder of George Floyd have been reverberating around the world with accompanying outrage and grief being expressed by Black Americans, and White Americans and other racial groups. There have been hugely populated protests all around the world and especially in the United States. A more accurate name for the United States might well be the Divided States of America. The ‘Make America Great’ catch cry could better be ‘MAKE America safe for all’. The news coverage from America also reported that the officer Derek Chauvin had been present and involved in a number of similar deaths of persons in custody.

In Australia the above menacing presence is also visible in cities and in remote areas but the media, it seems, has not been able to bring the deaths of Indigenous Australians in custody, at point of arrest, or in other closed to the public places to a point of public shaming as has USA media outlets. The media can be as intrusive as government institutions in other ways. It may be useful for the media to highlight our fears for Indigenous peoples in custody or on the street or in their homes to show the world what happens here can be as murderous and blatantly egregious as elsewhere.

Since the colonisation of what we now call Australia, Indigenous Australians, similarly to Indigenous Native Americans, and many other Indigenous peoples, have faced historical genocide, historical exclusion, and historical cruelty as have Black Americans. At the Black Lives Matter protest at Tarndanyangaa on Saturday the 6th of June 2020, it was heartening to see approximately five to seven thousand people of many racial groups coming together in support of a protest against Aboriginal deaths in custody. We did hear of the deaths in custody of certain Aboriginal people by name and age. I have chosen not to use known names of people who have died in custody so as to offer respect for any traditional mores against doing so.

I suspect nevertheless, that perhaps the innocent face of a murder victim and his or her name may possibly be considered useful to allow all to see and identify with that person’s unnecessary and aggravated death.

According to “Creative Spirits”, the population of Indigenous Australians at colonisation was estimated roughly at around seven hundred and fifty thousand people which reduced dramatically through massacres between 1794 and 1928. A massacre was described as the deliberate murders of persons numbering between 6 and four hundred. As early as the 1927 the Royal Commission examining such events reported that there was a “conspiracy of silence” into Aboriginal deaths. The latest Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody has not as yet published their conclusions if indeed there are any conclusions they wish to share worldwide. Notwithstanding such aggravating silence, it is estimated that perhaps 70% of non-Aboriginal Australians accept that mass killings, incarceration and forced removal from land took place.

Later, the much lower estimated population of Indigenous Australians, according to “Creative Spirits” was possibly confounded by incorrect identification on census records. It was suggested that people chose not to identify on record to being Indigenous, possibly to protect their families and children from unwanted intrusion by authorities. More recently the census count of Indigenous Australians has risen quite significantly, hopefully because people are less afraid of unwarranted interference in their lives.

It seems that, in 2014, only six years ago, again according to “Creative Spirits”, every single child incarcerated in the Don Dale Detention Centre in Darwin was an Aboriginal child. Furthermore, it was reported, some of those children were sent to adult detention centres possibly (putting the best light on it) when bed space or overcrowding became a cause for concern. It appears unnecessary to make further critical comment given that the population of Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples is about 3.3% of all other Australians.

A critical question, one might ask, is how it is that multinational and wealthy companies like Rio Tinto have, with it seems, approval from the Western and Federal governments, blasted away forty-six-thousand-year-old caves in the Pilbara. We can only assume that money and profit were key reasons for destroying the First Nations’ irreplaceable history, treasured artefacts and important country.

Both the government and the mining company knew of the caves’ invaluable worth and sense of belonging to generations of Indigenous Australians over many thousands of years.  Anger and dismay were expressed by those who have respect and concern for Indigenous Australians’ spiritual and physical connection to such treasured sites.

These issues are current, as they are in America, rather than historical. For example, this week a video was taken of a reportedly sixteen-year-old Aboriginal boy who was apprehended by police, when the child was in the company of his sister. The video depicts the thin, small boy being sweep kicked to the ground as his sister cried out in fear and dismay. He was taken to hospital with, reportedly, bruising and a chipped tooth.

The Police Chief remarked that the offending police officer had actually had a bad day. Later he amended his remarks by citing his understanding that the officer had acted incorrectly and had been temporarily suspended. We note that four hundred and thirty-two Aboriginal people have died whilst in custody with not one death resulting in conviction of any police or corrections officers. What are we doing and, even more importantly, what are we not doing?

I note that xenophobia, or groups of people who are combined by origin, language or country, and or religions, has been and xenophobia continues to be one of the hallmarks of wars and savage death. Such are responsible for the deaths of uncountable human beings all over the world, in the distant and recent past and in the present. We, humankind, need to reach deep and avoid any beliefs that one or the other of us is more or less worthy of life because we have a different skin colour, or originated from a “different place”.

Historical and present conflict between people of all races, religions, wealth and or health status, has resulted in win or lose outcomes. We see continuing threats and hate against the Other; that Other being one who is not one of Us. Moral principles, peaceful conduct and individual senses of right and wrong seem to have been replaced by individuals and civilisations who and which depend on easily changed rulebooks and laws, utter contempt for legislature and the immovable and seemingly irrefutable powers and greed of the wealthy and powerful.

We non-Aboriginal people need to find much more faith in our willingness to support and strengthen the Aboriginal community, and practice and evidence so much more honesty about Aboriginal deaths in custody. We need to demonstrate so much more humility when we perceive the continuing passion and strength of those who have lost their beloved parents, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters and other family members. We all need to lose that unthinking sense of blind and ugly acceptance about murder, thuggery and outright racism towards Aboriginal Australians. We cannot tolerate racial bias and prejudice anymore. We need to, if we perceive ourselves as humanists in any way, to always find empathy for those who do not receive respect, care, worthwhile employment and safe family through absolutely no fault of their own. As we value our lives, we need to value others’ lives. Because Black and Brown lives matter too. And we must try to make change now, not in another one or two hundred years.

Korff, J 2019, Aboriginal law & justice, <https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/law/>, retrieved 6 June 2020
Source: Aboriginal law & justice – Creative Spirits, retrieved from https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/law/

© Merrylyn Asquith All rights Reserved

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