Protesters in Sydney’s Martin Place during a Black Lives Matter rally this week. Picture: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images
Protesters in Sydney’s Martin Place during a Black Lives Matter rally this week. Picture: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

Protest by all means, but don’t stop there

ABOUT the same time we were sending the second edition of The Deadly Examiner to the printers last week, a US officer of the law was kneeling on the neck of an African American man who was lying face down in the gutter.

Despite George Floyd's distressing pleas of "I can't breathe" the police officer didn't budge. Even when the 46-year-old whimpered for his mother, officer Derek Chauvin held his position until Mr Floyd was dead.

So upon hearing that, all the work, all the community support, all the amazing response from the three Aboriginal nations of the Clarence, felt a little hollow. The parallels were there, as much as we would like to think they weren't.

But most people of colour are used to that. They are accustomed to having to carry on smiling and showing their appreciation for our crumbs while racism is all around them.

Of course when it escalates to the level of what is happening in America, those fed up with their racist system retaliate. We take notice for a moment but often return to our daily lives once the rioting stops.

We are always quick to distance ourselves from the race hate we often see in America, we like to believe we are better than that.

The truth is we really aren't. When I searched George Floyd's name on Google before I wrote this, the first search query that came up was his "criminal history". If that doesn't tell you where we are at, nothing will.

Just because we don't see unrest on the scale of the US, doesn't mean the tinderbox isn't here and one day won't explode.

First Nations people have every right to blow up, but given the tolerance they have demonstrated day after day, protest after protest, in reaction to the institutionalised garbage the country has dished up to them since Colonial days, they have been far too polite.

Now, with the growing support of white allies whose awakening to such barbaric behaviour means more protests this weekend, you wonder whether Aboriginal people really think that the message is going to stick this time, even with the extra help.

About the same time Mr Floyd was having his windpipe crushed in that Minneapolis gutter, Rio Tinto blew up a 46,000-year-old sacred site to expand its mining operations. The company said it was sorry, which is the second time Aboriginal people have heard that word in this country, but where's the uproar? A few newspaper articles and a blip on Twitter and it's back to digging up that billion- dollar dirt.

But wait, nobody died and no police were involved, so what's your point?

That would be one of respect. It actually does go a long way.

To demonstrate the lack of this, let me refer to the 432 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who have died while under police guard since the 1991 Royal Commission into Deaths into Custody. Not one of those deaths resulted in a conviction. Yep, those papers would have been more effective on the bottom of a budgie cage.

By all means join in the protests this weekend, and support the hashtag campaigns, stick up a poster and celebrate reconciliation weeks and events, and all other things indigenous, but also ask yourself what's really happening on the ground here in the Clarence to empower our Aboriginal residents? They're still on the bottom of the pile when it comes to being able to run their own show and empower their own people as they pointed out in the Deadly last week but weren't exactly inundated with emails from concerned citizens who read that.

We're happy to acknowledge some of their problems and tell them how to solve them. Perhaps tick a few politically correct boxes, but there's still no sign of anything that says serious social reform is coming their way.

We champion their culture and support their causes when things seem desperate, but it's not a short-term thing. That desperation, and frustration, is ongoing.

Nothing will change unless we follow through on these protests, or move beyond the polite platitudes and box-ticking exercises at our events. Unless we are paying them an appearance fee to turn up, we should really stop asking them to do things for us, and concentrate on asking what we can do for them.