Cultivating a culture of intolerance

In the wake of the murder of nine African-American’s by a white supremacist in Charleston, South Carolina this week, Australians reacted the same way we always do when a “newsworthy” gun-related killing takes place in the USA.

With disbelief, coupled with a glimmer of smug superiority.

We shake our collective heads at a nation that owns almost half of the world’s civilian-owned guns and wonder when someone will have the courage to take on the seemingly all-powerful NRA.

We wonder how change will come if the deaths of TWENTY five and six year-olds in a mass shooting wasn’t enough to shake America out of its gun-loving ways.

And we gloat about Australia’s lack of mass shootings since laws were tightened following the Port Arthur massacre in 1996.

Many of us have watched with horror as nothing more than sheer racism has seen countless African-American men gunned down at the hands of white police in the US.

Again, we got our smugness on. We’re better than that. We don’t have mass shootings. Our cops aren’t killing black people at a rate three times higher than they’re killing white people.

We tell ourselves that America has big problems. Problems that we don’t have. We tell ourselves that they can learn from us; that we’ve got it right.

Except we’re wrong.

We might not have the same number of gun deaths as the US does (not even close) – among civilian or law enforcement populations.

But it’s not like we’re a shining beacon of peace here in Australia. Least of all if you’re a non-white person.

The racist persecution and killings of people of colour is quieter here, somehow.

We* don’t talk about Aboriginal deaths in custody. We don’t talk about the fact that Aboriginal people make up approximately 30% of the Northern Territory’s general population, but 85% of their prison population. We don’t talk about the fact that Aboriginal women are 45 times more likely than white women to be victims of domestic violence. We don’t talk about the forced closures of Aboriginal communities that are happening simply due to Australia’s ingrained racism.

We don’t talk about the gross abuse of the human rights of predominantly non-white asylum seekers in Manus and Nauru. We don’t talk about the fact that these asylum seekers have become political footballs, real humans used to further political agendas.

The murders that took place in South Carolina this week are no different to the deaths of Australian Aboriginals in custody. They’re no different to the murders of countless people of colour at the hands of white police in America, which in turn, are no different to the appalling manner in which successive Australian governments have demonised asylum seekers.

They’re all things that happen when we allow the cultivation of a culture of racism and intolerance. A culture that, in Australia at least, right now comes from the top; from our so-called leaders. “Leaders” who will allow the passing of laws that will punish those that speak out about the human rights violations taking place in Australia’s offshore detention centres. “Leaders” who refuse to act to end the sexual assaults of children in those centres. “Leaders” who will forcibly remove Aboriginal communities from the lands they have lived on for tens of thousands of years.

While we decry the latest in a long line of mass shootings in the USA, and discuss the blatant white supremacy that led to them, we need to also look at what’s happening in our own country.

Because the only real difference that I can see is the presence, or absence, of guns.

*Obviously, this is a generalisation. But, while there are some amazing people in Australia who are doing all they can to address these issues, there are obviously those who either don’t care, or support the things being done in our names.

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