Saturday, March 16, 2019

Christchurch, White Supremacy & Us

After the Sydney gunman had walked into the Lindt Cafe, after I'd made my tweet, after the tweet had gone viral and the siege ended, I was interviewed at 7am on Radio National Breakfast by Ellen Fanning.

I'm not someone who thinks quick when put on the spot. The interview went well, but still, I've replayed one question and answer over and over in the intervening years, because I didn't quite say what needed to be said.

Fanning had asked if Sydney's emphatic support of #illridewithyou was indicative of character, if that was [Australia].

What I wish I had had the coherence to say, is:

Yes, but it is not all that we are. 
Because no matter what the Sydney gunman brought with him when he came to Australia - his personality, philosophies, behaviour - nothing he encountered in his time here turned him from his path. He encountered no one who gave him pause, made him reconsider his beliefs. He was not rehabilitated for his violence against women, nor was he deemed threat enough to be imprisoned. There were years here, in Australia, in which he could have been changed, or stopped. But he wasn't. And that is on us. 
Because #illridewithyou was, and is, a reaction. Without white supremacy being openly and loudly displayed - on our radios, in our newspapers, by our political representatives - there would be no #illridewithyou. There would be no need.

We are the hatred and the supporting hand both. All of that, the good and bad, is us, and our responsibility.

I wish I'd said that.

The Christchurch shooter was born in Australia, grew up in Australia, and all his views and beliefs he developed here, in Australia.

I wish a lot of things had gone differently. Each time mass murder like this occurs, and is tied back to Australia, I remember that for a moment we had changed the narrative. It wasn't one of fear and hate and fear and hate. We had a volume that made liars of the pundits and talking heads and the then Prime Minister about what would and would not be accepted. We changed the narrative.

But I couldn't be that focal point. I just couldn't. If I'd stayed louder for longer, perhaps that change would have made a deeper impact. If I'd been more organised and savvy with branding and spokespersons. If that momentum had been sustained, maybe the Christchurch gun man could have been changed, or stopped. He is Australian. He is our responsibility.

It's for me and me alone to make peace with all that I did and did not do, but it is for us, Australia as a whole, to look at what has changed in the intervening years, and what hasn't.

We failed the victims of the Lindt Cafe siege, and we have failed the Muslims of Christchurch. There are victims lying dead in the future, just waiting for the present to catch up with them, whom we are also failing. This failure and these deaths will continue, unless we change.

We are the source of terrorism. We have nurtured white supremacy in our politics and our media, and now that poisoned tree has borne fruit and cast it across oceans. Let the same penalties and sanctions we have imposed on other countries in the name of security against terrorism now be imposed upon us. We deserve it. We have earned it.

We must change.

Stop touting freedom of speech as being equivalent to a right to be heard. Stop giving platforms and funding to hatemongers - Andrew Bolt is still being paid to speak bigotry - and allowing hatespeech to become mainstream. Irony is no defence for bigotry. If you speak fascism and racism, then ironic or not, you are a fascist and racist. If you are not challenging those around you for these jokes and edgy comments, your silent makes you complicit in this. To pass unchallenged is to pass with approval. Stop this behaviour before it becomes mass murder.

None of us stopped the Christchurch shooter. None of us gave him pause, turned him from his path, or simply blocked his way.

Give financial, practical and emotional support to targeted people and those who are victims of hate and fear. This is the one thing I was deliberate about when coining the hashtag. The intent and the wording are completely centred and focused upon the targeted and the victims of bigotry. It is an acknowledgement of the harm and threat to their person without requiring that same harm be quantified. It is simply about them and their lived, every day reality. They are seen, and will not be ignored.

Nothing in the hashtag was about the perpetrators of bigotry. We know they're there. Attention is given to them at the further cost of those they victimise. The victims of bigotry, of white supremacy, are wounded with physical and emotional violence, and that hurt then compounded as they are abandoned to endure the aftermath alone, without support. The focus is consistently on the perpetrator, giving them power through attention. 

The hashtag was never about them.

It's not enough to turn up at a counter rally for nazis if you're not sparing a thought for the residents of the Jewish aged care centre that wake up to swastikas and vandalisim. If you don't make the world a better place for the people who have to endure all this hate and violence and vitriol, then it is not enough. Change can be brought about by empowering, supporting and bolstering those peoples targeted by white supremacy. The change required is a many faceted thing.

None of this work is easy, or glamorous, or satisfying. It is done because it is necessary, and that is all. It is necessary. White supremacy cannot be allowed to continue.

This isn't well written. There are great knots that get in the way when I think upon this. Eloquence would be nice, but is ultimately irrelevant.

We need to do better.