If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.
Jeremy Fernandez, I’m sorry your two year old daughter learned, so early, that the colour palette is not always one with which she may paint azure skies and pink and orange sunsets and beautiful deeply star speckled nights. I’m sorry that she saw the ends of the world crimped to the inside of a Sydney bus, which will almost certainly taint whatever comes next. Two year old children should not have to deal with such crises of identity, of #racism, but then, this country has a very long history of destroying the identities of black children, a fact attested to by the Stolen Generations. I share my life with one of those children.
The sorry thing is Jeremy, had the woman making the #racist rant realized that you were in the media, I’ll bet she would have been entirely more receptive to you and your position on that bus. Had you been with a camera crew or high-profile interview candidate, you would have had many more friends on that bus, willing to speak up for you, willing to protect you. Whilst your magnanimous gesture in absolving the majority of commuters on the bus of blame for remaining silent is kind, I suspect it is because you are really afraid that you would lose any support you received in those written contacts if you were to express dismay. You, as the black man who went from being the victim to the accused in the blink of an eye, don’t have the luxury of being angry with your co-commuters. As for the comments of the bus driver, well I hope with that sort of attitude he is at the very least, under investigation by his employer.
This is, sadly, the reality of identifying or being physically identifiable as of black heritage in not only Sydney, but Australia. You should not have given up your seat, Jeremy and I’m glad that you did not. In that one act, you showed your daughter that she needs to stand her ground, that she is not less than anyone else. More importantly, you showed her that YOU are not less than anyone else. In the eyes of your child, that should count for a very great deal, although she may not comprehend the significance of your choice for many years. Daddy, to your little girl, should remain her steadfast protector, as it should be.
It is the silence of others on that bus which concerns me. The same thing has happened to other commuters. The French women on the bus in Melbourne; I’m glad your daughter did not have to experience that sort of thing, because in the case of the French women, the attitude of the many other commuters was not one of silence or fear about being involved in something ugly, but rapid inclusion resulting in a mob mentality with threats to kill one of the women.
Blak and Black’s own Bakchos was subjected to a KKK lynching at Easter in 2012 in the suburban streets of Sydney walking to his car to collect some belongings. Not a soul came to his aid, no-one called the police, but someone saw what went on nonetheless and a statement has been collected. Bakchos suffers chronic injuries as a direct result of that attack.
Mahmud, a follower and friend of this blog, was assaulted in daylight on Sydney’s Upper North Shore, taunted with accusations related to his Middle Eastern heritage just last December. Again, silence from those who looked on.
Then we have Ms. King, assaulted in the lunchtime peak in the heart of Canberra’s political district by the Inquisitor, a European immigrant of white parents whom the Australian Federal Police refuse to charge because of who he knows. Ms. King has several witnesses, but the attacker in this instance is protected and even emboldened by his protected status. What about the former Commissioner for ACT Revenue? Mr. Julian Moti? Capt. Fred Martens who whilst not black himself, seems to suffer for having a black spouse and children? What about Angelique? Lucinda McMillan? Corey Barker? Cameron Doomadgee? Kwementyaye Ryder? My car passenger Alex? Haseen?
I can tell you about receiving a call from Bakchos in the wee hours of the morning three years ago, irate about being refused by a cab driver to take himself and his friend home. The friend was wearing a suit, having gone out with Bakchos on a Friday evening straight after work from his job as a senior manager in the NSW public service. He also happens to be of darker skin tone than Bakchos, obviously indigenous. The cab driver, of non-European heritage and non-white himself, refused to take the fare because of the Aborigine, who walked home despondent on his own.
Bakchos will tell you about trying to hail a cab with two lawyers, all dressed in suits, all indigenous. The two darker toned men were continually passed by for ten minutes in Sydney’s CBD. They finally asked Bakchos to hail a cab, because they felt they were being ignored because of their skin colour. Sure enough the next cab stopped as soon as Backhos held out his hand.
I will tell you about racist comments left on this blog, threats of intimidation and harm to Bakchos, attacks and derision. All embodied in the silence of mainstream Australia, that prefers not to know, that says it’s not their business, without realizing that all the time they are allowing that once one marginalized group is quarantined, things will progress to another. What once seemed like a wonderful melting pot of cultures with many flavours and wonderful spices will coalesce into a bland and sour meal of gruel that we will all be forced to endure at every meal, every day.
Silence is not always golden. It costs others their right to live without fear of being racially abused and renders those too timid to speak up complicit in the attacks upon others. Those who attack the fundamental concept of inclusion and tolerance in Australia need those who do not agree to stand up for the oppressed so as to tell those who lie and manipulate that it will not be tolerated. Freedom of speech does not include freedom to lie and racially abuse; Andrew Bolt learned that the hard way. Racial hatred fulminates in the silence of the righteous. If only a few of us must stand up for equality with nothing more than our staff for protection, it will be the rest of Australia that will bear the blame for whatever the outcomes are with the next generation. I continue to despair for the wonderful vision I was painted as a child; the canvas long ago cracked, but not quite as early as your daughter’s, Jeremy. And now you’ve been forced to pick up your staff too.
Throw physic to the dogs; I’ll none of it.
Come, put mine armor on. Give me my staff.
Seyton, send out.—Doctor, the thanes fly from me.
Come, sir, dispatch.—If thou couldst, doctor, cast
The water of my land, find her disease,
And purge it to a sound and pristine health,
I would applaud thee to the very echo,
That should applaud again.—Pull ’t off, I say.—
What rhubarb, senna, or what purgative drug,
Would scour these English hence? Hear’st thou of them?
Macbeth, Act V Secne III, Shakespeare