The Wakeley church stabbing and the dreaded ‘other’

May 1, 2024
One red dice among many white dices.

I remember watching a timid singer walk on stage and when he opened his mouth to introduce himself, out came a French accent. The audience mewed and cooed in awe. The next contestant tenuously stepped onto the stage and started to speak. Her accent was Chinese. The audience’s reaction was completely different. Racism manifests in strange ways. Halting English from one accent gets a thumbs up but another accent – not so much. I think it’s called selective racism.

The street riots after the Wakeley Church stabbing of a bishop on 15th April was initially assumed by the media to be the work of the dreaded ‘other’. The mob were on the streets and we should all batten down the hatches. “Christianity is under attack”, voiced one news channel, “teenage terrorist”, claimed another. Headlines such as these encourage racists to have a field day screaming abuse at their tv’s. But of the 2,000 people who were involved in the violent street riot it was primarily Christians taking their vigilante mindset to the streets, not Muslims.

Religion aside, the focus on Wakeley turned to skin colour and the appearance of those who took part in the riot and the perpetrator of the attack. A dark-bearded man still conveniently implies ‘other’ in media outlets who describe males as such. Would they ever describe a white thug as clean shaven? Some media outlets incorrectly (deliberately?) inferred it was Middle Easterners comprising the mob and that we should all be horrified at the crazed violence on the streets. I wonder what people thought when they realised it was Christians rampaging the streets and destroying police vehicles, homes and injuring numerous police.

If someone travels 90 kms to stab a stranger it would seem obvious that he is not in possession of all his senses. But because he appeared to be of Middle Eastern appearance and Muslim, he’s a terrorist. It would also appear that this is blatant racism. I don’t know what else you could call it when the man who stabbed six victims to death in the Bondi attack was quite quickly labelled as having “mental health issues”. I wonder if that quick presumption was because he was white. One would surmise both perpetrators had mental health issues.

Our government is rolling the social dice when they don’t discourage blatant racism. Mainstream media needs to educate the populace rather than fostering fear mongering towards those who aren’t born here or look and dress differently. It’s in our interest to create harmony, not discord. A well-informed friend tells me that Muslim women who wear the hijab in Australia are really copping abuse due to the current situation in Gaza – as if the women are in control of the conflict! Objection to the Occupation and war should be directed towards leaders of countries whose job it is to create world peace instead of funding, assisting and fuelling conflict. It should not be directed to our fellow Australian citizens out of pure racism. Our government is elected to serve all the people, not just Anglo-Saxons.

Racists could remind themselves that Thai food, the hummus dip in their fridge, their sweet-n-sour pork or Pho all come from somewhere else. (And don’t forget garlic). If Australia doesn’t want to go back to the White Australia Policy mentality and the bland white food and monotone white societal culture that was part of it, perhaps they could crack open their hearts like a fortune cookie and understand that we are all just striving for humanity – no matter what we look like.

No one bats an eyelid when they enjoy a croissant, pizza or pasta, none of which originated in Australia. So why are we still so reticent to acknowledge that we are indeed a multicultural society and with those foods comes the multicultural people and their differing faiths and manner of dress. Who cares where people come from or how they dress if they are law abiding citizens and who (more often than not) enjoy this amazing continent and the freedom it engenders to those who have called it home. Making immigrants feel welcomed instead of being suspicious towards them would help. They make an enormous contribution to our economy and culture. It’s hollow to point the finger at the few immigrants who have committed crimes unless we are prepared to point the finger at the significant percentage of white Australians who have also committed crimes.

I understand that racism is as old as time, but with time we should also understand that racism aids no one to live a better life. Not those who hold racist views, nor those who are victims of racism.

It’s ignorance to think those who don’t look, pray or dress like us don’t love their children as we do, nor want a better life for themselves and to live in safety and progress. We all want the same things: shelter, food, safety, a job and a future for our families. Whatever colour your skin or to whomever you pray, these aspects of life are all desired. I often hear that “immigrants don’t share our values”. That’s a broad statement if ever I heard one. Those who spout such nonsense often haven’t even spent time with immigrants to know what values they hold. Maybe we should reflect on the ‘values’ of settler-colonials and whether they married up with indigenous values. I imagine core values of peace and family ties are today widely held the world over. No one is braying to live with insecurity, lawlessness and violence.

Lest we forget also that immigrants to our country are sometimes those whose countries have been decimated not only by foreign governments and foreign occupation, but sometimes with Australia’s assistance. Vietnam, the Gulf war, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Palestine etc., have been made untenable for many whose lives were in danger and whose children had no future in their homeland. If countries are prepared to destroy, invade and decimate other countries, then surely they can’t be surprised when people seek sanctuary elsewhere once their lives have collapsed under the bombs and rubble.

I have no desire to go back to meat and two veg, nor to a society where I only see people who have fair skin and the local Church of England is on every corner. Bring on the multicultural everything and embrace and understand the ‘other’ – you’ll be happier for it.

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