Friday, March 10, 2006

Racism's tangled web

It has been an incredibly busy week. Although I've hardly had time to write, I have had time to read. Riding on trams between work and home is good for that.

This week, my Monthly arrived. I didn't get around to reading Robert Manne's article on how Howard's infatuated with America. I'm pretty tired of seeing Manne's name in print everywhere, described as "Australia's leading intellectual". His work is interesting enough, and at times very important, but he's not my favourite.

Instead, I read the piece by Chloe Hooper – a woman, younger (probably in my age range) and prepared to get out of the office and talk to people:
In "The Tall Man", the second of the March Monthly's major essays, Chloe Hooper ventures into Palm Island's heart of darkness. Attending the inquest into an Aboriginal man's death in custody, she finds a community on the verge of disintegration - violence, alcoholism, unemployment, poverty, misery - and wonders how the people of Palm Island will achieve justice and equality.
The man's death in custody sparked a riot on the Island, and I now understand more why. I nearly wanted to cry when I read Hooper's story.

Earlier this week, a prominent Aboriginal woman elder in Queensland was left lying on the footpath beside a Brisbane bus stop – ill and imobile after a stroke. Passersby didn't stop to help her, presumably because she is Aboriginal, and they probably thought she was drunk and dangerous. The Courier Mail reported (thanks to David for sending me that):
Buses came and went and hundreds of students and commuters walked past Delmae Barton's prone body at the bus stop at Griffith University's Mt Gravatt campus last Tuesday. [...]

Aunty Delmae, 62, has sung on stages around the world, performed with ballets and orchestras, even penned poems for prime ministers but, yesterday, with tears running down her cheeks, she recalled the shame of lying in her own vomit, unable to speak or reach out to passers-by.
She was finally helped by a group of Japanese students from nearby Griffith University.

You have to wonder at the threads that tie Australia in a tangled web of racism and fear.


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