Monthly Archives: November 2014

Unlearn your MLK quotes, It’s more than simply to Recognise

On August 23rd 1963 some 250,000 people marched from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial, where the crowd was addressed by Civil Rights Leaders and sung to by Music royalty. You will probably know this event as the March on Washington or the day Martin Luther King Jr delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, an event he organised. Some of this is true, you know it because it is what you have been told and what you have read. But it is by no means the whole truth and perhaps in this distortion of history we can see parallels in our own civil rights struggles, who really leads them and just exactly what are they about.

To begin with it is important to know the March was in fact titled, March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The marches knew what they wanted, they made it clear and they had a list of demands. Dr King did not organise the march, nor was his speech some divinely inspired piece of oratory as delivered in sermons, he too had made clear before hand his demands and it had nothing to do with making people feel good. This was no Kumbaya collective that popped into existence a few days before, it was organised decades in advance, it was organised by an Athiest not a Reverend and the marches weren’t just there to hold hands, but to get paid! This may sit as equally uncomfortably with many in the social justice community as it does with conservatives, hippies and the religious but these are points of history that not only cannot be denied, they were made crystal clear by those who lead the March and should come as a very clear warning to those who follow modern day civil rights movements and think everything is the way that it is reported.

What many may not be aware is that Dr King, an invited speaker on the day by actual organisers, A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin who read a list of demands to close the event, had already delivered his I Have A Dream Speech many times over. Again, this was not some divinely inspired moment of oratory brilliance, this was a well rehearsed speech that was designed to rally crowds around the central themes of economic justice, social inclusion and an end to life as second class “citizens”. But in case you don’t believe me, in case like many you would rather believe he was all inspiring and not about substance, when in fact his real substance was lifting people out of poverty, about distributing wealth back into he hands of the Black community…., perhaps you should listen to the words of the man himself.

Did you hear that, maybe you need to listen to it again, maybe we all need to listen to it again. Dr King knew very well that rights alone were not much good without the currency of a society that functions almost purely on capital. Food, housing, transport, health, education… without that cheque, what is the use of rights! Then add to that the almost entire lack of political representation, the ever expanding shifting of the Black population from the slave fields to the prison cells and a society that treats you with suspicion, contempt and often open hostility. Is it any wonder Dr King’s message extended beyond that of just a dream and why the organisers of the March on Washington called for jobs and read a list of demands, not aspirations, demands!

Now fast forward to Australia 2014, where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are still the most discriminated against, still the most imprisoned, the poorest, the lowest life expectancy, the most unemployed, the highest infant mortality rates and the highest levels of preventable diseases in the land. But if you take your cues from the Mainstream media, politicians and yes, many of the same people who quote out of context Dr King you’d be forgiven for thinking that the “dream” that will free the First Nations people of this land is the Recognise campaign. You’d also be forgiven for thinking that this is a campaign almost universally supported by Aboriginal people. This is simply not the case, as with the March on Washington, Black folk in Australia are far more political astute than has ever been credited. Read for example the reporting of Amy McQuire from New Matilda, just one example of her work shows what is really going on out in the nation

McQuire – “Recognise is a campaign championed first and foremost by white politicians, and I would argue, largely derided by Aboriginal people themselves. As an Aboriginal journalist, I have met very few Aboriginal people supportive of the campaign. Sure, there are some out there – not all Aboriginal people think the same – but I would hazard a guess that a large percentage of the pretty PR pictures propped up by government cash do not resonate with most blackfellas”

Then of course we must dig deeper again and find the issues that almost universally unites the First Nations peoples of this land…. Land Rights, Sovereignty, Treaty! You will notice I very deliberately did not refer to Native Title “the recognition by Australian law that some Indigenous people have rights and interests to their land that come from their traditional laws and customs”. Because there is that word again, Recognition, Recognise. Simply recognising that the First People of this land were indeed the First People of this land does very little to effectively address the horrendous circumstances of discrimination and disadvantage. It does not put food on the table, deliver health and education services, free men and women from prison or end the wholesale looting of Aboriginal land by mining companies and large corporations.

So let us return to the March on Washington. Where once the Black men and women of America were slaves brutalised and killed and forced to work for no wage their first demand, their primary demand was spelled out in the very name of their March. They wanted jobs, jobs that as Dr King said far more importantly than a dream, was to be paid a CHEQUE! Just like the the United States where farmers, land owners and mining companies had been given Government hand outs, here too Mining companies pay almost no tax, a hundred years of farm subsidies have been paid and yet it is Aboriginal people who are on welfare? And where the First Nations once had Sovereignty of their own lands on this continent called Australia now the call, as it always has, echoes around communities. Not to be recognised  in a legal document but to have full control, including legal, cultural and economic of the lands that nurtured it’s peoples for tens of thousands of years. So as you quote Dr King I urge you to dig a little deeper into his words and discover the real dream of equality. And as you wear a shirt for Recognition I urge you to listen to the voices of thousands of Aboriginal people who will tell the cheque they are coming to cash is not one that acknowledges the basic truth of history that this land was stolen, but that it is time for true land rights and a treaty.

Until then the cheques that simply seek to “recognise” will be returned, a “cheque which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds”!

Ferguson Australia, Murder under the Red, White and by Blue

A Missouri grand jury has decided Darren Wilson, a white police officer who fatally shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in August, will not be charged.

The rest you know.

The police have yet again either killed a black man or allowed a non black man who did the killing to go free. What is statistically strange about today’s decision is this  – According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. attorneys prosecuted 162,000 federal cases in 2010, the most recent year for which we have data. Grand juries declined to return an indictment in 11 of them. Grand Juries are a rubber stamp, Former New York state Chief Judge Sol Wachtler famously remarked that a prosecutor could persuade a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich.” That is of course unless the Grand Jury is deciding to indict a police officer, rarely does it even get to that stage, then the police officer almost always flips the statistics on their head and faces no charges.

Now there is absolutely no point in me adding anything else, millions of column inches, radio reports and TV news stories will cover all the gory details. From the killing of Michael Brown, to the following riots, the travesty of justice and who knows what will happen next. Black child Ivins Rosier a 17 year old boy received 23 years in jail having been tried as an adult for killing a retired police dog. While the killers of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown have walked free after shooting dead unarmed black boys.

In Australia… cue the outrage!

This would be perfectly acceptable, mandatory, inspiring even that from all this distance away thousands of Australian’s have taken to social media to express solidarity with Ferguson and disgust with the US justice system. But while Australian’s line up for this noble cause they are deafly silent as to the Black Deaths in Custody that occur right under their noses, right here, under another Red, White and Blue flag, in the United States of Australia.


Tell me Australia, about the time you took to social media in your thousands and exploded with anger at the death of Mr Briscoe (Pictured above) at the hands of Police in Alice Springs. You can see if you wish reporting on this website, that highlighted the case, that showed Mr Briscoe slowly dying in a cell, that showed his head being smashed into a wall and which showed his blood being casually cleaned up with an officers foot.

Or you can read about Ms Dhu, dead at the hands of police in WA while in custody for a few unpaid fines. Who begged and pleaded to see a doctor, yet died an agonising and needless death. Also from WA you can read about Mr Ward an Aboriginal elder from the Ngaanyatjarra lands in Western Australia, who having been driven a total of 922km in a boiling hot prison van literally cooked to death. He was a artist, a lands right activist who visited China as part of a delegation, a skilled hunter, an interrupter and assisted scientists in conservation. He’s dead at the hands of the justice system for a crime he was alleged to have committed that would have resulted in no more than a fine.

In NSW young TJ Hickey was chased by police to his death and died impaled on a fence. Witnesses believe his bike was clipped by a police car, police say otherwise. No action was taken. In Queensland on Palm Island, Mulrunji would become the 147th Aboriginal person to die in police custody in just 14 years. They were the 14 years that had followed the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody. Mulrunji had been arrested for causing a public nuisance, allegedly, but died a short time later when his liver and spleen were ruptured in two at the hands of police. Back in WA Aboriginal man Marlon Noble served 10 years for a crime he didn’t commit, in fact he never even faced trial, he was simply held, imprisoned and warehoused like perished goods.

There are countless other cases, by countless I mean hundreds in the last 30 years, each and every time the Aboriginal community fight for justice. Each and every time communities are left without justice at the hands of the justice system.

These incidents didn’t happen in Compton or Atlanta, in NYC or the Southside of Chicago. They didn’t happen in rural Texas, inner city Memphis or in the backwaters of Georgia and they certainly didn’t happen in Ferguson.

They happened in your country, in your state, in your city and under your version of a flag wearing Red, White and Blue. The officers here, like the officer from Ferguson have never faced Justice. The Black community here, like the Black community there have begged, pleaded, lobbied and advocated for Justice. Both communities have been failed.

So why haven’t the cases that happened under your nose received anywhere near the attention? Why isn’t Ms Dhu “Trending” like Ferguson is right here in Australia. Why aren’t there thousands of angry and appalled Australians taking to social media calling for Justice for OUR BLACK DEAD…

…. Well that’s on you!

%d bloggers like this: