Black lives are not safe in this country. What more do white people want? | Nayuka Gorrie | Opinion


As I write this, I am at a public library. Next to me are a table of Aboriginal people in their early teens using the free internet, as I am. They are laughing and on social media. While I ponder the irony of young people opting to spend their free time in libraries and the joy of youth, the protective services staff have walked passed them and eyed them off twice. There are of course other young people but protective services aren’t interested in those young people. The black body is, as black people learn early, a vessel for trouble. A group of black bodies are a threat.

Last week popular conservative columnist Miranda Devine wrote that now that Dr Tim Soutphommasane’s term is nearly over as the race discrimination commissioner, the Liberal government might be able to win some battles. Apparently, the right is losing the culture wars and getting a sympathetic person in the position of race discrimination commissioner could be an important win. Devine suggested Warren Mundine would be an excellent candidate. The right, according to Devine, needs to accept there is a war and get down in the trenches and fight. This rhetoric in equal parts frightens me and makes me laugh. I have this reaction because white people are the most powerful people in this country and have been since invading the continent.

The part of me that isn’t laughing or crying wishes someone with sturdy white hands would hold Devine tight, comfort her and gently whisper that everything is going to be alright. Last week, a report published by the Australian Human Rights Commission came out detailing the composition of leadership across different business, social, legal and academic institutions. I didn’t need to read the report to know what the report revealed.

It found 95% of Australia’s senior leaders were from Anglo-Celtic or European backgrounds. The shade of power in this country is white. Another report recently by Macquarie University called Social media mob: being Indigenous online detailed that nearly 90% of the Aboriginal people surveyed had witnessed racism online.

Around two weeks ago, the Northern Territory government announced it was lifting the moratorium placed on fracking and 51% of the territory will be allowed to be fracked. All land in this country is Aboriginal land, but even by white laws, most of that land is owned by Aboriginal people. It is Aboriginal people, land and water that will be most affected by that decision.

Additionally, just last week the Northern Territory government posted notices in Garawa, an Aboriginal community close to mining town Borroloola, telling people the water was contaminated with lead. The government has had to bring in water because the water is poisoned.

While white people with platforms such as Devine complain about how all their power is taken away, black people’s land and water is ruined and it is white people making the choices to ruin it. It is still white lives that matter most in this country and it is white humanity we have to plead with to be treated remotely human.

The state and its mechanisms, such as the police, serve as a means to iron out any kinks in the system. When you are black, you are one of those kinks. I have always known this to be true but have recently been reminded of the extent of this.

In the past three weeks, the Queensland police service counter-terrorism and security officers have visited a former residence of mine on four separate occasions, mostly at night, to talk to me. The police officer I spoke to told me my writing had violent undertones and he wanted to know what my aims were. I imagine a bunch of ageing dads on a computer have stumbled across my writing and, in between googling “tfw” or what a meme is, occasionally lurk through my digital life. I have now taken to posting pictures of me with dildoes to keep the boys in blue and myself entertained but under my mask of humour, I am deeply angry and deeply concerned about what this means about black political thought and action in this country. This sort of behaviour by the police serves to intimidate and silence black people.

Black lives are not safe in this country. We are not safe online, we are not safe around police and we are not safe even on our own country. Yet, people like Devine want more power. This I find scary. What conditions would she have us live in? What more do people like her want? We are the most incarcerated people in the entire world. We die younger, we are poorer, less employed and are barely represented in media and the education system. It is not Devine’s door being knocked on at night by the police asking her what the aims of her writing is.

  • Nayuka Gorrie is a Kurnai/Gunai, Gunditjmara, Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta freelance writer



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