In Solidarity, Let Us All Be Outraged

There is a shared history between Australia’s First Nations people and black Americans. From the black dockers in Sydney who shared their knowledge with our early political organisations; to the African-American sailors who joined our struggles at La Perouse; to our Black Panther comrades who inspired and collobarated with our mobs in the Black Power movement in West End and Redfern; to our own Deaths in Custody battles – we always have and we always will stand in solidarity. America’s civil rights struggles have informed our own, and it is apt that Martin Luther King looks out atop our red, black and yellow flag in Newtown, one of the very first crime scenes in this country.

In solidarity at The Block, Redfern  Photo by Barbara McGrady, 13th September 2014

In solidarity at The Block, Redfern
Photo by Barbara McGrady, 13th September 2014

We also have a shared present reality in that our young black people are being murdered by the system at epidemic rates. According to Operation Ghetto Storm, this is at the rate of one every 28 hours in the USA. Here, police custodial deaths for First Peoples, and for all Australians, have gone up instead of down since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADC). First Peoples are less than 3 per cent of Australia’s total population, yet we comprised 29 per cent of the total Australian prison population. Broken down by gender, First Nations women account for more than 33 per cent of all incarcerated women in Australia, while First Nations men account for 28 per cent of all incarcerated men. From 2008-11, 33 of the 159 deaths in prison custody were Indigenous prisoners. The reality here is that it is much more likely that a black person will die in custody than a non-Indigenous person because we are grossly overrepresented by our disproportion inside, in proportion to our small population outside.

Since 1788, with the importation of the English injustice system, our people have been locked up inside white cages. We have been condemned as criminal by an alien legal framework, not judged by our own culturally appropriate frameworks. We never caged our animals, let alone our criminals, and being caged is not in our genetic or cultural memories.  Our people do not belong in cages, and we certainly do not belong in cages because of unpaid fines. Gerry Georgatos states that “Hundreds of Australians endure the ordeal of jail because of unpaid fines, their poverty a burden. Disproportionately First Nations people are incarcerated ‘to pay off’ their fines.” The only people who belong in cages are those who are a real, not perceived, threat to society.

Being caged is traumatic enough; add on the distress of not being believed when you are sick, being humiliated because of stereotypes, being excessively punished, and the crippling impacts of isolation and guilt on a person’s spiritual health. Consider also that many of our people come out of the system in a worse state than they went in. It is indeed true that a significant proportion of our suicides are by people who have been incarcerated, and this does not even count those who have previously been interred by the welfare system.

Yet for every black person who has broken a white law, where is the equality of the converse? How many whitefellas have broken our laws against rape, murder, massacre, child theft, the permanent destruction of our underground water, the theft of land and of resources? Why are they not only not sentenced in our law, but not even in their own? The answer to this lies within the historical and ongoing structures of institutional racism, summarily: Break black law and prosper. Break white law and die.

What message does this institutional racism send to young black people, who are trying to transcend their historical legacies and live lives worthy of the fight our ancestors bled for? To stay down in the gutter where they were born? To become potential target practise if it’s cold outside and they choose to reach for their hoodie? To believe that if they see cops they have to run in fear for their lives? To see unpaid parking fines as a choice between continuing poverty or death in a cage? To see a criminal every time they look in the mirror? To feel guilty for their skin?

For the victims of the state, this is not just a case of wrong place and wrong time, or even wrong skin, wrong side of the system, or wrong luck. It’s too easy to make this circumstantial. It is not a passive act to shoot a child, or leave a young woman dying, so let’s not victim-blame. These are killings. This is active death-dealing. It is not circumstantial that these people are black and it is not circumstantial that the killers are part of a racist system. There is a pattern here, evidence; a tapestry woven of white chains choking frail black threads, winding so tight that it becomes stained red. The system does not just passively not care; more than this, it actively does not care. It actively neglects and brutalises.

It is not enough that grieving families be given an impartial coronial inquest. It is not enough that the murderers in uniform go to trial. It is not enough that Deaths in Custody receive a Royal Commission, or that disempowered communities riot to be heard. None of this, in the statistically improbable chance that they are followed through in a total, unbiased and satisfactory manner, will bring back our dead. No sentence or coronial finding will take away the hurt and anger their system has brought about. The problem cannot be the solution.

These outcomes have never brought about satisfactory justice. What needs to happen is a complete overhaul, not just of the judicial system, but of all systems that feed into it; ergo, an overhaul of social attitudes and policy. The police in the USA are doing a great job, upholding their motto to protect and serve – of protecting the system and serving the state, of continuing the deep-rooted racism from a shameful history by bringing it into modernity. If you have kids, who will one day grow up to be cops, judges, nurses or screws, you must show them that the life of Ms Julieka Dhu is worth just as much as the life of a white girl. You must teach them that their duty is to protect and serve us, the people, not their own skin and system.

The reality is that black deaths, here and there, are not seen as worthy. Black deaths are seen as different, lesser. When a white person is killed by a white person, it is a tragedy. When a black person is killed by a black person, it is expected. When a white person is killed by a black person, it is usually reported as a gang-related crime. And so, when blackfellas are killed by a white system, it must also be understood as gang-related and oppressive, not simply dismissed as all in the line of duty. The organised crime gangs, the boys in blue, are the real thugs. Their hierarchy is as tight as sin, their violence is internally encouraged and their self-interest is preserved.

Another reality is that black deaths here are worth even less than black deaths over there. Where were the twitter storms for Julieka Dhu? Where were the pickets at police stations for Mr Phillips in Kalgoorlie? Where is the nation-wide outrage for Maureen Mandijarra? Where was the global solidarity for Mr Ward in Warburton? What is the difference between a boy being shot point blank by cops in the USA, and a boy in Redfern being chased by gunjis, fearing for his life and left bleeding, based on what the narratives in his history have told him? For these killings to be counted, to be seen as important and worthy of the same coverage and outrage as our American counterparts, we also need to be seen as human, worthy and respected. The evidence shows that we are not.

This is not about left or right wing politics, or about skin-deep, socially constructed differences. This is about humanity, and until every mother and father, sister and brother stops to imagine what it would feel like to lose one of their own to violent police brutality, or inhumane murderous neglect, until everybody is just as outraged that this is happening to somebody else’s young people, not much will change. Even more, everybody needs to stop and ask themselves, “How would I feel if this happened to mine, and nobody cared?” Because not caring is very much part of the problem.

Strip this all away and what we have is that a young boy was shot, and a sick woman was left for dead. If you have the privilege of walking around at night with your hoodie up, if you have the privilege of remaining uncaged and alive despite pissy parking fines, if you have the privilege of telling a cop to not shoot you and having them listen, if you have the privilege of riding your bike through your suburb and not being chased by the gunjis, fearing for and losing your life based on narratives in racist histories, this does not mean you should not care.

If you aren’t outraged, chances are you have that privilege. And if that sounds harsh, consider that we envy your privilege, that we do not have the luxury of not caring, that if we could, we would dedicate our lives to the pursuit of pleasure, not fighting for our basic human rights to be respected by a system that is killing our warriors and leaders of tomorrow.

It is not enough to simply be saddened or discomfited by these deaths, dismissing them as fatalistic, dismissing them as something that happened to other people, to people you have no connection to. It is not enough to feel helpless, you must be outraged. You must find the death of Mulrindji just as tragic as the death of Mike Brown. You must be just as outraged at the death of Julieka Dhu as the death of Trayvon Martin. You must find the police killing of Eddie Murray in Wee Waa just as abhorrent as the police killing of Mark Duggan in Tottenham. No human life is worth more than another. No black death in Roeburn is worth less than a black death in Ferguson.

Because this is the heart of the problem with Black Deaths in Custody. It is seen as our problem, not touching wider Australia, let alone the world. Our deaths are not widely known about and are not widely protested. Let us take a cue from the people of Ferguson, from the people from Tottenham, UK. When these killings take place, we need to hold those responsible accountable, all of us, not just the families and communities who have lost.

And so, if you’ve only ever protested things that affect your own demographic – those of your nationality, skin colour, sexuality or gender – then you are part of the problem. The false divides of race, religion, geography and politics are entrenched in historical construction and perpetuated by our politicians and their media mouthpieces. The real divide is class, and the truth is that we are disproportionately overrepresented in the lowest rungs. It is not enough that we stand in solidarity with other black communities. It s not enough that a smattering of staunch and dedicated whitefellas stand as allies. This solidarity is very important, but it is not enough.

We have never had anything handed to us; no human rights legislation, no social justice victory. Every little thing we have ever gained inside of this system has been the result of hard work, constant campaigning with solid, loud and outraged voices. Yet twenty years on, they have still not implemented most of the recommendations from the RCADIC. And twenty years on, the rate of active, neglectful killings are higher and growing.

Doctor Luther King’s dream has turned into a nightmare: his vision for resilient leaders has been shot full of bullet holes; his hope for our daughters has been left for dead in a cage, ridiculed and forgotten; his hope for our sons has been crushed under the weight of police feet and knees, bleeding and broken. In solidarity with the communities who are grieving wrongful losses, and in alliance with those still protesting their injustices, then and now, let us all be outraged.

– Defender Of The Faith, 15th September 2014, Cadigal country

A Portal To The Past

Chemtrails (work in progress)

Chemtrails (work in progress)

(an excerpt from my Poland story – a very rough draft)

There was a small nick on the floor where the bed had landed. Nothing major, but it stood out in her vision against the smooth wood-grain patterned lino. No, it wasn’t much, but it was something, and in this Eternium of Boredom, the blemish on the otherwise smooth floor unlocked things in her mind, sending a stream of thoughts tumbling around her skull like slapstick circus clowns. The previous emptiness clanged loudly with exciting notions of escape! work! moving! concentration! fun!

Sepia-toned images of rugged and cartoonishly muscular convicts played out their roles in a silent movie on the screen of her third eye. The plot was simple – dig through the floor and get the fuck out of there. Tattered, boldly-striped black and white prison issue clothes hung off them as they worked away, dripping in sweat. Before now, she – like every other viewer of these almost archetypal scenes – would have observed them with smug pity – skeptically predicting that they would be caught just before their moment of freedom, and then doomed to an extended sentence, with authoritarian eyes watching their every move. They would be separated from each other in every conceivable way to avert the danger of their thoughts feeding and encouraging new plots and plans, and devising each others’ emancipation.

The longer she thought about it, the more completely she realised that these age-old scenarios were written in bias by Disney and his minions; the NWO shills who carefully and cunningly constructed the future dreams, fears and desires of generations of children who were hooked on their colourful fare. The message was one of control: “Don’t dig. Don’t rebel. Be good and follow the rules and you will eventually be free. But if you do the wrong thing we will ruin you.” It was a classic theme throughout many children’s and adult’s prison stories. Yet not so subtle, when she thought deeply about it.

Now, though, she understood that the outcome didn’t matter, and what’s more, the convicts themselves knew their fate. But, given the opportunity, they cleverly allotted it beneath their rational minds – the part that imagined the effects of causation – and, no matter the outcome, at least they fucking tried. It proved that they were alive. A plan is a purpose and movement is motion, because acceptance, submission and stagnation is death. Doing – something, anything – is an affirmation of dedication to yourself that you will live life your way or fucking well die trying.

Rebellion is a sign of life.

She knew before she began that she would be caught, and she knew that she would be punished for it. She knew she wouldn’t get anywhere – she had neither the tools, nor the plans, nor the maps to get very far. She knew that they would restrict her even further. All this she knew, but she had to do it. She saw the potential in such defiance – a promise of self-respect.

She moved slowly across the now nearly empty room, sat on the ground in front of the blemish on the floor, and started picking. She picked, she flicked, she peeled and she pulled, she picked and picked and picked and fucking picked until it came up[1], slow and sure, revealing the ash-grey concrete streaked with glue underneath. What had this floor contained before? Whose feet had trod this ground before her? What place was this once upon a time in war-torn Krakov? Had it held prisoners, had it shattered lives?

The lino looked new, and the glue was still strong as attested by her hour-long picking project. Was this a newer initiative of the greenest EU member – to turn unused factories leftover from the war era into functional spaces in which to rehabilitate the walking dead? The generational time-lag[2] – casualties of the occupations – whose effects rippled down toward a historical hangover to rear their ugly heads years after the horrors of history were swept under this lino? What ghosts stalked these halls? What unrest was imprinted beneath these floors?

The heavy noosphere penetrated her permeable skin. And here she was, adding her own distress to that massive, invisible presence; prying open this portal with skeleton fingers and ghost keys, opening a door to days past – to restless spirits and to vengeful vows. She was Pandora again, but who could blame her? Curiosity is a powerful thing, and she was no pussy.

After some time, she noticed that she held a rhomboid-shaped piece of the lino in her hands. Where the puzzle piece was missing on the floor, the grey cement breathed in the relief of its unmasking and sighed out ancient troubles. In and out, a heavy phantom respiration. Inspirare. Exspirare. Breathing along – conspiring with it – she put her cheek to the wound, patted its edges and whispered lovingly to it, “I know, I know.” Watering the space with sympathy and self-pity both, the dove-grey cement turning charcoal in the wake of her weeping; the drought of forgotten memories watered to life once more by the river of her tears. She closed her eyes against the pain, but images of those ghosts fleshed themselves out in her mind’s eye, showing her how they had lived through their ordeals. They gave her glimpses of their anguish and glances of their memories.

In these new visions, the pictures played out vibrantly. There were women and there were men, of all ages and classes. Most were thin or getting that way. There were wars outside, wars in the home and wars in the head. Psychosis and despondency. Violence and inertia. Fists and weapons, hammers and sickles, skulls and swastikas, starvation and famine, failed crops and stolen harvests, poisoned wells and scorched earth. The intense desire for comfort; for freshly baked bread, warm hearth fires and the soft cushion of family. Sunshine, warm on the skin, and cool gentle rain, sweet and cleansing. The knowledge of immediate death and interims of torture, reprieves of neglect, but ultimately driven mad by solitude, which is truly the smothering of the self by the self.[3]

Each vignette was fleeting, but the feelings would stay with her until the end of her days. They left their impressions in the crevices of her soul and then dissipated – maybe back to the past, or maybe they were never there at all. She was soon alone again. Just a sad detainee hugging the ground, clutching her pitiful prize with red-raw fingertips, and sobbing to the music of her own bleeding violin heartstrings. [4] Here she stayed until she was spent and numb.

She eventually pushed herself up and stood shakily, weak with exhaustion. She steadied herself against the wall and breathed deep to revivify herself. In, out, in, out. Inspirare. Exspirare. The piece of lino she held was about as big as one of her hands. It was strong and sturdy and thick, pointed on two opposing corners and blunt on the obtuse angles. She slapped it against her thigh and it stung; good. She dug one of the points into her palm and that hurt too; even better. Violent thoughts sprang upon her – visions of gouging soft eyes, of piercing thin eardrums and penetrating the delicate flesh of the throat. There was blood and gore in her eyes’ desire and it made her smile.

Her next concerns centred on how she was going to get away with this. Surely they’d see the gaping wound on the floor and search her, and probably fuck with her even more. “Oh well; so mote it be,” she muttered. She was not going to put it back – she’d put too much effort into its extraction.[5] She could probably pick the whole fucking floor up if she were so inclined. “Imagine that!” she said to herself, “just fucking picking all of the lino off the floor, piece by piece. That could be fun.”

She decided that if they didn’t let her out soon she’d begin that mission. She’d just pull the cunt up and create a gnarly mosaic with the pieces. Depending on how much time she had, it would probably have to be a simple design. She hoped for a hammer and sickle, but maybe she’d have to make do with a little pentagram, or a swastika in a pinch. She would have killed for a pen and some paper to write this out, or to be able to draw something.

She tried to carve the floor with her new knife, but only light markings were revealed. She rubbed her dirty fingers into the etchings and a faint tattoo appeared in their wake. Not good enough. Not dirty enough! Well, at least she had a souvenir from this memorable holiday, and even a weapon if it came down to it. She wouldn’t do much damage but she’d sure as fuck go down trying. “Has anyone ever been assaulted with a piece of lino before?” she wondered. “Probably. They make shivs out of all kinds of shit these days.” Her Dad had told her some beautiful first person stories.

Just to be smarter, she decided to hide her lino knife down the front of her undies when they came. She felt safe with it in her hands, the hardness of it reminding her that even if things got worse from now on, she’d be able to feel good about defending herself and at the very least, they’d have to find room in their obviously small budget to redo the floor she had just wrecked – not to mention the beds, mattresses and even the cup and tray she had destroyed.

“God bless my opposable thumbs,” she said to herself as she handled her weapon.

She thought back to the knife fight in Kill Bill Vol.I, and wondered how skilled she would be in hand-to-hand combat. Never having fought with a deadly weapon before – only boondis – the truth of it dismayed her somewhat. But, she could punch and kick and bite and scratch with the best of them, and she’d even perfected a killer chokehold many years ago.

Inspired by Streetfighter and Mortal Kombat (those idiots who said that video games had no impact on their players were fucking kidding themselves), she and her older brother used to practise moves on each other. She’d go nuts; all flailing arms and legs, a messily lethal warrior child. The only way her brother could ever really get her was to pick her up because he was older and he was stronger. But she was a sneaky little cunt. She figured out a way to wrap her legs around his neck and choke him out so hard that he’d drop to the ground. The power balance tended toward an equilibrium after that.

Throughout the ensuing years, in playfighting her male friends, she had learnt that this was the only way she could maintain her physical superiority. She was grateful that her innocent emulation of fictional warrior heroines had evolved into this elegant coup de grâce. She doubted she’d ever get to use that move on the screws in here though. There was always two or three of them because so far she had exhibited nothing but vicious non-compliance, and they were all big cunts, especially for Polskis. They’d just pin her at any sign of violence. They’d probably inject her with something sedating too, and she wouldn’t have a bar of that.[6] So, it was clear. The knife would have to be used.

She danced around the room, thrusting and feinting. She was already a pretty good dancer, but this practise session gave her extra confidence for any potential skirmishes at close quarters. “Light on your toes, my girl,” she remembered her Mum saying, teaching her how to punch on. “It’s all in the footwork.” And so she danced, and moved and practised, until they came for her.


[1] one hour?

[2] Formulate this better

[3] more ghosts and more hauntings

[4] need to open this up more. More words, more weight, more time…/

[5] extradition?

[6] Talk about the offer of meds