Friday, December 14, 2007

Outrage of the day

Like the stain you can't remove from your clothing, Australia's ingrained culture of racism against its aboriginal population is a blight on its society. Seriously, there is no Anglospheric nation with a worse record toward its indigenous population than the Aussies' record with regard to the aboriginals.

When we returned from a trip to Oz in 2003-04, I wrote in a travelogue about Australia's own strange career of Jim Crow (to borrow a book title):

On some levels, the Australian aboriginals are equivalent to both black Americans and American Indians, both in their societal arrangements (a parallel system of laws and judiciary like Amer-Indians) and their treatment at the hands of the white Aussies (historically, rank racism and separation). They've been discriminated against time and again; they predominantly live on tribal lands that have been ceded to them over the past 15-25 years by the Aussie government (the Aboriginal Land Claims act was instituted around 1978 or so for ownership claims over nationally held lands, but claims could take a decade or more to sort out); they are subject of distrust and pity by white Aussies. On another level, they are a tourist attraction and cultural anomaly treated as noble savages and still discriminated against within Australian society. As much as the Aussies highlighted aboriginal culture during the Sydney Olympics (including aboriginal athlete Cathy Freeman's lighting of the Olympic torch), the facts speak louder than anything else

Fact 1 = 80% of aboriginals do NOT live the traditional hunter/gatherer lifestyle that defined and organized their forebears. But you will be hard-pressed to see any representation of the aboriginals in Australia in any other manner.
Fact 2 = From 1920 or so until 1971, aboriginal and mixed-racial children were systematically and forcibly removed from the aboriginal lands and forced to live in white settlements after being domesticated at white church-run schools. See for Doris Pilkington's Rabbit-Proof Fence wherein Pilkington describes her mother and her aunts' escape from the Moore School (better yet, see the movie). The Aussie government did not condone this arrangement, it ORDERED it by statute.
Fact 3 = until 1967, Australian law codified the INEQUALITY of the races (as opposed to American law, which codified the equality of the races in 1865 but needed a kick in the pants from Thurgood Marshall, Spottswood Robinson, William White and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, among others, to join the law with the facts).
Fact 4 = on our first day in Oz, we rode the gondola to the top entrance at Taronga Zoo with three Aussie teenagers. They told us the aboriginals get "everything" including "all the land" and that we needed to "watch your pockets" when we were in Darwin. The teenagers were white, middle class Sydney (area) residents.

Why bring this up today? Because only that legacy of racism can explain these actions by a judge in Queensland -- a female judge:

A judge in Australia was facing calls to step down today after she failed to jail a group of nine males who admitted gang-raping a 10-year-old girl in an Aboriginal community, saying the young victim "probably agreed" to have sex with them.

Instead of jailing the three adults, aged 17 to 26, one of whom was a repeat sex offender, and giving custodial sentences to the six juveniles aged 14 to 16, Queensland District Court judge Sarah Bradley handed out suspended sentences and probation orders.

Evidently in Judge Bradley's mind, aboriginals just rut like animals so a 10-year old girl can actually consent to sex by a gang of nine.

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