On Black Rage, New Funerals, And The Exhausting Resilience Of Our Mob
"Every time I try to finish this article, Australia finds a different way to fill me with rage. We grieve, and then we grieve again."
Marginalised peoples have different ways of coping with pain, disempowerment and injustice. Some may be in a state of denial, some may cry, some protest, some riot. My way of coping is to write about it. But what many of us have in common through all this is our grief and our rage.
I pitched something to Junkee just after the Australian Black Lives Matter rallies back in July. I thought it was going to be as simple as typing what I read out at the Melbourne rally and sending it. But here it is, on the first day of September.
At these rallies, many of us made the link between the race-related oppression perpetuated by the police in the US and here in Australia. We spoke about Ms Dhu, a 22-year-old black woman who went to the police for help and ended up imprisoned for an unpaid fine, then dying from an untreated injury. There was also Mr Doomadgee, who ended up dying while drunk in the watchhouse with unexplained internal injuries after singing ‘Who Let The Dogs Out’ to a police officer who was allowed to keep his job.
We spoke about the 120 black communities in WA that will be, in effect, shut down because the state government is withdrawing funding. We heard about our black neighbours in West Papua whose lives don’t seem to matter in ongoing conflict. In Brisbane we read out the names of police officers who had killed blackfullas. In Melbourne we sang ‘We Gon’ Be Alright’ and felt like maybe we would be.
Then Four Corners aired their expose on Don Dale.
I amended the article to reflect my response. Many of us watched in horror, rage and grief as we saw the treatment of these black boys. We watched it that night and cried ourselves to sleep or watched it at work crying at our desks while white people around us didn’t think to ask if we were okay. We were all left jarred and grieving. We were reminded of our siblings, cousins, aunties and uncles who are locked up. Those boys are our brothers, our cousins, our uncles.
Then the Don Dale actions happened across the city. My Aunty and others organised the rally in Melbourne and another Aunty and my tiddas chained themselves to a cage in the middle of the Flinders and Swanston Street intersection.
— Rootable Escalator (@seanbedlam) July 30, 2016
I thought, at that point, I was ready to send the article to the Junkee mob.
Then my grandfather got sick and I took nearly two weeks to spend time with him and my family.
Then Rebecca Maher’s family friend released a statement about her death — the first in NSW police custody since 2000, but one of many across the country.
Then an excerpt from Marina Abramovic’s upcoming memoir was exposed with her saying we look terrible and dinosaur-like.
Then a white woman threw a banana at Eddie Betts.
Then A.B. Original released ‘January 26’ and I felt momentary reprieve.
Then I read the comments section.
Then a white woman proudly posted a photo of her son in blackface to resemble a famous black man.
On the same day a 31-year-old Aboriginal man died in custody.
Then this Monday, Elijah Doughty — a beautiful black boy — was killed by a 55-year-old white man in Kalgoorlie. Angry protests broke out on Tuesday at the Kalgoorlie Magistrates’ Court when the man was charged with manslaughter. Many of us feel there should be heavier charges. Elijah reminds me of my little cousins. They like AFL and ride motorbikes too.
People tell us to wait quietly for justice to take its course. But then we remember the murders of three Indigenous children in Bowraville and the decades that community has waited for justice. Then we remember Lynette Daley, whose killers are on bail.
We get angry and are told not to fight fire with fire.
A 14 year old kid steals a scooter so he's run over by a 55 year old guy with his ute, and we're leading with "Riot in Kalgoorlie" ?
— Oli Young (@oliyoung) August 31, 2016
Black rage is justified. Everyday we walk around on stolen land — it might be our own, or we might have been dispossessed so cows, coal mines and white people could exist on it or for our “protection”. We go to schools where the most we can hope for is at least one other black person in our cohort; that no one will catch us lip-synching the anthem; that we do reasonably okay in an education system that was first used as a tool for assimilation.
We might then go on to jobs where we are the only black people and feel utterly isolated. We will sit through this nation celebrating colonialism every year on January 26. We will experience racial profiling by every system we come into contact with. We go to more funerals than we can remember and are constantly mourning someone. Then we hear about our poor brother Elijah. Or Lynette Daley. Or Dylan Voller. Or names we aren’t allowed to repeat.
I won’t ever be able to really finish this article. I can’t help but wonder: what will it be tomorrow? Who will black people be mourning then? Which police officer or vigilante or magistrate will we be angry at? Who will we be reading about next week (if we are lucky and the media find the injustice sexy enough to broadcast)? Every time I try to finish this article Australia finds a different way to fill me with rage. We grieve, and then we grieve again.
So here’s how I will finish for now: we are angry and we are sad. However, despite our trauma and exhaustion, blackfullas around the country stand up for justice. Within a day of the Don Dale Four Corners episode airing, mob — many of whom work 9-5 — organised rallies around the country.
Already I see people organising rallies for Elijah.
— ISJA Melbourne (@ISJAMelb) September 1, 2016
Black media are relentless in their pursuit for truth. Our black celebrities often use their social and cultural capital to stand up for our mob. We all check in with one another sending love, healing and strength.
If you’re not a part of black communities and wonder how to do your bit, here’s a good start:
- Don’t tone-police or give unsolicited advice as to how we should deal with our valid feelings.
- Call out racist shit because we are fucken exhausted.
- Go to the rallies in your city and demand justice.
- Share the good word, particularly of black media and journalists.
- Donate any spare coin to the families of the victims. Rebecca Maher’s family are fundraising for her funeral, headstone and children. You can donate here. Keep an eye out for any fundraisers for Elijah.
Nayuka is a Gunai/Kurnai, Gunditjmara, Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta woman working in the youth sector. Nayuka writes about black politics and feminism. She tweets at @nayukagorrie.