I’ve had a few people ask me to comment on what’s happening in the US and about Aboriginal deaths in custody and to be honest I’m having a hard time trying to articulate what I’m feeling.
As a Muruwari man who has had family members die in custody and then as a black journalist who has reported on black deaths in custody over my entire career it’s been extremely triggering to see what’s unfolding. I’m not ashamed to say I had a bit of a breakdown after reporting on the murder of Gomeroi teenager Mark Haines. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
I just couldn’t keep taking gut punch after gut punch reporting on death after death and also go home to watch my own family experience it everyday of their lives. I was becoming numb to the way Australia discards our mob like roadkill—I had to step away.
I am haunted by all the ghosts of so many of our mob who have been killed and I’m inconsolable about the injustice of it all. Australian newsrooms are full of sociopaths, I’ve worked with many of them. They prefer black and brown people victims of of violence to be criminals. We are not people to them, we’re talent—an award winning body of work—a bit of kudos from ‘woke’ colleagues for dipping their toe in the bubbling pool of racial turmoil.
Our mob pay the price. Our pain and suffering is their career. Diversity initiatives are a piecemeal crock of shit—the reality is all I see is wall to wall split screens full of white reporters jostling to get some cred for reporting on the death of George Floyd.
Australians should be forced to watch the CCTV footage of Ms Dhu dying like a caged animal in a police cell, they should be forced to read Mulrundji Doomadgee’s autopsy report and imagine what it must be like to have your liver almost cleaved in two in police custody, they should be forced to watch the video of David Dungay have the last bit of air crushed out of him custody in prison, they should be made to imagine what it must be like to be the mother of 8-year-old Jack Sultan who was killed by a white driver high on ice who walked away with a slap on the wrist, they should be made to imagine what the mother of Elijah Doughty went through when her son was chased down by a white man and run over and killed and they should be made to imagine what my family went through when my cousin TJ Hickey was died painfully impaled on a fence spike after the police chased him.
The list goes on and on and on. I could fill a library with examples.. But Australians won’t be forced to put themselves in our shoes because we have always been the other, the fringe dweller and the media are complicit in keeping us that way.
We’re a country built on black blood covered up by a carpet of money and greed. No-one wants to deal with that and our media actively chooses not to report context, instead they borrow from the colonial narrative playbook that Aboriginal people are violent savages—more perpetrator than victims.
How can we ever really win or be seen or have agency in a judicial system and society that never included us from he beginning. It’s a system set up to allow Aboriginal people to be murdered with little consequence.
When events like this happen there’s also a rise in Johnny-come-lately’s who get paid to get prettied up and used for commentary by the mainstream media because they’re palatable—but they have no really lived experience as a black person in Australia.
If you’re offering opinion about what’s going on then you better be radical in that commentary—because toeing the line won’t cut it—then you’re just a black face jettisoned into the coverage because you won’t scare white folks. So, if you’re not willing to disrupt the fourth estate then move the fuck over for someone who does understand what it’s like to grow up being racially profiled, who live through the trauma and suffering at the hands of the colony on a daily basis.
Allan Clarke is an investigative journalist, producer and writer. On Twitter he’s @allanjckarke