A young protester confronts police in Martin Place in Sydney this week at a rally about Aboriginal deaths in custody.
A young protester confronts police in Martin Place in Sydney this week at a rally about Aboriginal deaths in custody.

Indigenous academic: Aussie protesters just a ‘rent-a-crowd’

So much has been said this past week in response to the shocking death of a Minnesota man and the hands of a dumb police officer.

All can agree, that this (former) officer's actions, and that of his colleagues who stood by and watched him, are atrocious.

Sadly, the fallout from this act of stupidity has had a flow on effect in Australia.

Some activists reading that last sentence will reply with "Oh but it's important, it's solidarity …"

No, it's just an excuse to protest for the sake of protesting.

I am all for people fighting for a cause they feel strongly about and taking to the streets if they feel that is the best way to deliver, what they believe, is an important message.

But what we are seeing now is ridiculous. If this was just a comedy show I would be laughing. But the antics of activists, social justice warriors, and their rent-a-crowds only move Australia backwards.

These professional protesters are latching onto the Aboriginal deaths in custody issue to enable them to justify their confected outrage and go out marching with their protest signs that say: 'Black lives matter'.

For them, an Aboriginal death in custody is proof positive of racism.

For Aboriginal deaths in custody, let's provide some context here.

Aboriginal Australians in custody are less likely to die than non-Aboriginal Australians in custody.

An Australian Government publication, The Health of Australia's Prisoners: 2015, states: "Indigenous Australians were no more likely to die in custody than non-Indigenous Australians" and "With just over one-quarter (27 per cent) of prisoners in custody being Indigenous, and 17 per cent of deaths in custody being Indigenous, Indigenous prisoners were under-represented."

 

Dr Anthony Dillon.
Dr Anthony Dillon.

 

The 'outrage' from protesters for deaths in custody is about as authentic as Australia Day protests.

I and others have been asking for a long time: "Where is the outrage regarding the high rates of violence and child abuse in Aboriginal communities?"

In early May there was a report of a young Aboriginal woman (mother of two) found dead in a wheelie bin.

On the WAtoday webpage it was reported "a Martu elder stood in the boy's place to receive a punishment dealt out according to customary law"-the boy referred to is the person charged with the woman's murder. Where was the outrage?

I could give plenty more examples of hypocrisy but won't.

I want to talk about why tension exists between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians, because by understanding the cause, we can find a solution.

Most Aboriginal people are either partnered up with a non-Aboriginal person or the product of the union between an Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal person.

It seems that we generally get along with one another. Of course, there are exceptions, as there are with the mixing of any groups or races.

Those exceptions can range from simple disagreements to acts that are outright vicious and fatal.

But here's the problem, as humans we have quirky ways of thinking and analysing the world around us.

The exceptions I just referred to can be used to create a belief that simply is not true. Contrary to common opinion, psychologists tell us that people do not make observations and then draw conclusions, rather, they select theories that are consistent with their personal values, attitudes, and prejudices (often hidden from consciousness) and then go out into the world to make observations to validate their theories.

Observations not consistent with a pre-existing belief are discarded while confirmatory ones are clung to tightly.

Applied here for the person who believes Aboriginal people are the victims of endless racism, a death in custody or an altercation with a white police officer is seen as evidence of racism. Or even witnessing a true case of racism, it will be used to validate one's personal belief that Australia is a racist country towards Aboriginal Australians.

Of course, non-Aboriginal people are just as capable of distorting their views of Aboriginal people, but I don't believe it happens to the same degree as it does with Aboriginal people having distorted views of non-Aboriginal people.

There have been stories in the media describing atrocious acts of violence where an Aboriginal person kills a non-Aboriginal person, and not once have I heard of any movement or any individual that as a result of these atrocious acts, promotes the lie that Aboriginal people are a danger to non-Aboriginal people.

More succinctly, Goethe said "people find what they look for, and they look for what they believe." Maybe it's time we band together and start looking for the good in each other? There are no winners with the race riots and protests.

Dr Anthony Dillon is a lecturer at the Australian Catholic University and commentator on Indigenous issues

Originally published as Aussie protesters just a 'rent-a-crowd'



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