I’m not as concerned as some other people as to whether it’s racially based violence. It’s violence. We need to act. Most readers will have had experiences similar to the one that Tim Watts has just broadcast on Facebook. It infuriates me when a whole tram full of people sit quietly by while some nutter intimidates us all – mixing it with bold racism makes it even worse. Anyway, since I’ve been part of the cowed masses, what to do? Well Tim’s proposing something after he gets his story off his chest.
On the Train to Camberwell YesterdayToday at 2:54pm
My fiancée and I took a train to Camberwell together yesterday. We were on our way to finalise the plans for our Wedding ceremony with our celebrant. I suppose it wasnt a particularly significant or meaningful meeting just another one of the dozens of administrative steps you need to take in order to get married. However, what happened on the way to this meeting has been gnawing at me ever since. In fact Ive been getting more and more angry about it.
About half way from the CBD to Camberwell, a man entered our carriage and proceeded to ask each of
the dozen or so people in the carriage for money. He was reasonably dishevelled, but judging by the quality of his clothes it didnt look particularly like he was living rough who knows I know you cant really judge these things by appearances. He was however fairly articulate and engaged in good natured banter with anyone who helped him out.
After working his way through each of the passengers he sat himself down around the middle of the carriage in a set of seats backing on to a group of three young Asians (I assume that they were students but who knows). A short time after sitting down, the man proceeded to quite loudly and aggressively berate the Asians who were sitting behind him for speaking in another language: Do you know youre in Australia? Either speak English or go back where you came from. Its so rude to speak Chinese or whatever youre speaking. Its annoying.
Being half his size and having no idea what to do the group of Asians sat in silence. As did the rest of the carriage; except for another tattooed and unshaven man towards the back of the carriage who loudly said Hes right. People look at me like Im crazy when I say that but hes right.
The first man then became convinced that the Asians had taken his photo on their mobile phone and started physically threatening them You had better not have taken my photo. If you have you had better delete it. Im not joking. If you know whats good for you youd better delete it. You wont be living if you dont delete that photo. Again the carriage sat uncomfortably silent except for one of the girls in the group of Asians who had started to cry.
About a minute or so later, the train pulled up at Camberwell and the man got off the train and left the station. Two things happened after the man had left. A woman from the end of the carriage moved towards the group of Asians and gave the crying girl a hug. And another person leaving the train said to themselves as much as anyone else I hate how fucking racist this country is sometimes
Oh, and then I went with my (Asian-Australian) bride to meet with our wedding celebrant about how many readings we wanted in our ceremony.
The thing is Ive been in this situation before. Youll all know that Im not backwards in coming forwards. Its never been a problem for me to get involved in sticky situations on public transport. Ive struck up conversation with a leering drunk on late night trains to stop them harassing a women. Ive calmly told people to pull their neck in when theyre making other people uncomfortable.
But it was different this time.
I wanted to say:
Hey Dickhead – you know whats rude? Begging for money from someone and then insulting them one minute later. You know whats annoying? Having to listen to the stupidity and ignorance of the inner workings of your addled mind on a Saturday afternoon. You know what would happen if those three kids went back where they came from? Victorias biggest single export industry (education) would collapse leaving the State Government incapable of providing the support services you are so clearly relying on. Those students are your meal ticket fuckwit and youd better show them some respect. You dont speak for me you piece of shit and you dont speak for our community.
But I didnt.
And not because it was one of those situations where you only think of the witty thing to say in retrospect no, these thoughts were pulsing through my brain while I was silently fuming 10 metres away.
So why didnt I say anything? For the same reason as the rest of the carriage fear. Not fear of an awkward social situation but fear for our physical safety in a situation involving racial aggression.
This is what has been making me increasingly mad over the past 24 hours the fact that the constant reporting of never ending incidents of racial violence in Melbourne combined with the inadequacy of the police response has created a climate in which people are fearful of speaking out. All but one person in the carriage strongly disapproved of what happened – but no one could speak up until the guy left. And this was on a train to CAMBERWELL in BROAD DAYLIGHT.
Whats Going On?
This is what has been making me increasingly mad over the past 24 hours the constant reporting of a seemingly never ending stream of incidents of racial violence in Melbourne combined with the inadequacy of the police response has created a climate in which people are fearful of speaking out. All but one person in the carriage strongly disapproved of what happened – but no one could speak up until the guy left. And this was on a train to CAMBERWELL in BROAD DAYLIGHT.
Not only that, but the fact that the most extreme act of racial prejudice violence! is currently being met with public statements of equivocation from our law enforcement officials, is creating a situation in which the bigoted feel that they are able to spew the sewerage of their minds in public. By not striking forcefully and publicly against the extremes of racial prejudice we are sending the message that lower level expressions of racism like the incident I witnessed yesterday will also be tolerated in our community.
What Should Be Happening?
I gave the Victorian Police then benefit of the doubt on this issue for too long. I assumed that as a professional organisation that they would deal with this issue. I trusted them. But no more. They have failed to deal with this issue. They have failed our community. No, they are not racists themselves as crudely portrayed by the Indian media. But their complacency on this issue has let down the Victorian community.
So let me spell it out for them:
- I dont want to hear any more equivocation about whether crimes are racially motivated or simply crimes of opportunity;
- I want public recognition of the fact that racial minorities dont feel safe in our community at present;
- I want a public statement of the fact that racially motivated violence IS WORSE than other forms of violence in our community. I want them to recognise that unlike other violence, racially motivated violence has an impact beyond the incident itself. I want recognition that this kind of violence strikes fear into entire communities. I want recognition that this kind of violence gives people a reason to be fearful because of something that they cannot change their racial background. They cant avoid it by changing their behaviour it goes with them everywhere they go;
- I want a public statement that putting an end to this fear is the Victorian Polices number one priority. The existence of this fear threatens the states economic prosperity by doing untold damage to Victorias largest export industry. More importantly, the existence of this fear in our community runs counter to every value of our democratic society.; and
- I want to see a plan for how youre going to fix this that:
– Sends a clear message on behalf of our community that racial violence is not tolerated by our community and that if you transgress this strongly community view, we will come after you and smite you with the full force of the state; and
-Shows the community the consequences of racial violence. If a newspaper reports racial violence, I want to see similar publicity when those responsible are caught by the police and when they face the criminal justice system. The community needs to see action and results. These bottom crawlers need to know that the state is coming after them, that they will be caught and that they will face justice.
The time for public education has passed. Another Harmony Walk isnt going to fix the situation now. The State needs to send a message of aggressive intolerance towards the prejudiced bottom crawlers in our society. This is a law and order issue.
We need to send a message to these people as Escalus, the Prince of Verona sent in Romeo and Juliet:
Rebellious subjects, enemies to peace,
Profaners of this neighbour-stained steel,–
Will they not hear? What, ho! you men, you beasts,
That quench the fire of your pernicious rage
With purple fountains issuing from your veins,
On pain of torture, from those bloody hands
Throw your mistemper’d weapons to the ground,
And hear the sentence of your moved prince.
If ever you disturb our streets again,
Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace.
What I Am Going To Do About This And How You Can Help
In the meantime, Im going to stop whinging and do something about it myself. Sadly, the days when you could put together a posse and deliver a bit of vigilante justice to criminal pariahs are gone.
However, as a citizen, I can do something for increasing the profile and the accountability of this issue.
What I am going to do is map publicly reported incidents of racial violence in Melbourne on the following public map:
Im then, to the best of my ability and using public sources of information, Im going to track the police and judicial response to these crimes ie whether an offender is charged and if so the outcome of this charge. I also want to go back 12 months and map and track previous offences. There have already been community led examples of this in the United Kingdom so I cant claim originality here.
Unfortunately I have my own job and personal responsibilities so I dont have the time to do the Polices job for them. This is where you come in – if you care about this issue very small amounts of your time would make this task so much easier.
You can help by:
-Publicising this note and this Facebook Group amongst your friends.
-Please email me public reporting of incidents of racial violence in Melbourne, or even better post them as links in this Facebook Group.
In particular, legally trained friends, especially those of you working in the criminal justice system if you can assist with tracking down the results of investigations of racial violence this would be particularly useful. As anyone will tell you, Im not a REAL lawyer.
I dont know if doing any of this will actually achieve anything. Well see. But hopefully it will make me feel better about myself and what Ive done in response to this. Maybe if you help, it will make you feel better about yourself too