Structurally embedded racism is made possible by power. I witnessed that today when I arrived at the Domain at 12:15 pm to find a huge police presence, a few media, and a couple of stragglers.
A young man – wearing a protective face mask – sitting on his own told me that the organizers of the Justice for David Dungay Black Lives Matter gathering were arrested, fined and a small number of people were dispersed around a quarter to 12.
He couldn’t understand why everyone was so against the gathering when it was outdoors, in a huge park that was perfect for physical distancing.
He said “I work at Parramatta Westfield and it is packed with people every weekend. Why is that the gatherings at schools, the shopping centres, Churches, the races, and the footy are no risks to public health”?
We spoke at length about the pandemic of racism in Australia and tried to understand why.
Why do we have a culture that demonizes Indigenous Australian people?
Why is there such little concern in the wider community about black deaths in custody?
Why do people fail to understand that the Dungay family and their supporters are seeking justice and speaking up in order to save lives?
Why won’t the governments listen, acknowledge, and address the concerns of the people protesting?
Why won’t the governments implement recommendations from the Royal Commission into black deaths in custody made over 30 years ago?
Why do we have laws in Australia that arrest, charge, and imprison children aged 10? And why is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children account for 65% of these younger children in prison?
With every why, I felt so incredibly sad “what sort of society is this”?
I said goodbye. Put my headphones on to listen to music and cried as I walked through the park past groups of police standing around.
As I reached the Strand Arcade to the Haigs chocolate shop (well, I was in town, so I thought I might as well get a few chocolate hard caramels), I met a man sitting outside the shop, who was asking for money.
We got talking and I told him why I was in town. He said he was Aboriginal and had experienced racist comments throughout his life. But said he wouldn’t protest; as it was no point. He said he was proud of who he was and that’s all that mattered to him.
I told him I came to the Domain today for Leetona Dungay, David’s Mum because she shouldn’t have to fight on her own to seek justice for the death of her son in custody. He nodded and smiled at me.
As I headed back to work, I vowed to keep loving, connecting with people, listening and learning so as to peel away some of the layers of racism, bigotry, and naivety in us all.