Episode 257 – Black Lives Matter in Australia
In this episode, we look at indigenous incarceration in Australian and the recent protests.
Our Spiked Discussion
OK, Trevor was wrong to say Spiked is funded by the Koch brothers and should have said Spiked has received donations from the Koch brothers.
Prepare to be challenged
Dear Left leaning friends. Are you prepared to have some ideas challenged?
This is not easy. It is uncomfortable. A voice inside says don’t go there.
But so much has been said that does not make sense.
Last week we compared cultures. Obedient community spirited Asian cultures Vs individual freedom loving Western cultures.
Did you think it was wrong to examine and compare cultures in the context of examining human behaviour in response to the Corona virus?
Some cultures were better suited to controlling the virus than others.
That wasn’t racist was it?
This past week with the BLM protests in Australia. Some of that focused on incarceration rates and the plight of indigenous Australians. Did you stop to consider cultural differences and the role that might be playing?
Last week we looked at statistics. How they could be manipulated. How correlation is not causation. How statistics are sometimes a shadow of the real information. When hearing statistics this past week about Aboriginal deaths in custody, did you stop and consider if they had been presented without distortion?
Two weeks ago we spoke about Chinese history, the cultural revolution and the Red Guard. Do you remember we spoke about “Struggle Sessions”. In general, the victim of a struggle session was forced to admit various crimes before a crowd of people who would verbally and physically abuse the victim until he or she confessed. Struggle sessions … were sometimes conducted in sports stadiums where large crowds would gather if the target was well-known.
If you watched QandA last night, did you get the uncomfortable feeling you were witnessing a modern day “Struggle Session”?
Previously we did episode 213 and 160. Look em up. If we skip over an idea or miss on entirely, we may have covered it previously.
I don’t know about you but after the shutdown debate I’m wary about statistics.
Lies, damned lies
People who think the numbers don’t lie have never massaged the numbers on a model.
February 2019 – Indigenous deaths in custody: 25 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody
An Australian Government bulletin from the Australian Institute of Criminology by Alexandra Gannoni and Samantha Bricknell
Since 2003–04, the proportion of Indigenous deaths in prison custody has been smaller than the relative proportion of prisoners.
The majority of Indigenous prison deaths from 1991–92 to 2015–16 were due to natural causes (58%; n=140), followed by hanging (32%; n=78; Table A1). Twelve deaths (5%) were due to drugs and/or alcohol and nine (4%) were due to external trauma.
… This pattern was similar for non-Indigenous prison deaths.
Conclusion – In 1991, the RCIADIC concluded Indigenous people were no more likely to die in custody than non-Indigenous people but were significantly more likely to be arrested and imprisoned. The same remains true today.
How does Australia rate on police brutality?
Killings by law enforcement agencies
FactCheck Q&A: are Indigenous Australians the most incarcerated people on Earth?
This fact check is fatally flawed because it compares a rate per adults in the population s a rate per population.
From The Conversation
During a Q&A episode marking the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum, Cape York Partnership founder Noel Pearson outlined some of the problems Indigenous Australians continue to face, including high incarceration rates. Pearson said Indigenous Australians are “the most incarcerated people on the planet Earth”.
Is that right?
Checking the source
When asked for sources to support his statement, a spokesperson for Pearson referred The Conversation to data from the US Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), and said:
The US has the highest rate of imprisonment (in number and by percentage of population).
In the US, the African-American people are the most incarcerated by percentage of their population (2,207 per 100,000).
Indigenous Australians are the most incarcerated by percentage of their population (2,346 per 100,000).
Therefore, the statement that Indigenous Australians are the most incarcerated people in the world is true.
What do the data say?
Let’s look at the facts.
Which country has the world’s highest adult imprisonment rate?
We can compare rates of incarceration in countries around the world using the World Prison Brief, an international database hosted by the Institute for Criminal Policy Research at Birbeck, University of London. It reports the number of adults incarcerated per 100,000 of the total population in 223 jurisdictions.
Pearson’s spokesperson was accurate to say the US had the highest overall rate of imprisonment in 2010, but things have changed since then.
The World Prison Brief now names Seychelles as the country with the highest adult imprisonment rate. That’s based on data from 2014, which showed Seychelles had an imprisonment rate of 799 adults per 100,000 people.
The US is currently in second place, having reported 666 adult prisoners per 100,000 people in 2015.
As a total population – including both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians – Australia currently ranks 93rd on the World Prison Brief list, with an imprisonment rate of 162 adults per 100,000 of the total population in 2016.
But, as Pearson highlighted on Q&A, we get a very different result when we look at the incarceration rate for Indigenous Australians.
Comparing Indigenous Australia’s imprisonment rate to the World Prison Brief rankings
The World Prison Brief doesn’t report the adult imprisonment rate for Indigenous Australians as a subset of the Australian population. But it is possible to calculate an estimate to compare to the international figures, using ABS data and population estimates.
In 2015, the Indigenous population in Australia was approximately 729,000 people. In that year, there were 9,885 Indigenous adult prisoners. That’s an imprisonment rate of roughly 1,356 adults per 100,000 of the total Indigenous Australian population.
So, Pearson’s statement that Indigenous Australians are “the most incarcerated people on the planet Earth” is correct if considering Indigenous Australian incarceration rates alongside incarceration rates in countries listed by the World Prison Brief.
Indigenous and marginalised groups’ incarceration rates in Canada, NZ and the US
But how does Australia’s Indigenous imprisonment rate compare with those of other Indigenous and marginalised communities around the world?
Data on Indigenous imprisonment rates are not consistently measured or reported in many countries. So it’s difficult to gauge how Australia’s Indigenous imprisonment rate compares with Indigenous people or marginalised groups internationally.
But credible data are available for a number of groups in several countries: Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US.
(Note: the following figures are reported per 100,000 of the adult population, not the total population as used by the World Prison Brief.)
Starting with the US, Pearson’s spokesperson accurately quoted US Bureau of Justice Statistics that showed African-Americans were the most imprisoned racial group in the US in 2010, with an adult imprisonment rate of 2,207 per 100,000 African-American adults. In the same year, Indigenous Australians were imprisoned at a higher rate – 2,303 per 100,000 Indigenous adults.
In 2015, the adult imprisonment rate of Indigenous Australians was still higher than that of African-Americans. In that year, 1,745 per 100,000 African-American adults were incarcerated, compared to 2,253 per 100,000 Indigenous Australian adults.
(By 2016, the Indigenous Australian incarceration rate had risen another 4%, to 2,346 adult prisoners per 100,000 adults.)
The imprisonment rate for Indigenous Americans in the US in 2010 was 895 per 100,000 Indigenous American adults. The imprisonment rate for Canada’s Aboriginal people in 2010-11 was estimated to be 1,400 per 100,000 Aboriginal Can adian adults.
We can calculate the imprisonment rate for New Zealand’s Māori using statistics from the Department of Corrections and Stats NZ. In 2015, the Māori adult imprisonment rate was approximately 1,063 per 100,000 Māori adults.
So, Indigenous Australians were imprisoned at higher rates than Indigenous people in the US in 2010, in Canada in 2010-11 and in New Zealand in 2015, and than African-Americans in 2015.
Noel Pearson’s statement that Indigenous Australians are “the most incarcerated people on the planet Earth” is correct, based on the best available international data. – Thalia Anthony
2016 Report – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experience of law enforcement and justice services
Chapter 4 – Imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders
Nature of offences
4.10 The most common offence or charge for which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners were in custody were acts intended to cause injury (33 per cent or 3,309 prisoners) followed by unlawful entry with intent (15 per cent of 1,506 prisoners). The most common offence or charge for the non-Indigenous prisoner population was illicit drug offences (17 per cent or 4,453 prisoners) and acts intended to cause injury (17 per cent or 4,333 prisoners).
4.11 Acts intended to cause injury was the most common offence or charge for both male and female Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners (34 per cent for males and 31 per cent for females), followed by unlawful entry with intent (15 per cent for males and 14 per cent for females).
4.12 In terms of reoffending behaviour, just over three quarters of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners (77 per cent) had been imprisoned under sentence previously, compared to half of non-Indigenous prisoners (50 per cent).
From another Australian Government Report published in 2015
Length of sentences
4.13 In terms of sentenced prisoners, at 30 June 2015, the median aggregate sentence length for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners was two years, compared with three and a half years for non-Indigenous prisoners. The median expected time to serve for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners was 1.2 years, compared with 2.1 years for non-Indigenous prisoners.
4.14 For unsentenced prisoners, at 30 June 2015, the Australian Bureau of Statistics states:
The median time spent on remand by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander unsentenced prisoners was 2.2 months, compared to 3.0 months for non-Indigenous unsentenced prisoners.
4.15 Mr Mick Gooda, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, made the following observations on the sentence lengths for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners, particularly women, tend to be serving shorter sentences than non-Indigenous prisoners, indicating that sentences of imprisonment are being imposed on Indigenous people for more minor offences
Reasons for high Indigenous imprisonment rates
5.1 Both the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS) and the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia (ALSWA) stated that the reasons for the high imprisonment rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons are ‘well documented’. Further, ALSWA commented that the reasons ‘have been repeatedly examined by numerous federal and state inquires’. ALSWA, among others, summarised these factors as follows:
[T]he reasons fall into two main categories. The first category are underlying factors that contribute to higher rates of offending (eg, socio-economic disadvantage, impact of colonisation and dispossession, stolen generations, intergenerational trauma, substance abuse, homelessness and overcrowding, lack of education and physical and mental health issues). The second category is structural bias or discriminatory practices within the justice system itself (ie, the failure to recognise cultural differences and the existence of laws, processes and practices within the justice system that discriminate, either directly or indirectly, against Aboriginal people such as over-policing practices by Western Australia Police, punitive bail conditions imposed by police and inflexible and unreasonable exercises or prosecutorial decisions by police).
5.2 In his submission, Mr Mick Gooda, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, stated that ‘it is well understood that extreme levels of poverty and disadvantage faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples lead to the high incarceration rates’.
5.3 Mr Gooda referred to the work of Dr Don Weatherburn, Director of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, who argued that there are four key risk factors for involvement in the criminal justice system:
- poor parenting (particularly child neglect and abuse);
- poor school performance/early school leaving;
- unemployment; and
- drug and alcohol abuse.
5.4 Available data shows that Indigenous Australians fair significantly worse than non-Indigenous Australians in regard to these four critical factors which influence involvement in crime. These factors have interrelated detrimental impacts and can be seen as forming a vicious cycle:
Parents exposed to financial or personal stress, or who abuse drugs and/or alcohol are more likely to abuse or neglect their children. Children who are neglected or abused are more likely to associate with delinquent peers and do poorly at school, which in turn increases the risk of involvement in crime. Involvement in crime increases the risk of arrest and imprisonment, both of which further reduce the changes of employment, while at the same time increasing the risk of drug and alcohol abuse. And so the process goes on, a vicious cycle of hopelessness and despair transmitted from one generation of Aboriginal people to the next.
5.5 Reiterating these points, the Law Council of Australia has also outlined the main factors that have been identified as increasing the risk of Indigenous Australians’ involvement in crime:
These include criminogenic needs such as substance abuse, overcrowded living environments, unemployment, and poverty. A number of commentators have noted the impact that substance abuse and high levels of unemployment play in the over-representation of Indigenous Australians in prison. Indeed, it has been suggested that “alcohol is a factor in up to 90% of all Indigenous contact with the criminal justice system.” A lack of education, or poor school attendance, has also been identified as a factor that increases the risk of offending later in life. High levels of mental illness and disadvantage within a number of Indigenous communities have also been found to increase the risk of Indigenous Australians becoming involved in crime.
5.6 High rates of imprisonment may also lead to the idea that incarceration is a ‘rite of passage’ within Indigenous communities. As Chief Justice Wayne Martin, of the Supreme Court of Western Australia (WA) explained:
For kids in the leafy western suburbs of [Perth], being sent to detention would be a horrendous prospect. It would be unthinkable. It would bring shame on their family. It would just be their worst nightmare. For Aboriginal kids, it does not have the same effect, because their cousin is in there, their brother has been there and their father has been in prison. It just does not hold the same threat, the same effect, the same effective sanction. Tragically, in some communities, Aboriginal kids see it as just what you do, one of the things that you do as part of growing up—that you end up in detention or prison—because so many family members have been there.
Black Lives Matter Demonstrations in Australia
Protesting during a pandemic – It’s a balancing act
Risk of infection Vs importance of the issue
USA – High risk but high importance
Australia – Low risk and lower importance (certainly for Qld, maybe less so for Victoria)
If Australia had same infection risk as USA I would say the protestors would be wrong to protest at this time.
So I think the UK is wrong to be holding mass protests.
As for arresting protestors, a government is supposed to reflect the will of the people. To arrest people would’ve been anti-democratic and the numbers were so large the police would have to unfairly pick out the slow runners.
From The Guardian
Tens of thousands of people marched through Australian cities and towns for Black Lives Matter protests on Saturday, defying an attempt from the police to ban one demonstration through the courts and despite pleas from the prime minister and state leaders for people to stay home.
NSW Court of Appeal – we have to wait for the reasons
What are people protesting about?
No, doubt there are a variety of reasons.
In the USA it started to be about police brutality (on both blacks and whites) and has morphed to include general racism.
But in Australia it is about deaths in custody plus a mixture of police brutality and general racism. (when, as we shall see later, it should be about culture leading to high incarceration rates)
The Iron Fist View?
If you protest about non-existent grievances, you take attention away from the real problem.
If you misrepresent events and statistics and get found out, you lose credibility and people will distrust you on other facts.
If you intentionally alienate potential supporters you don’t promote your cause. If you tell people they are fucking racists, and they are not, then they are not about to go out of their way to help you.
Black Lives Vs All Lives Matter and whataboutism.
China and USA is a different whataboutism because we are choosing one over the other and I’m saying choose neither.
Black Lives Vs All lives – the argument is it is OK to concentrate on a particular problem and set aside for the moment any wider or different problems. We can’t solve everything at once so pick out the worst and concentrate on those.
That’s true, provided distinctions make sense.
Save the whales – but what about the overfishing of tuna. It’s OK to concentrate on whales as they have specific issues. For example Japanese research vessels etc.
But you wouldn’t say save the Blue whales if Humpback whales, Minke whales and Southern right whales were all swimming in the same sea and suffering the same fate? You would just say save the Whales.
But let’s imagine there are specific issues for Blue whales and you decide to hold a save the Blue whales rally, if you did hold a save the Blue whale rally you wouldn’t tell a person holding a save the Humpback sign to fuck off and cheer as the police took him away. You would ignore him or tell him he is at the wrong rally.
Maybe … All Lives Matter has morphed into code for “I don’t care about black lives” in the same way that booing Adam Goodes morphed into something else.
But Trevor, all whales are the same and are being treated the same and there is no discrimination but indigenous people are suffering particular discrimination.
Yes they are, but overwhelmingly the problem is not white on black discrimination but black on black violence erupting from dysfunctional indigenous societies who have a culture problem.
Play Coleman Hughes Perpetrator clip
If you are hyperbolic about racism, finding it where it doesn’t exist, you devalue the word. Eventually people say, yeah, I’m a racist, so what. Because everyone is racist.
Now Sky News can put together a package of false racism claims and convince their audience that racism is a beat up.
The same goes for claims of suffering and disadvantage. I see privileged coloured people on the ABC claiming woe is me. For example see Nakkiah Lui who has benefited from a number of scholarships and grants. These people should acknowledge their own privilege (or at least not claim disadvantage) and argue for the truly disadvantaged.
To maintain credibility, they need to admit some indigenous are doing very well.
Racism will never be reduced to Zero incidence. Play clip.
From Chapo Trap House podcast
For a lot on the left their politics is bound up in being selfless, the idea of altruism, the danger is the politics becomes completely symbolic because all you need to do is a ritualised abeyance. See Cary in North Carolina for the ritual washing of feet of black protestors.
At a Unity Prayer Walk in Cary, North Carolina, over the weekend, white cops washed the feet of black religious leaders and prayed for forgiveness for the sins of their ancestors who for centuries enslaved, mistreated and oppressed African Americans.
Some people on social media said the organizers of the walk were pandering to the media and others. Few commenting on Bush’s tweet defended it, but some did.
“This foot washing is a national disgrace,” one Twitter user wrote. “This is not about unity or racism. These ‘struggle sessions’ are Maoist tactics designed to publicly humiliate their targets by social pressure and intimidation to ensure obedience. Embarrassed to live in Cary.”
- PanellistAndrew Bragg
- PanellistJim Chalmers
- PanellistNakkiah Lui
- PanellistNyadol Nyuon
- PanellistMeyne Wyatt
What the Left is saying
From Greg Jericho
African Americans make up 12% of the adult population, but 33% of the US prison population; in Australia the ratio for Indigenous people is 3% of the population and 29% of the prisoners.
If we could just replicate the ratio of African Americans in prison for Indigenous people, total prison numbers in Australia would fall by around 22%.
When things would so greatly improve by only being as bad as the US, you know things are in a woeful state.
If the rate of Indigenous men in prison was the same as that of non-Indigenous men, rather than having 11,682 Indigenous men in prison there would be just 760 – cutting the total male prison population by more than a third.
These figures don’t occur without systemic racism throughout our society – relating to employment, incomes, education, health: all the things that may put people in situations where they are more likely to commit crime combined with a justice system that appears to both seek them out more, views their actions more as crimes and then treats them more harshly.
No, we are not America, but that is nothing to brag about, and we need to face up to our own problems.
There have been 432 deaths since 1991 and no one has been charged.
Shanaya Donovan, a Gadigal woman, said she attended the protests despite the potential to be fined or jailed because she was constantly racially profiled.
“I’ve been followed around in Kmart, looking like I’m going to steal something,” she said.
“I’ve learned I have to go in my work uninform, so it doesn’t look like I’m going to take anything. I get stared at by police when I’m in public.”
Warriors of the Aboriginal resistance have 14 demands
From their Facebook page
Australia must look in the mirror to see our own deaths in custody
The ABS just released incarceration statistics
Of all persons in custody:
- Male prisoners represented 92% (40,579); and
- Female prisoners represented 8% (3,580).
So, the patriarchy?
Of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners:
- Almost three quarters were in New South Wales (3,683), Queensland (3,142) or Western Australia (2,766);
- 90% (11,591) were male; and
- 10% (1,312) were female.
THIS week I am tired. Not because of little ones, or because I work three jobs, or because I am studying and volunteering. Not because the weather is getting cold, the world is slowly crawling out of slumber after a global pandemic or because as women, we seem to do 1000 things at once.
I am tired because I am an Aboriginal woman, and my people are hurting.
Reconciliation Week is exhausting at the best of times.
Now more than ever, we are bombarded with tidal waves of racism and ignorance. It floods our social media, our news stories and our communities.
This week, as thousands of people take to the streets to protest police brutality after the horrifying murder of George Floyd and a NSW police officer is under investigation for throwing a young Aboriginal man, who was not resisting, to the ground on his face. I feel the weight of being an anti-racism crusader more than ever.
Fighting the good fight is hard. We are called upon for our time, our energy, our opinions, our stories – and willingly give all these things in the hope that it will make a difference.
There are strong parallels between what is happening in the US #BlackLivesMatter protests and what is happening in Australia. The systemic racism in Australia means my people are 13 times more likely to be incarcerated than a non-indigenous person, we are 30 per cent of the prison population and only 3 per cent of the people of Australia.
Let me tell you what these statistics mean. These statistics are my family. It means that every third person I walk past in jail as a lawyer is my brother or my sister.
Since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991, we have lost 432 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in custody. They are people. They have names and lives and families who miss them. #BlackLivesMatter is more than a hashtag on twitter for these families.
These statistics are the reason I chose to pursue a career in the justice sector and to study the law.
I watched an excellent lawyer and a compassionate police officer keep family members out of prison. As a people, we fear that one day someone in our family could be incarcerated, and we won’t be able to protect them.
In 2016, Will Smith said, “racism isn’t getting worse, it’s getting filmed” and it is as accurate today as it was then. It feels, for my people, like another year has passed and nothing has changed. We are fighting the same fight today as we were 10 and 20 years ago. We have been fighting for the same thing for generations for equality. Watching everything unfolding in America is horrifying, and there are deep-seated parallels between these international headlines and our stories at home – of police brutality, corrective services ignorance and mistreatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people when they are face-to-face with the justice system.
George Floyd in the US is our Aunty Tanya Day, Ms Dhu, Mr Ward, David Dungay Jr, Kumanjayi Walker.
We are exhausted by heartbreak that never seems to end and we are consistently called upon to comment.
This week be kind. Think before you speak. Don’t tell of your anger over riots and looting, without remembering the First Nations people in this country experienced the same not too long ago.
You may not understand, but please stand with us.
SAMANTHA COOPER IS SECTOR SUSTAINABILITY COORDINATOR AT COMMUNITY LEGAL CENTRES QUEENSLAND
Struggle Sessions and Re-education
Video – You can’t say all lives matter
Right before the protests were scheduled to start, a male counter-protester had his “all lives matter” placard ripped from his hands before he was handcuffed and led away by police.
The man was shouted down from the Town Hall building steps by demonstrators before he was detained.
Labor senator pulls ‘all lives matter’ post after social media backlash
A Tasmanian Labor senator has apologised for reposting an “all lives matter” image to social media, saying it was “careless and insensitive”.
Helen Polley sparked outrage on Sunday night when she shared the image, which read “every life matters no matter what the colour of your skin is”.
Hundreds of people gathered in Hobart and Launceston on Saturday to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protests that started in the United States after the death of George Floyd.
Around Australia, thousands of people protested, with the Sydney rally drawing the largest crowds after a successful last-minute court appeal to lawfully hold the protest.
Former Tasmanian Labor premier David Bartlett responded on Twitter, saying it was completely unacceptable for a representative of the Australian Labor Party, and a serious embarrassment to all in the Labor Party.
“I politely ask that you educate yourself,” Mr Bartlett tweeted.
“Your tweet is a serious embarrassment to all of us in the Labor Party. It is Hanson lite. It is tin-eared and a classic dog whistle. Remove it.”
Writer and comedian Benjamin Law urged Ms Polley to educate herself on why it might be considered offensive.
“With respect, the hashtag is one that has been started by white supremacists, similar to ‘it’s okay to be white’ – and should be avoided.”
Senator Polley later deleted the post and tweeted that she apologised for “carelessly reposting a post which was insensitive to the #Blacklivesmatter.”
She said she has always stood against racism.
Mr Law welcomed the apology.
“Thank you for listening. We’re all learning and can always do better. Heartening to see a leader demonstrate this.”
The Labor senator has been contacted for comment.
It’s not the first time Senator Polley has fallen foul of the party line.
In 2017, she faced intense internal pressure to change her view on same-sex marriage.
Ms Polley told The Australian newspaper she had been warned by Opposition colleagues her views could lead to her being “responsible for losing the next federal election”.
Senator Polley has represented Tasmania in the Senate since July 1 2005, and was the first female president of the Tasmanian branch of the ALP from 1992-1995.
12th doesn’t like this one from the John Menadue blog.
From The Federalist
The first was a video clip of a small group of white people kneeling down before a group of black people. A white man at the head of the kneeling group was praying, his voice shaking with emotion: “Father, we ask for forgiveness from our black brothers and sisters for years and years of racism, of systematic racism.”
The model at work here is the Chinese Cultural Revolution, with its mass “struggle sessions” in which anyone deemed insufficiently sympathetic to the proletariat, or thought to have an excessively bourgeois lifestyle, was subjected to public humiliations, paraded through the streets, assaulted, denounced, and put on display as objects of scorn. Often these struggle sessions ended in false confessions and pleas for mercy.
Obviously, no one in America is being paraded through the streets against their will. But by rushing to profess their supposed guilt for racism, these people are admitting that they need publicly to affirm their allegiance to woke identity politics. This represents nothing less than the emergence of a new regime in American life. What is now a voluntary and seemingly spontaneous public affirmation of progressive ideology will in time become a requirement. If you want a career or a public platform or a professional life in mainstream society, you’ll have to profess allegiance to the cultural left.
A local councillor from the Hills District in Sydney has refused calls to perform an Acknowledgment of Country at official meetings and events.
Is this an example of struggle sessions?
Yesterday, 27-year-old Mikaela Gallaway sent off an email to her local Councillor, Brooke Collins.
In it she called for the Hills Shire Council to reconsider its decision to not perform an Acknowledgement of Country (which is a short address to show respect for the Traditional Owners of the land an event is taking place upon) at meetings and events.
“No one in our community should feel their voices, stories or culture doesn’t matter. The Hills District is beautifully culturally diverse, so let’s celebrate that by giving our Indigenous population the acknowledgement they deserve. Australians like to think of themselves as accepting, kind and inclusive, but we too often overlook our first people,” Mikaela wrote.
Six minutes later, Councillor Collins responded by saying he would refuse to “single out one race”.
After Mikaela pointed out in another email that Indigenous Australians are the original custodians of the land, Councillor Collins responded again.
In this email, Councillor Collins suggested it’s possible that Indigenous Australians “wiped out” another race before them – a theory that has been widely refuted and debunked by experts.
Arguing from Identity
As a proud blah blah women/man.
A good definition of identity politics
Religion and politics. They’re the two topics you’re not supposed to talk about in polite company. But as you may have already picked up, I’m quite willing to sacrifice politeness for the sake of a good argument.
And as it turns out, both of these subjects have recently congealed into a toxic social construct that I think is becoming a real threat – not only to civil discourse, but quite possibly civilisation itself.
Globally, religion is on the decline. To which I might say: “Thank the Lord.”
But not so fast.
It may simply be being substituted with a new, even more dangerous ideology.
For clarity, I like the following description from Catharine R Stimpson, who says:
“Identity politics is contemporary shorthand for a group’s assertion that it is a meaningful group, that differs significantly from other groups, that its members share a history of injustice and grievance, and that its psychological and political mission is to explore, act out, act on and act up its group identity.”
If you put the above definition into a space recently vacated by any of the world’s religions, you’d have a pretty snug fit.
And I think that maybe exactly what’s happening.
While it’s pretty safe to say that religion is taking a dive in many western countries (like Australia, the United Kingdom and the USA), this downward trend is generally thanks to a new generation who, to make a huge generalisation, are just not that interested in religion.
Which does not mean they do not have the religious impulse. We all do. Probably because its underpinnings are deeply rooted in human evolutionary psychology. Human societies were built on a degree of conformity. We have evolved a habit of trusting authority. And most of us want to feel part of something bigger than ourselves.
Cue identity politics to fill the empty role.
Modern identity politics offers much that religion offered the masses, but in a convenient, online form. From behind the screen you can find people who identify with your sense of oppression, form a group with shared beliefs and gather together in a vast echo-chamber to reinforce your ideas.
I get it.
There is something appealing about starting a sentence with something like: “As a feminist, I think…” or “As a minority, I feel…” “As a white man, you cannot understand…” or “Oh yeah? But what about…?”
It helps to create a sense of belonging. And it’s something to do.
Like religion of old, identity politics is involuntarily inclusive. In other words, if you are one of us, you are bound by our ideas, values and customs. And if you’re not with us, you’re against us.
But while we create and identify ourselves with ever-more specific groups of oppressed souls, we, by definition, create and identify more groups of oppressors. We also neglect to identify with one another (even within in our groups) on the only level that truly matters: our common humanity.
The consequence is an increasingly fractured society.
Hitch Deplored Identity Politics
Hitchens detested tribal and parochial feelings of any kind, which is why he was dismayed when he witnessed the emergence of identity as a catalyst for political mobilization in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In his memoir, Hitch-22, Hitchens attacked radicals who thought it was “enough to be a member of a sex or gender, or epidermal subdivision, or even erotic ‘preference,’ to qualify as a revolutionary.” When Hitchens first heard the expression “the personal is political,” he knew “as one does from the utterance of any sinister bullshit that it was—cliché is arguably forgivable here—very bad news.” As he put it in a 2008 article:
People who think with their epidermis or their genitalia or their clan are the problem to begin with. One does not banish this spectre by invoking it. If I would not vote against someone on the grounds of ‘race’ or ‘gender’ alone, then by the exact same token I would not cast a vote in his or her favor for the identical reason.
It’s easy to imagine what Hitchens would have thought about a recent New York Times headline that declared “The Next President Should Not Be a Man” or a prominent writer and activist who announced that she “will not support white male candidates in the Dem primary.” The people who write such things are thinking with their epidermis and genitalia, which is to say they’re not thinking at all. You don’t have to bother defending candidates’ principles and positions when gender and race are the only relevant variables.
In The Coddling of the American Mind, Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff make a distinction between “common humanity” and “common enemy” identity politics. Hitchens embraced the former (though he would have argued that the word “identity” wasn’t necessary). For example, he regarded Bayard Rustin, one of the lead organizers of the March on Washington, as “perhaps the true genius of the civil rights and democratic socialist movements.” Unlike “black power” activists such as Stokely Carmichael and Malcolm X, Rustin saw civil rights through the prism of universal humanism instead of racial identity. He wanted to transcend the very idea of race as a relevant social and political category, and he didn’t see how this was possible if we remained transfixed by it.
But like Rustin, Hitchens thought the clearest gauge of racial equality was the extent to which American society could move past racial divisions altogether (Rustin actually opposed reparations and Affirmative Action for this reason). As his political history demonstrates, this didn’t mean ignoring the grave injustices and inequities black Americans continue to face. Nor did it mean forgetting about the legacies of slavery and segregation. It meant abandoning racial identity as an engine of political mobilization and treating people as individuals instead of representatives of a group. This is why Hitchens advocated the common humanity arguments for civil rights advanced by Rustin and Martin Luther King Jr.: “Surely the essential and unarguable core of King’s campaign,” Hitchens wrote, “was the insistence that pigmentation was a false measure … and an inheritance from a time of great ignorance and stupidity and cruelty.”
The Problem is Culture – Coleman Hughes
Black American Culture and the Racial Wealth Gap
written by Coleman Hughes
Conspicuous by its absence in the progressive account of the racial wealth gap is any active role for blacks themselves.
Dispossession crippled us permanently
Wealth—in the form of property and inheritances transferred from parent to child—became a birthright for whites. Meanwhile, deprived of such wealth transfers, poverty became a permanent trap for blacks
The prevailing progressive narrative also gives short shrift to the history of immigrant groups succeeding in the face of racist hostility and without help from the government.
But history tells a different story. Starting with the California Alien Land Law of 1913, fourteen states passed laws preventing Japanese-American peasant farmers from owning land and property. These laws existed until 1952, when the Supreme Court ruled them unconstitutional. Add to this the internment of 120,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II, and it’s fair to say that the Japanese were given no bootstraps in America. Nevertheless, by 1970 census data showed Japanese-Americans out-earning Anglo-Americans, Irish-Americans, German-Americans, Italian-Americans, and Polish-Americans.
Nor can historical racism explain wealth disparities between groups of the same race. A 2015 survey of wealth in Boston found that the median black household had only 8 dollars of wealth. Newsweek reported this fact under the heading “Racism in Boston.” But the 8 dollar figure only pertained to black Bostonians of American ancestry; black Bostonians of Caribbean ancestry had 12,000 dollars of wealth, despite having identical rates of college graduation, only slightly higher incomes, and being equally black in the same city.
No element of culture harms black wealth accrual more directly than spending patterns. Nielsen, one of the world’s leading market research firms, keeps extensive data on American consumer behavior, broken down demographically. A 2017 Nielsen report found that, compared to white women, black women were 14 percent more likely to own a luxury vehicle, 16 percent more likely to purchase costume jewelry, and 9 percent more likely to purchase fine jewelry. A similar Nielsen report from 2013 found that, while only 62 percent of all Americans owned a smartphone, 71 percent of blacks owned one. Moreover, all of these spending differences were unconditional on wealth and income … and the differences were even bigger when comparing highly educated members of each race so education was not a factor.
Take the bad with the good
“When you truly believe that racial groups are equal, then you also believe that racial disparities must be the result of racial discrimination.”15
But this makes no sense. Is it racist to observe that whites are more likely to drive drunk than blacks are? Is it racist to assert that black immigrants in the UK outscore comparable white Britons on standardized tests? Is it racist to observe that black American culture has produced a higher number of musical icons than Asian-American culture has? And if it’s not racist to mention these facts, then why is it racist to mention the same kinds of facts when they run in the opposite direction?
Just like no person is born knowing how to brew beer or play basketball, no person is born knowing how to build wealth. These skills must be taught. And just like some cultures teach beer-brewing or basketball-playing better than others, some cultures teach wealth-building better. Children from one culture may routinely hear phrases like “asset diversification,” “mutual fund,” and “inflation rate” on the lips of their parents, whereas children from another culture may not hear such phrases until adulthood, if they ever hear them at all. More importantly, those who believe they are helping black Americans—or any demographic group—succeed by encouraging them to blame society are mistaken. Talking honestly about harmful behavioral patterns is the only way to reliably correct them.
The Parable of the Pedestrian
What if the above is wrong and it is discrimination.
from legal scholar Amy Wax: A reckless driver runs a stop light and hits a pedestrian, injuring her spine. Doctors inform the pedestrian that if she ever wants to walk again she’ll have to spend many painstaking years in physical therapy. Clearly, she bears no responsibility for her injury; she was victimized by the reckless driver. Yet the driver cannot make her whole. He might pay for her medical bills, for instance, but he cannot make her attend her tedious physical therapy sessions; only she can do that. Still, she might resist. She might write historical accounts detailing precisely how and why the driver injured her. When her physical therapists demand more of her, she might accuse them of blaming the victim. She might wallow in the unfairness of it all. But this will change nothing. The nature of her injury precludes the possibility of anyone besides her healing it.17
The dynamic underlying the Parable of the Pedestrian scales up to entire communities. It is no longer primarily racism that holds blacks back, but a set of cultural elements—some acquired from white southerners,18 some a consequence of historical racism,19 others a consequence of the political upheavals of the 1960s,20 and some which are mysterious in origin—that are ill-suited for success in a modern information economy. Thus, unfair as it may seem, blacks can now do more for themselves than either whites or the government can do for them.
How to change culture?
How, exactly, does one go about changing something as complex and distributed as culture? On this point, the history of formerly lagging ethnic groups is instructive. Whether measured by rates of alcoholism, high school graduation, or income, Irish-Americans used to lag far behind other American ethnic groups.23 As one point of reference, the incarceration rate for Irish-Americans was five times higher than for German-Americans in 1904. The response? While some Irish leaders blamed society, others, notably those in the Catholic Church, launched an inward-looking campaign to change behavioral patterns within the Irish community.
The Left ignore and the Right won’t be heard
The Left, which has the power to start an intelligent conversation about culture, refuses to admit that culture accounts for many of the racial gaps typically ascribed to systemic racism. The Right, which acknowledges the role of culture, is too far from the media channels through which blacks tend to communicate, to have any chance of starting a robust conversation about culture in the black community. On one side we have ignorance, and on the other, impotence. And stuck in the middle we have the next generation of black Americans, who will grow up far more likely than their non-black peers to hold values inimical to wealth-building because the previous generation could not figure out how to speak honestly about black American culture.