Thursday, November 4, 2010

Northam and refugees

Typed in by Tracy, as stated by John

We were in Northam today, our regional centre, where we do most of our shopping, other than what we are able to do in our immediate, much smaller town. One of our kids went to high school there, because it's the only Senior High in the region. Northam is the centre of the Avon Valley wheatbelt region in which we live.

It was disgusting to see a bloke arrive in town with his tray-top bedecked with large painted panels carrying maps of Australia with diatribes of racial vilification. Without going into the details, suffice it to say that there was a representation of a figure in a hijab with a line drawn through it, bearing the word "parasite", and referring to the Northam Army Base, intended site of a refugee detention centre, as "our sacred site" (meaning of the military). The ironies and insensitivities behind the use of this phrase are obvious.

I managed to control myself and not call out, "You racist bastard". But I feel it essential I articulate my opposition to the mass racism taking place in Northam and surrounding region at the moment. It was doubly disturbing to see bigots drive past this bloke in their utes, giving him the thumbs-up.

On top of this is the irony that Northam has a long history as a migration centre. But the racists are busy differentiating between the European migrants after the Second World War and the Afghan refugees who have left the country which those very same bigots are more than happy to insist needs the Australian military to be waging war against oppressive political elements.

My concern is with the fact that these refugees have to be kept in detention at all. It would seem a far more humane approach to treat them as migrants awaiting confirmation of their status, rather than as prisoners in a concentration camp.

In country that was stolen from the Nyungar people, it is bizarre that the non-indigenous residents feel they have a claim to this land through eternity.

During the 1890s, my great-grandfather, who was foreman of the South Champion mine at Kookynie, was dying of thirst in the desert when he was saved by an Afghan camel driver. Anyone with any knowledge of Western Australian history will know that Afghan people have had a long and important relationship with this place. But even if that were not the case, we are all humans, and all humans should be treated with dignity and respect.

It is many years since I and my fellow activists were involved in resisting the anti-Asian racism campaigns of Jack Van Tongeren and his ultra-nationalist cronies. But today, seeing those signs in Northam made me feel as if we have not progressed, not gone any further forward at all. Western Australia still reeks of racism.

John Kinsella


Anonymous said...

John (and Tracy), I entirely agree. And if they wanna draw maps, maybe they ought to think of 60,000 plus years of Aboriginal cultural-linguistic groups spread out in the different clan groups over the White colonial borders that cut into the land in an attempt to instate a White originality to place. "In 1788 in Sydney Cove, the first boat people land" as Kev Carmody reminds us.

In our world wrought by the coloniality of power (Quijano) which tracks colonialism through modernity (two sides of the same coin - European modernity is not possible except by colonialism and U.S. hegemony by developmentalism and global capitalism), the idea of race, white superiority and progress through to the global age of capital transfers and elite mobility, to bodies and persons cut down by borders and ironic reassertions of "nation" and belonging... the real invader is he (usually the he) who continues to enact violence. The most vile violence. It must be eradicated and the decolonization of minds, hearts and the end of European-Northern History and its immense destruction and failure is nigh. End game to nation-states and governments, end game to their strategies of earth exploitation, legal labour systems of slavery and imprisonment of people of color, the tide will turn. We may not live to see it come to fruition, but the White-patriarchal-colonial-gender-heterosexual order is OVER.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the concentration camp should not exist in the first place.

However, I would like to add that I think it is interesting to see the centre right distancing themselves politically from the far right racists. Despite the fact many of the 'centre right' probably agree and would rather sweep the issue under the carpet.

What the racists cannot see, through lack of education and empathy, perhaps because it is too paradoxical, is that these 'parasites' actually bring with them a tremendous amount of wealth - both economically and
culturally. They argue for xenophobia on unfounded economic grounds. In fact, I would be willing to bet that one 'refugee' would probably bring more wealth per capita to the area than each of the 'racists'.