Myall Creek Massacre anniversary
Wednesday is the anniversary of the Myall Creek massacre.
It was late on a winter’s afternoon, a Sunday, 10th June, 1838. One squatter led a gang of eleven convict and ex-convict stockmen. They brutally slaughtered a Weraerai mob of the Gomeroi Nation. By brutal that means death by hacking. Two gunshots were heard. That leaves just three swords to reduce the twenty eight to pieces. That’s right. Pieces. By any standards this is horrendous.
Remembering is about the future. Seeing where we have been helps us understand who we were and where we are now and allows us to live intentionally into what we are yet to become. It is essential that we not look away. There were hundreds of large scale massacres across this country up and into the twentieth century. Myall Creek was one. We need to understand why it happened.
Myall Creek Massacre Memorial http://www.myallcreekmassacre.com/Myall_Creek_Massacre/Home.html
Remembering is about the future.
All images taken by Luther Cora from #BLM rally, Brisbane, June 6 2020. Used with permission.
Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Martin Luther King Jr. in his letter from Birmingham jail.
Right now the Black Lives Matter movement has punched through international COVID-19 isolation. Across the world protestors stand in solidarity with George Floyd and the countless other victims of systematic exclusion and oppression. In Australia, First Nations people make 3% of the population but 29% of those in prison. In the U.S. the rate of incarceration of Indigenous and black persons is five times greater than non-Indigenous and white people. In Australia it is thirteen times greater. This is part of the deep ache that can be heard so powerfully in the Uluru Statement of the Heart.
It might seem controversial but there is no such thing as race. Ethnicity is real but race is a construct. Australia is home to hundreds of unique languages and nations, each with unique cultural practices and ethnicities. It has been for tens of thousands of years. Australia is now also home to Scots and Cornish and Welsh and Islander (of many kinds) and Tamil and Sinhalese and Timorese of many different mother tongues and on and on and on.
Uluru Statement from the Heart https://ulurustatement.org/
We seek … a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.
Race as a construction can be understood as an instrument of economic exploitation. Gary Younge’s analysis is helpful. The negro did not exist outside the necessary trade to furnish free labour in the ‘new world’. Enormous prosperity was won – at the expense of First Nation’s land, lives and livelihood – using imported slave labour. At a time when the American mid-west was being opened and land portions were given away to white European peasants for free, emancipated slaves received nothing. Those commodified as instruments of labour were not reimagined and simply cut loose. As Martin Luther King Jr commented, the liberty won in the Civil War only meant former slaves were now free to go hungry.
Martin Luther King Jr https://www.indy100.com/article/martin-luther-king-racism-interview-nbc-news-speech-civil-rights-movement-8740896 (A link to the full and extraordinary summation by MLK is available in the link)
“You can’t understand racism and how it operates … without understanding capitalism.”
Younge’s professorial analysis from the garden is excellent. Kimberly Jones gives a raw perspective from the street. It is no less intellectual. Rioting and looting is wrong. It is criminal. Understanding why it takes place is essential, and Kimberly lays it out, painting simple, compelling Monopoly board analogy.
Picture four hundred rounds of the game being played where blacks had no rights to earn or own anything, and all their labours are turned into their masters’ profit. Then when the game was ‘opened up’, the African American player has their money burnt and their property stolen, as Tulsa and Rosewood and Wilmington bear scarifying testimony.
Kimberly Jones https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sb9_qGOa9Go
"The game is fixed".
Jones speaks passionately and embodies Luther King’s analysis: “Riot is the language of the unheard”. So who has been speaking? What has gone unheard? There are countless voices, but look no further than Colin Kaepernick. He was unemployable after his own, respectful, protest. He echoes others’ protest: the black community have had and still have the knee of systemic oppression firmly at its throat.
Racism is abhorrent. It is wrong. Its premises are a lie and its practise is evil. We cannot root out racism without re-examining the economic system which created and curates it. We must do this all the while being enmeshed within it. (The climate crisis will require the same.)
Racism endures because someone gains. Brian Massingale says it clearly: “The only reason for racism’s persistence is that white people continue to benefit from it”. His article is excoriating for the white Christian reader. And necessarily so.
Racism endures because someone gains.
In 1987 Oprah Winfrey took her roadshow to Forsyth County, Georgia, a beating heart of white supremacy. It was apparent, blacks were feared and unwelcome. The difference between a black and nigger? A member of the audience answered:
“You have blacks and you have niggers … Black people don’t want to come up here. They don’t want to cause any trouble. That is a black person. A nigger wants to come up here and cause trouble all the time. That’s the difference”.
Oprah Winfrey https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WErjPmFulQ0
The black has an assigned role in the system, a place, predetermined. While there are many exceptions, in the main, if a black person steps out of that role and out of that place then they can expect and deserve to be treated like a nigger. This is at the heart of Amy Cooper’s culpable lies to the police, falsely accusing Christian Cooper of assault in Central Park.
They are lucky that what black people are looking for is equality and not revenge.
The Amy Cooper incident occurred around the same time as George Floyd’s death. Christian crossed some arbitrary line and Amy Cooper assumed a black man has no place to tell her anything, let alone the park rules about dogs on leads; she assumed that her lies would be more believable than his truth; she assumed that the arrival of the police would end up in her favour. Amy Cooper, a young female, white lawyer who feigns distress also assumed Christian Cooper would know all this. He should know that the Tulsa and Wilmington and Rosewood atrocities were all triggered by the black threat the ‘white womanhood’.
“When you call the state you expect violence”.
James Baldwin’s assertion is powerful: “I will not be your negro”. It is also threatening, directly challenging to the unwritten social contract of ‘the game’. But Christian was not in the mould of Amy Cooper’s negro. And Adam Goodes’ refused to be ours. It was Indigenous round in a national game grafted from Indigenous recreation. Adam is a proud Indigenous man, but his is not the place to celebrate with a throwing pose like that. People describe being threatened and Adam received vitriolic push back – ‘get back into place black man’ was the unmistakeable, public message.
If a framing from the Christian faith is needed at all, I offer some resources below. They are not comprehensive, and in a way, simply build on the very beginning: every person, no matter the kind: made in the image and after the likeness of God (Genesis 1.26). Human beings have been on a slow and long journey of awakening to become what God has already made us.
In this land, during the week of National Reconciliation itself, it must be noted:
- Rio Tinto exploded a 46 000 year old sacred site
- a policeman had a ‘bad day’ & a First Nation teen a whacked face
- #BLM rallies were officially blocked while 5G conspiracy rallies defended with “it’s a free country and people can believe what they like”, at the same time NRL crowds return in the coming days and shopping malls are their crowded normal.
We have a black history. The prosperity we have is because land was taken and unless I turn my privilege towards justice, I would be a quiet white supremacist. This is not hyperbole. So I invite the reader to test me by my actions. In the mean time, some questions and a prayer.
So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them.
Genesis 1.27 NRSV
From the future, from God’s eternal home –
Will there be slavery there?
Will there be oppression there?
Will there be lies and fear there?
Will there only be one kind there?
Will there be barrenness and drought and hunger and disease there?
No, no and no.
So as we pray, ‘your kingdom come and your will be done’, here as there, we practice resurrection now.
We practice now what will be then, it is a justice that is a mother to peace.
Come Holy Spirit.
Stir us into your work.
Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (NIV). This exquisite statement is reflected in Jesus family tree (Matthew 1) where multiple ethnicities and citizenships are included.
The mission of Jesus might simply be:
“To proclaim good news to the poor; proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.” —Luke 4:18
See also: Mark 12:31—"Love Your Neighbour as Yourself" and Luke 10:25-37—The Parable of the Good Samaritan.
Paul’s Ode to Love in 1 Corinthians 13 sings out of a fellowship of love with a guide on what the verb looks and sounds like in practice. It is blind, like justice, moving towards any and all with kindness.
Eph 2: 10-13 describes the work of Jesus crossing all manner of ethnic divides, pointing to Revelation’s fullness, the gathered assembly drawn from ‘every nation and tribe and peoples and language (Rev 7.9).
Martine Luther King Jr’s letter from Birmingham Jail: http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/documents/letter_birmingham_jail.pdf
The Belhar Confession, whose roots lie in the heart of apartheid South Africa and a church remembering is prophetic calling:
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote to Gandhi in 1934. It included: "What we need therefore in our countries is a truly spiritual living christian peace movement. Western Christianity must be reborn on the Sermon on the Mount." Gandhi was a not a Christian but was deeply formed by Christ and his teaching from the Sermon on the Mount and transformed a nation while we Christians look at our own countries and the same Sermon as aspirational.
Other helpful articles:
This reflection from the Chris Hall, president of Renovaré. It includes a powerful lament and call to repentance.
Open letter, June 2: https://christiandiversity.org/
From the (&) campaign, Biblical values and social justice: To educate and organize Christians for civic and cultural engagement that results in better representation, more just and compassionate policies and a healthier political culture. https://andcampaign.org/statementonracializedviolence
This happened. How can this be so?
What are the conditions that made this possible? What are the conditions now?
· Land can be taken without regard or recompense
· Tiny infractions and resistance can be repaid with random, overwhelming and excessive deadly force
· Possies of marauding settlers can hunt humans for weeks
· Old, young and women can be hacked to pieces with swords – on June 10 1938 the number was 28
· Days later a pyre of human fragments can burn with the intent of destroying evidence
· A rich landlord can back roll the legal defence
· The prosecution has to first establish the humanity of the murdered
· Those convicted and held to account were only emancipated convicts, all free settlers got away unchallenged
· Of the hundreds of massacres across Australia (reaching into early in the twentieth century) this is the only time British law was applied to the murderers
Privileged white assumptions
This is from Brian Massingate’s brilliant article. This remarkable
and disturbing litany of assumptions underpin Amy Coopers fake emergency police call.
She assumed that her lies would be more credible than his truth.
She assumed that she would have the presumption of innocence.
She assumed that he, the black man, would have a presumption of guilt.
She assumed that the police would back her up.
She assumed that her race would be an advantage, that she would be believed because she is white. (By the way, this is what we mean by white privilege).
She assumed that his race would be a burden, even an insurmountable one.
She assumed that the world should work for her and against him.
She assumed that she had the upper hand in this situation.
She assumed that she could exploit deeply ingrained white fears of black men.
She assumed that she could use these deeply ingrained white fears to keep a black man in his place.
She assumed that if he protested his innocence against her, he would be seen as "playing the race card."
She assumed that no one would accuse her of "playing the race card, "because no one accuses white people of playing the race card when using race to their advantage.
She assumed that he knew that any confrontation with the police would not go well for him.
She assumed that the frame of "black rapist" versus "white damsel in distress" would be clearly understood by everyone: the police, the press and the public.
She assumed that the racial formation of white people would work in her favor.
She assumed that her knowledge of how white people view the world, and especially black men, would help her.
She assumed that a black man had no right to tell her what to do.
She assumed that the police officers would agree.
She assumed that even if the police made no arrest, that a lot of white people would take her side and believe her anyway.
She assumed that Christian Cooper could and would understand all of the above.