Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew Guy

In its lengthy January 6 report, The Australian cited the latest census data as suggesting there were over 20,000 Sudanese-born Australian residents, with around 11,500 living in Melbourne. Today’s front page Herald Sun splash, quotes “intelligence” as putting the Apex Gang core at 50 members. Let’s imagine all 50 are of Sudanese heritage. If we divide 50 by 20,000 and multiply by 100, we get the percentage of Sudanese people involved in this gang. By my calculation, it is about 0.25%.

“But hang on, you left wing politically correct former Federal Liberal Party candidate!” you may exclaim. “What about that Menace To Society mob?” Well, the same mathematics could be used again, once we know just how many are in this group and how many of them are South Sudanese. (No, not Sudanese in the manner of Yassmin Abdel-Magied. I mean South Sudanese. They are two separate countries now.)

“Well even if they aren’t Sudanese, they’re still African.” I guess that is true, though not all Africans look the same. But then, facts have not been the mainstay of the reporting of the alleged “African gang crisis”. 

Catherine Marshall, one of my favourite travel writers, is of African descent. She happens to come from the same African country as a magnificent cricketer named Hashim. There’s another African bloke in Australia named Akmal who tells lots of funny jokes and appears quite regularly on TV.

What I’m trying to say is that to describe someone as African is meaningless. Africa is a huge continent, one into which you could easily fit much of Earth’s non-African land mass. How does one profile an African when the largest Arabic-speaking country on the planet is in Africa? How can you tell who is African and who isn’t?

Let’s be honest. This is about profiling black people, those who meet our ignorant stereotype of what it means to be African: skin colour. But as I’ve illustrated above, to be African isn’t a black or white issue. To be African means to be black or white or brown. I have Eritrean friends who look South Indian. I have South African friends whose ancestors were north Indian. I have Liberian friends whose complexion is visibly darker than my straight-haired Somali friends. How do we profile an African?

It’s a bit like profiling a Muslim. Profiling links “Muslim” to anything that might be considered a terrorist act. It’s enough evidence for them that a person was from a Muslim family, had a Muslim granny, had black/brown skin or looked “Middle Eastern” or may just have converted.

But let’s return to this new thing called “African gangs”. Let’s just imagine that 0.25% of the South Sudanese communities are involved in gang violence. What is the solution? Do we just kick them out if they aren’t citizens? Imagine we take a kid convicted of a serious offence, perhaps his first offence. We fly him back to war-torn Sudan. He has never lived there, has no family there other than relatives he has never met. He can barely speak the language, cannot understand the deadly politics of the civil war.

“Forget him. He got what he deserved,” may be the Dutton-esque, Herald Sun/Daily Telegraph/Coalition-desperate-to-stay-in-power response. But what about the family this kid leaves behind? The kid may have four siblings still at school. If lucky to have both parents alive, which for many South Sudanese refugee families is not always a given, the kid’s parents may be left with severe resentment and depression on top of the trauma that they may have already experienced thanks to the war.

Dutton’s solution of just deporting people is a recipe for breaking up families and extending trauma. It’s a cop-out based on the basest and most irrational form of racism that tells us that people who don’t look like “us” are more likely to be dangerous than, say, a white-skinned priest who engages in unspeakable acts with children. ​

Peter Fray

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