Walk softly, but carry a big stick

Recently the African community has come under attack from sections of the Australian media, keen to sell content, by feeding white fears of a black community.

Reports about African gangs are inaccurately reported and crimes by members of the African community have been misreported or sensationalised in order to increase readership circulation, or push political agendas.

The facts as verified by the police are that the crimes committed by African immigrants are considerably lower than those committed by any other demographic in Melbourne, and these so-called gangs are either nothing more than a disorganised rabble of teenage youths…but that does not fill column inches.

This media onslaught has had the trickle down effect of striking fear into the general public against the black communities, and served to reinforce age old prejudices.

After bowing to political pressure from the public the police have launched a ‘task force’ to combat the perceived criminal activity allegedly perpetrated by these black communities.

The ‘task force’ is supported by a committee of African community leaders and workers who have every good intention of steering the initiative from a ‘task force’ to a ‘force for good’.

We applaud the African communities for their efforts in dealing with the misconception that is being portrayed in the media and believed by the general public. Black efforts such as social media and exposure programmes are going a long way to raise awareness, redress inaccuracies with the public and improve relationships with the police.

Seeing the African communities working closely with the police is a diplomatic step in the right direction.

But initiatives like these are not new, and at some point, the police arm of the task force will feel the political pressure to be seen to be tough, not on the cause of the black youth situation, but on the effect.

In this instance the black communities will again feel the weight of the police force and the tactics it employs.

My father used to say, “walk softly, but carry a big stick” and in this instance the big stick is our knowledge of the law.

Black people are the targets of racial profiling and we need to arm ourselves with the tools to defend ourselves from this injustice.

We are being racially discriminated both passively and aggressively in or day to day lives, while having our civil liberties eroded.

That is why in addition to the diplomatic approaches being explored by mainly by the African communities, there also needs to be an educational initiative to teach the black communities what their rights are in situations where they may be provoked into actions that will give them cause to be arrested.

This initiative should start in youth centres and community groups, so that the black youth do not fall into the traps laid for them when they are young. which in turn will keep their criminal records clean and protect their futures.

New migrants should be instructed on their rights under the law if stopped a questioned by an officer of the law or a security worker.

Schools should provide students with free legal consultations from an onsite solicitor, to imbue the students with confidence when they have their right challenged.

Black people are not being aggressive when we are standing up for ourselves, or protecting our rights, but when we take action and make our voices heard, we are perceived as being a threat.

Knowledge of your rights gives you the confidence to stand up for them.

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