In late August a 14-year-old indigenous boy called Elijah Doughty was killed when the motorbike he was riding was struck from behind by a ute in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.
Hitting the boy seems to have been a deliberate act. It is alleged that Elijah was riding a motorbike owned and reported stolen by the man who was driving the ute. It seems the driver made a deliberate attempt to murder Elijah, or at least cause him serious injuries, in retaliation for the alleged theft.
The driver of the ute left the scene after hitting Elijah, leaving his body to be found by his classmates in the morning. Despite the apparent callous behaviour of the driver he was only charged with manslaughter, instead of murder. This has sparked outrage from the indigenous community of Kalgoorlie who have for years suffered deep seated racist discrimination.
Protests turned into a small scale riot when the family of Elijah were excluded from the court proceedings and from information about the trial. People have rightly had enough, as crimes like this against the indigenous community have often been diminished before.
Just over a decade ago on Palm Island in Queensland a senior police officer beat an Aboriginal man to death on the floor of the local watch house. The forensic pathologist’s report then falsely stated that the man had died after “tripping up a single step, and falling onto a flat floor”.
That officer was also charged with manslaughter rather than murder. Within an hour of the report being read out, the Palm Island police station, court house and the police officers home, were burnt down by a furious local community.
Racist attacks and indigenous deaths in custody are unfortunately a common occurrence, many going unreported. With that being the case it is an outrage that instead of focusing on the injustices faced by the indigenous community many mainstream media outlets have focused on a couple of broken windows at the Kalgoorlie court house.
Indigenous Australians face staggering levels of racism in every sphere of life. From racist individuals openly advocating vigilante style attacks like the one against Elijah, to the systemic racism of government institutions. Racism is a key part of Australian society.
In the words of Malcolm X: “You can’t have capitalism without racism.” This is fundamental to Australia today. Capitalism sees indigenous people as a barrier to exploiting economically rich land and therefore it treats them as second class citizens.
There is no doubt that victims of individual vigilante attacks deserve justice, but in order to address racism in its totality we need to link the fight for indigenous rights to the fight to change society. Only a socialist system can stop the exploitation of indigenous land and people and allow communities to control their own affairs.
By Amy Neve
The Socialist Party demands:
-Jail child murderers and racist vigilantes; no excuses
-Sack all racist police officers and judges; democratic community oversight of the justice system
-Invest in health, education, housing and social services; not more racist prisons
-The right to a job and welfare for all; no welfare quarantining
-Land rights and community control of resources to solve social issues