Me the racist – reflecting on Cronulla 2005

by karwalski

It has been 10 years since the Cronulla riots, racist fights and mob mentality on Sydney streets. A lot has changed in 10 years, I have opened my mind and learnt a great deal… however I am ashamed to share that in December 2005 my 19 year old self wanted to attend the Cronulla riots ‘for a fight’.

I will jump back even further and briefly mention some other background; I went to a private high school in Canberra where I both lead and encouraged bullying behavior towards other students, at multiple occasions in relation to race. I attended Summernats festivals in Canberra, where I would cheer and encourage the musicians and comedians making racist jokes in the years prior to the Cronulla riots, I purchased a sticker which said ‘fuck off we’re full’ on an outline of Australia.

I cannot pinpoint individual influences within family or friends that encouraged or inspired my racist behaviour. After years of reflection I can only identify as been a social problem in much of Australian society, in every day activites it is not uncommon to hear ‘casual racism’ (aka ‘racism’), I recall numerous racist jokes – I must have learnt them from somewhere/one.

Years past, I married, had children, divorced and got involved in online activism before I really started to understand what racism was, and I promised myself I would make the best effort I could to be the best person I could be in every aspect of my life. Social media, in particular twitter, really opened my eyes to the rest of the world which was otherwise previously summerised on the evening television news – or ignored completely. I heard stories, I watched first hand experience, and as my online activism turned to a presence on the street, I met amazing people with a huge scope of backgrounds. I also started to realize what I was missing, the former work college who fled war in horrific conditions and family who sought asylum in Australia… I new parts of their stories.. but I hadn’t truly listened.

My activism starting in 2010 was a key turning point, my world view changed as I became engaged in geo-politics. It wasn’t that I had a bleeding heart, rather I just stopped and listened to my beating heart.

I started standing for many causes for equality, in particular the treatment of those seeking asylum in Australia which had and still has a heavily racist debate surrounding it. I saw instances of racist abuse being recorded and uploaded to youtube, I asked myself what I would do in the situation, I told myself I would stand up and say no to racism, in 2013 I came through with my promise to myself and stood up to racism I witnessed on a train.

Australia has what is believe to be the oldest living civilisation, the Indigenous Australians, yet we have a terrible history of mistreating the original inhabitants and owners of this country. I have recollections of many occasions where racist jokes would be shared about the Indigenous Australians. What I have researched and learnt about the treatment should see all Australians coming together and working to heal our relationship with the Indigenous people. I will cover this in greater detail in another blog post soon.

Australia is ranked as one of the best countries to reside in, we are also the least dense with less than 50 people per square Km of arable land. Arguably low intake of refugees, resettling just one refugee per 1,500 people annualy. Which equates to just one refugee per 37km2 and 8 migrants for the same area. We have a high demand for overseas skills In many industries, yet I ask, has our nation throw out the national anthems line to share our land with those who come by sea, ignoring our 50,000 year history of migration by sea to become an exclusive club full of hatred towards asylum seekers, sending them to horrible conditions in island prisons with no chance of a fair go.

To say I was just young and naive ignores the real problem.

I often blame society in general for the problem of racism in Australia… but on reflection I contributed to the problem, and for that I hope to heal the wounds I have caused and work on addressing the issue with the greater Australian community.

I am sorry for my racist past.