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"One of Us?" - Complicity and critique after the Christchurch massacre

Distinguished Professor Suvendrini Perera Source: Curtin University

"One of Us?" symposium will be held in Perth tomorrow (02/05/2019) seeking to help the community gain a deeper understanding of the recent Christchurch and Sri Lanka terrorist attacks.

“One of Us?” is a joint project of Curtin University and the Museum of Freedom and Tolerance WA (MFTWA)

Distinguished Professor Suvendrini Perera, a co-convenor of the event, explains that the symposium was conceptualised after the Christchurch massacre when it became clear that the person who had committed that atrocity was in fact an Australian.

“There was quiet a debate on how this person was represented in the local media. You have for example some portrayals that humanised him as a child who was from a working class background,” professor Perera says.The perpetrator was basically depicted as someone who could be one of us.

From that attempt at humanising the perpetrator stemmed commentary from Muslim viewers and others questioning why perpetrators of other terror attacks are not afforded this kind of representation.

“Who is one of Us?” And, “how do we think about people we perceive not to be “one of us”?

“We really want to ask how do we understand who is one of us? What are both the destructive aspects of identifying someone as one of us; one of our in-group? And what are the reasons we can refuse that exclusive destructive identification to one of us?” professor Perera asks.

These questions led to the concept of othering which is at the heart of hate-speech and hate crimes.

In the "One of Us?" symposium, community members, academics and artists will consider the fraught term, one of us, exploring questions of the normalization of racism, everyday Islamophobia, and the connections between various forms of othering – “us" and "them” – in Australia and elsewhere.

“Even as we remember the Christchurch massacre we have Indigenous leaders saying, ‘well, massacre is not unknown in this ground,’” professor Perera says.

Though historic stories of Indigenous massacres are barely known to the general public, the Museum of Freedom and Tolerance is striving not to let them just vanish by telling them and exposing them.


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Shaheen Hughes CEO of the MFTWA, also co-convenor of “One of Us?”  symposium said that it is important to tell those stories of injustice in the hope this could lead to healing.

“MFTWA is trying to find creative spaces that are safe for conversations that we really need in this country about race and about religion. We are everywhere. That is what an inclusive community should look like,” Shaheen Hughes also said.

“There is really a close relationship between the kind of massacres we’ve seen in the last 200 years, the kind of intolerance and hate, the systemic underprivilege and a lot of the disadvantages faced by First Nation’s communities today.”

Members of the public; academics and community leaders are encouraged to attend or join the conversation, send their questions and comments via twitter:  #ResistRaceHate.

People form the East Coast who are not able to attend are especially encouraged to participate through this platform.

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