Last week young people gave this country a sense of hope when it so needed it.
On Friday 15 March, Australian school kids walked out of their schools en masse as part of a global strike against climate change. Tragically it was on this same day that 50 innocent Muslim men, women, and children were murdered, gunned down in prayer at two separate mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Others are still fighting for their lives.
Sympathy and support from across the ditch has been swift, yet marred with a deep sense of shame and embarrassment when it was revealed that the terrorist was a white Australian, born and raised in this nation of ours. This revelation was made worse by Australian Senator Fraser Anning’s public response on an Australian government letterhead blaming Muslim immigration for the attack, claiming that Islam was a ‘savage belief’.
While Anning’s response should leave no doubt as to how an Australian citizen could commit such a crime, we were reminded of Hanson’s burqa stunt on the floors of parliament, the resounding support for the ‘It’s okay to be white’ motion, Scott Morrison’s 2011 suggestion that his party capitalise off anti-Muslim sentiment as an election strategy, footage of parliamentarians congratulating Anning on his final solution speech, and the countless attacks on Australian Mosques coupled with images of anti-Muslim media coverage from a range of Australian broadsheets and journalists.
There is nothing mysterious about how Australia has produced this terrorist. It is plain for all to see – and now on an international stage, no less.
But then along came Eggboy to save the day – or rather, this nation’s reputation.
Seventeen-year-old Will Connolly, a white Australian male, turned up to Anning’s press conference in Melbourne and filmed himself cracking an egg against Anning’s head. For a moment, Anning stood stunned then struck out at the boy twice, before a team of thugs placed the non-resistant Connolly in a choke hold, sinking a few coward kicks in while Connolly was down. In the melee, only one individual appeared to intervene, insisting Anning's henchmen get off the boy's neck. The remainder stood around filming.
Eggboy has since been declared “a national hero”, and a “true Aussie legend”, likened to that of a superhero. He has been nominated for Australian of the Year, and even our next Prime Minister. He has a go-fund me page that at the time of printing had raised around $44,000 above its $2000 goal, coupled with a few hundred thousand extra Instagram followers and lifetime of comps to three different musical group’s gigs.
Connolly has also had his image reproduced into a poster that stylistically borrows from the iconic Barack Obama Hope poster.
And to be fair, Eggboy does offer much needed hope…to white people.
You see, the fanfare over Eggboy had many people (and by people I mean Indigenous people and people of colour) scratching their heads over the attention Eggboy has received.
As Nayuka Gorrie, a Kurnia, Gunditjmara, Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta woman so aptly pointed out on Twitter, “if we can applaud white civil disobedience (and we should) we should also applaud when black kids do it too” including kids in youth detention, and kids in Kalgoorlie.
But this isn’t the first time that white racism has been overshadowed by white heroism. Remember when former Labour senator and non-practising Muslim Sam Dastyari warned of a rise in “white nationalism” after he was harassed by members of a white supremacist group at a Melbourne pub?
That happened two years ago, but we didn’t actually get around to talking about Dastyari’s concerns, as most Australian’s were too caught up in patting his colleague Tim Watts on the back for his witty response to racism. Tim was the guy who delivered that glorious one-liner, “what race is dickhead?” to the dickheads that had been harassing Sam for several minutes, calling him a “monkey” and “terrorist” while everyone (including Tim) watched on.
Sam later explained that this harassment was something he deals with on a regular basis. But in that moment, as Australians watched the vulgar harassment of Sam in what most Australians claim to be their place of worship, Tim Watts, like Eggboy, offered them ‘hope’ and redemption.
The two men hurling racist abuse for almost five minutes uninterrupted by the onlookers were not reflective of the nation’s character, but the one-line quip of one white man apparently was.
White Australia likes to think of racism (of which, yes, I include Islamaphobia) as an aberrational act: a case of a few bad apples. But the irony here, is that the true exception is white people actually taking a stand, putting their bodies on the line when it comes to racism. A task that Black and Brown folk are required to do on the daily without all the applause.
Some insist that the privileging of white resistance to racism is because they are “classy”, “clever”, “powerful”, “brave” “witty” and “courageous”. Meanwhile the acts of resistance taken up by Black and Brown folk (including that of our children) are deemed “angry”, “violent”, “outspoken” and “divisive”.
Indeed, in the aftermath of the Christchurch terrorist attack, scholar and author Randa Abdel-Fattah penned a powerful opinion piece chronicling her experiences from childhood of her daily dealings with Islamaphobia, of literally cleaning up the mess from attacks against her body, her school, and her place of worship, in this great nation of ours. She spoke of unwavering forgiveness and the demand to prove one’s love for a country which despised her very existence.
We told you the threat is white supremacy and you fuelled it, gained from it, enabled and permitted it. So when white supremacists massacred 49 Muslims during Friday prayers, we Muslims were not shocked, not taken by surprise. We expected this. We knew it was coming.
Because you let it.
One Australian newspaper would not publish her article after an editor insisted it was “incendiary”.
Apparently to testify and theorise about the everyday consequences of white supremacy is inciteful rather than insightful.
Talking about white supremacy doesn’t make white Australians feel good about themselves. This is evidenced in their need to proclaim “it’s okay to be white”. White Australia has finely tuned its ability to deflect conversations about race and whiteness so effectively that we often cannot see how it works, even in the face of brutal and overt acts of white supremacy.
Many Australians (and by 'Australians' I mean white Australians) would prefer to believe the horrific terrorist act committed by one of its citizens in Christchurch was an isolated incident, rather than reflective of who we are as a nation.
Ironically, the national fixation around Eggboy works to entertain that delusion, forming part of the same apparatus that insists we not face the everyday embedded and violent nature of white supremacist ideology within our society, its institutions, and among its people. While I too delighted in his actions and applaud him for his bravery, I am also keenly aware that this act typically does more for white people than it does for those suffering the ongoing brutality of white supremacy.
In centring Eggboy – both the act of egg-throwing and the violence he encountered – white Australia got to re-centre itself as both hero and victim at the very time that the real heroes and victims of this tragedy were being sidelined and silenced.
Dr Chelsea Bond is one half of the Wild Black Women radio program (with Angelina Hurley) on Brisbane’s 98.9FM. She is an academic and writer, focusing on content about Black women, for Black women. Follow Chelsea @drcbond
Catch Wild Black Women with their regular segment on The Point Wednesday, 8.30pm on NITV (Ch. 34)