Community Called to Challenge ‘Racist Myths’ Targeting African-Australians
10 July 2018 at 4:15 pm
Community organisations are being encouraged to challenge “racist myths” targeting African-Australians after an incendiary television report on “African gangs running riot”.
The Seven Network’s Sunday Night program aired the story on African gangs in Melbourne, using a promotional video on the network’s Twitter account that started the backlash.
“Barely a week goes by when they’re not in the news. African gangs running riot, terrorising, wreaking havoc. Police are hesitant to admit there’s even a problem,” the tweet said.
TOMORROW 8.20 @sundaynighton7 | Barely a week goes by when they’re not in the news. African gangs running riot, terrorising, wreaking havoc. Police are hesitant to admit there’s even a problem. The latest attack was just days ago, so what can be done? #SN7 pic.twitter.com/hYzxka9MEV
— Channel 7 (@Channel7) July 7, 2018
Outraged South Sudanese-Australian community leader and lawyer Maker Mayek was leading a boycott of the program under the hashtag #NotMyAustralia, which was trending on Twitter on Sunday night.
As the story went to air, Mayek tweeted: “Africans love this country as much as any other Australian and have no interest to harm others. Please tell a friend to tell a friend or a relative to boycott this story tonight.”
In 5 minutes EST, @Channel7 will be broadcasting a bogus story about “African gangs”. Africans love this country as much as any other Australian and have no interest to harm others.Please tell a friend to tell a friend or a relative to boycott this story tonight #NotMyAustralia
— Maker Mayek (@MakMayek) July 8, 2018
The story focused on Elaine French who said her life was ruined by the “African criminals” who robbed the Melbourne jewellery store where she worked.
French wanted the robbers deported, while reporter Alex Cullen probed Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Russell Barrett about the force avoiding the term “African gangs”.
Barrett said: “I don’t think we want to actually give these young people any additional notoriety or any additional kudos for something”.
Anthony Kelly, the executive officer of Flemington and Kensington Legal Community Centre and the Police Accountability Project, told Pro Bono News Seven’s racialised media coverage was “hugely problematic”.
“It leads directly to racial profiling and makes it more likely that young people of African background are viewed with suspicion by members of the public, by shopkeepers and by police,” Kelly said.
“It also leads to other forms of discrimination such as employment discrimination and has very well documented social and psychological harm.”
The promotion of this smacks of fear-mongering and racial hysteria. Disappointing to see this kind of approach — it’s a recipe for division and racial profiling https://t.co/01qrs6p4RU
— Tim Soutphommasane (@timsout) July 7, 2018
Kelly said community organisations had a role to challenge “racist myths” fostered by sections of the media, and they needed to support marginalised communities standing up for their civil rights.
“We need to counter the racist myth as loudly and as strongly as possible. And that means challenging the stereotypes that are propagated by this sort of media and actively supporting communities they are targeting,” he said.
“It’s important for community organisations not to buy in to the ‘problematisation’ of African young people, inadvertently or otherwise.”
A Seven Network spokesperson told Fairfax Media that Sunday Night stood by “every element of the story published”.