Ad for Henry Halloran Lecture

White Lives Matter

Marcus James got angry on Facebook.

“The Alymer twins come from a mixed race family in the UK. Maria has taken after her half Jamaican mum with dark skin, brown eyes and curly dark hair but Lucy got her dad’s fair skin – good on her! – along with straight red hair and blue eyes.”

***

I sit and click on my Facebook notifications. For the next half hour I will sift through drivel and throwaway comments, at times exasperated but soon jaded.

The story unfolds and the commentators get angrier as I scroll down to see the replies to my comment.

“It seems you can’t say boo to a goose without some champagne socialist screaming ‘racist’,” says Pat from Melbourne.

Four likes.

“People are way too sensitive these days,” says Mel from Queensland.

Eleven likes.

“If a dude screams ‘Black Power’, no PC sook bats an eyelid. If a mustard says he wants all the ‘filthy kuffar’ killed, PC sooks don’t say boo,” says Billy.

“All the young dickheads r up in arms about this when they prolly have no fucking idea what day it is… FFS pull ur heads in”.

Thanks, David.

I get up again and shut the laptop screen. I have to go now. But my phone will ring and vibrate all day long as each new reply to my comment is made. Looks like the free speech evangelists have come out to play.

***

The sound of helicopters fills my living room. On the telly a woman is being airlifted from a creaky mountain village in Nepal. A concrete house sits precariously close to a fresh landslip, its roof missing along with one side of the structure. There’s not much else. The newsreader tells me that the rest of the village was made from piled rocks and never stood a chance against the earthquake. The woman is being winched up, moments away from being pulled into the helicopter by rescue workers. They finally reach her and she collapses into their arms. Immediately the helicopter leaves the village, a fly against the Himalayan backdrop.

The scene cuts to an interview. It’s the same woman and she speaks French. Her jacket is so dirty you can no longer see the North Face logo. Polarised sunglasses are snapped and useless. It’s so hard, it’s so difficult. I just want to go home, she cries. In the background, local women stare down the camera. Some faces are resentful and some are barely there, too tired to bother with the commotion. They know the white woman will go home to a safe house and safe family.

That is all the television lets me see of the Nepalese. Dark-skinned people with sad eyes. The newsreader ushers us along. Next we are off to see a group of Germans stranded at Everest basecamp.

***

It’s the pub this time to watch Pacquiao versus Mayweather. The carpet’s sticky with beer and it’s loud and hot.

One drunk says to his drunk friend, “I fucking love Pacquiao. He’s actually a fucking legend. Beats cunts up in the ring, but he’s a good Christian bloke like takes his kids to church and shit”.

“Yeah man, truth. Pac’s clean. Not into gangs or bashing chicks like Floyd,” says the other.

The match drags on through the rounds and my mind wanders. Do you think the drunks play two-up on Anzac Day? Do they get shit-faced plastered to thank soldiers? Probably.

Pacquiao—the Catholic, Westernised darling—eventually loses to ‘Money’ Mayweather and everyone’s pissed off. Fair enough, the drunk friend is right: Mayweather is a terrible person. But even if he wasn’t, an outspoken, rich black person will always cop flack.

***

Someone is found dead inside their council estate flat in Waterloo. The room is crammed with files upon files upon files reporting deaths in custody.

It’s Ray Jackson, a Wiradjuri man who spent his life investigating deaths in custody of Indigenous people and represented their families in the fight for justice.

I had never heard of Jackson until a lecture last week and never knew what he did until I read the obituaries. There seem to be too few.

Jackson will be hauled out of his flat and his life’s work of files will end up god knows where. Soon new residents will replace him. I wonder if he will get a state funeral. I wonder if someone who held a corrupt state to account would want that.

Meanwhile we are fed white idealism for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I know that when I get up in the morning, somewhere out there some airhead will slip up and say something racist on national broadcast. And I know that nobody will give a shit and anybody who does is a “champagne socialist”.