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Context is Everything

I think we’ve all been in that situation where we have to say “You’ve taken my words out of context.” It’s not good, as people can get the wrong idea about us when the correct context is missing. Some people deliberately distort the context because it’s the only way they can get their clumsy message across or push their agenda.

The ABC reports on a story about the preventable death of a man who went in for routine knee surgery. We all know accidents happen in hospitals. They shouldn’t happen but they do. A Productivity Commission report on government health services, showed there were 82 “sentinel incidents” nationally in 2015-16. Sentinel incidents are adverse events that result in death or very serious harm to the patient. That sounds a lot, but it is a relatively small amount when you consider that The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that there were approximately 10.6 million hospital separations (1) in 2015–16, we can see that hospitals generally provide a good service.

Yes human error does occur and many things can go wrong at hospital, but generally speaking, in Australia, if you go to hospital you are in good hands. However, imagine if the news and social media only ever reported on the hospital stays where something went wrong. Would you ever go to hospital?

Such unbalanced reporting helps nobody, yet that is often the type of reporting some Indigenous specific social media pages provide – they thrive on it. They are quick to tell you about those hospital stays where negligence or error by the (white) system results in a fatality. The many successful hospital stays for Indigenous Australians are not mentioned. The total number of hospital stays provides context, and context is everything. On these pages you won’t hear about the thousands of Aboriginal people whose lives are saved because they went into hospital.

I am not suggesting that where there has been negligence, human error, prejudice, racism, or incompetence, that a thorough investigation should not follow. I am suggesting that context be provided. The context is missing on the ‘Aboriginal victim’ pages so as to satisfy the quench of blactivists, social just warriors, and whinja ninjas (which I collectively call the victim brigade) in their mission to see racism everywhere.

True racism against Aboriginal people today has been greatly reduced to the point that race hounds have had to relax the criteria for racism such that an innocent comment like “You don’t look Aboriginal to me” is classed as racism. I was actually told this recently - and for good reason, I have half my mother’s genes! I’d be bloody worried if the white ancestry in me was not apparent. It was a nice lady who told me, and she was not being racist. However, if I built my identity around my Indigenous genes and thrived on being offended, then I would have interpreted her comment as racist and then claimed victim status.

The situation here in Australia of some groups needing to see racism everywhere is very similar to that described by Black American Shelby Steele:

When I visit university campuses today, black students often tell me that racism is everywhere around them, that the university is a racist institution. When I ask for specific examples of racist events or acts of discrimination, I invariably get nothing at all or references to some small slight that requires the most labored interpretation to be seen as racist.

Here in Australian, there are many who use Olympic gold medal mental gymnastics to see racism where it isn’t. Certainly racism against Aboriginal people happens, but not as much as what folklore (which includes academic articles) tells us. This should not be a surprise. Given that Aboriginal people make up about three percent of the population, then yes, for sure, given that there are millions of non-Aboriginal adults, if even only a minority (and I believe it is a minority) of these non-Indigenous Australians are racist, then some Aboriginal people will experience some form of true racism. However, to call it endemic, is absurd.

Ostensibly, the victim brigade members are on alert to call out racism against Aboriginal people because they believe it is harmful and they want to protect victims from the harm. I question their motives. Surely if they truly cared about the safety and welfare of Aboriginal people, then shouldn’t they be focusing on the greatest source of harm to Aboriginal people? The sad (and inconvenient) truth is that Aboriginal people are far more likely to be harmed, slandered, shunned, ostracised, and killed by their own. And before anyone points out that non-Aboriginal people are more likely to be hurt by other non-Aboriginal people, keep in mind that where homicide is concerned, data held by The Australian Institute of Criminology show that the rate of both victimisation and offending by Indigenous people is approximately five times higher than that of non-Indigenous people.

Consider one last example where context is conveniently neglected in order to exaggerate the prevalence and effects of racism—encounters with the police. I have spoken on this one before. Early in an online article by the National Justice Project, it states "Right now Aboriginal people in Australia are being harassed by police." What the ‘sheeple’ of this movement forget to mention are the many, many incident-free encounters between Aboriginal people and police. They also forget to tell readers that these ‘negative interactions’ are largely the result of law violations. Interestingly, on that online article's page, it states that they have raised over $60,000. Can you think of how that money could be better used to help Aboriginal people?

I’m all for true racism being called out (as compared to cheap imitations like ‘implied racism’). But when it is reported, a context should be provided. I find it amazing that the victim brigade are keen to show their ‘outrage’ when a non-Aboriginal person can be implicated in the harming of an Aboriginal person, but when it is another Aboriginal person doing the harm, there is a relative silence. Isn’t that racism? So maybe those who are so keen to see racism everywhere, are just projecting their own internalised home movies onto the world?

(1) ‘Separations’ is different to patients. A separation refers to a person being discharged from hospital or a death. So several people could have been discharged from the hospital multiple times, contributing to the figure of 10.6 million separations.

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