Monday, February 05, 2007

A Black week

This has not been a good week for tolerance. Not that there has been any overt violence against others, like in the Cronulla riots, but that material has been gathered to make it more difficult for people who are different from the mainstream, particularly in colour.

The Sudanese man Hakeem Hakeem was sentenced to 24 years this week for serious offences against three women. This has prompted the Federal government minister Kevin Andrews to consider limiting intake from the Horn of Africa. I was in the court when Hakeem was sentenced and met his father, who attends the same Catholic Church as my father. Hakeem's crimes do seem heinious and inexcusable, but he has a punishment to fit that. With the little I know of the family, I can merely guess what a shock it is to move from the chaos of civil war in Sudan to the eerily quiet security of Melbourne. You would hope that as a community we could see their problems as our problems, rather than an alien infiltration.

Then there was the Geoff Clark case. And last night I saw Fox Studios Last King of Africa, which reinforces every prejudice you might have about black African men. It's not that it is inaccurate in its portrayal about Idi Amin, but that it leaves with the audience with virtually no knowledge of the culture of Uganda, it only confirms the suspicion that white people have to be wary of their black neighbours.

A saving grace was finishing the novel by André Brink, which tells the story of a Khoi San man who converts and tries to become a missionary. His mentor, the Reverend James Reed, writes about the experience of coming to grips with Africa:

How old and remote Europe seemed from here: old, and remote, and -- yes -- beautiful, but inexorably sinking, drowning, fading into futility and pastness. Where here, in the midst of these sounds of menace and violence and lurking death, here was something different, a timelessness, an awareness of futurity, a still untamed, unpredictable, savage energy, a passion unquenched and unquenchable, a force that might destroy people and lives, but which was life itself, a physical reality, a closeness, an urgency, a rare and unspeakable presence of wonderment and joy.
André Brink Praying Mantis London: Secker & Warburg, 2005, p. 140

Yes, let's not forget the 'wonderment and joy'...