The Guardian • Issue #2095

OP-ED

Sydney stabbings are no time for racism

  • by FK
  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2095
Man stabbing

When an event as appalling as the recent Sydney stabbing attacks occurs, it’s common for people to call for everyone to show some respect in their comments. That’s fair enough. The deaths are heart-rending, and very close to all of us. They happened in places we could easily imagine being; a shopping centre, a church. So, if someone cracks a joke, or says something insensitive, the response “This is no time for jokes” is common.

The ‘this is no time for …’ rebuke can be over-used, as in the United States, where people who support unrestricted access to deadly weapons use it to try to silence those who see a tragedy that didn’t have to happen and call for gun-control measures. The gun-control supporters respond by asking “If this isn’t a good time, when would be?”

Australia’s largest media proprietor, News, published a cartoon on the topic of the Westfield shopping centre stabbing showing terrified shoppers running away from the stabbing while a blonde white police officer runs heroically towards it. One of the fleeing shoppers is a comical brown Muslim man. In the actual stabbing, one of the victims was a brown Muslim security guard who died trying to prevent more injuries.

People for whom any high-profile attack is more of an opportunity than a tragedy claimed with no evidence whatsoever that the attacker was not to be outdone, Australian media outlet Seven incorrectly named the attacker with a Jewish name in a YouTube caption, on air and on its website. Seven then removed the claims and said that they “sincerely” apologised.

There is no apology from Mark Knight, the cartoonist featured in the Daily Telegraph and Sun newspapers, who has previously drawn racist cartoons of Meaghan Markle, Venus Williams, and Black Australians. If there’s enough fuss, he might do a cartoon about being persecuted for ‘just telling jokes.’

It is never a good time to misrepresent people in order to spread racial hatred. As Lenin said on the topic of anti-semitism, “shame on those who foment hatred towards the Jews, who foment hatred towards other nations.”

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