By Kot Monoah
We, the concerned members of the African community, are writing in response to the article published in The Age on 20 August, 2012, entitled “African Youth Crime Concern“. We believe that the article raises serious concerns.
The comments of Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Cartwright in our view amounted to racial profiling aimed at the Sudanese and Somalian communities and Africans generally.
According to Mr Cartwright, “Sudanese and Somali-born Victorians are about five times more likely to commit crimes than the wider community, a trend that must be addressed to prevent Cronulla-style social unrest. ”
Following this article, we have heard a lot of racially motivated slurs and threats directed towards members of African communities, particularly Sudanese and Somalian, and there is no doubt in our minds that the article has triggered these racially motivated behaviours.
We are critical of Mr Cartwright’s comments on the basis of his remarks that have effectively labeled Africans (or Sudanese and Somalian) as criminals. We emphasise that such remarks have serious social and economical implications for the African people generally. As Africans, we feel victimised, racially profiled and discriminated against on the basis of our race by Victoria Police.
We question the Deputy Commissioner’s motives for such remarks and his analysis of crime data on African youth and we do not understand why Mr Cartwright made no mention of other non-African youth crime (from mainstream communities) in his media statements.
Victoria Police acknowledged that their data might have some inaccuracies. They admitted that some people might identify themselves as Sudanese or Somalian when they are not, and in general, there may be problems with the data.
There is no doubt that linking crimes to ethnic groups re-enforces racial stereotypes against particular community groups such as Africans. Such articles will affect Africans for many years to come. We are particularly worried that young African individuals may face social-discrimination, at public venues and on public transport, at sporting venues, and even at educational institutions, just to mention a few. It will also affect them from getting employment.
We also believe that these types of media statements may further justify indiscriminate targeting of Africans youth by members of the police force on roads and in public areas. No doubt Highway Patrol Officers will have more excuses to target African youth.
We have seen Anglo and other nationalities serving time in prisons and many have committed worse crimes than Mr Cartwright is attributing to Sudanese and Somalian youth or African youth in overall. It is just not right to attribute crimes to an ethnic group.
We wish to inform Victoria Police that destiny is an individual choice and even if we don’t get all African youth excelling in all areas in Australia, this should not lead to systemic racial profiling. Racial based crime data has no place and should not be allowed in a multicultural Australia
Kot Monoah is an Australian lawyer of African Background