Friday, 2 December 2016

The infamous "Sec18C" is back in the news

and it isn't looking pretty.
For those of you in Upover this is the section of the Downunder Racial Discrimination Act that makes it an offence  to "offend or insult" someone on the basis of their race.
There has been a long running saga involving several non-indigenous university students who tried to use computers set aside for indigenous students at a university in Queensland. The computer room was apparently empty at the time.
The sensible thing at the time would have been to say, "Indigenous students have priority but while the computers aren't needed please go ahead." That didn't happen.
The case has been badly handled from the start. The complainant took offence at something written on Facebook. The words used there would not seem to be designed to "offend or insult". I have had much, much worse said to me. 
Not that long ago I saw the son of my late friend R... in the city. R... was one of my closest friends when I was teenager - a mother figure. She was indigenous. She was common sense. She was competent and caring. I loved her. We remained friends until she died. I am still friendly with her children. Her son, a former youth worker, will always give me a hug when he sees me. He's dark. I'm light. He's tall. I'm small. 
We'd probably look odd hugging because of the size disparity alone. He's a big man. I feel absolutely safe with him. Nobody is going to harm me while he's around. 
We hugged on the railway station concourse and I heard someone say something far worse than anything written on Facebook - and it was said about me for hugging him.  It was designed to insult me. He is a little hard of hearing so I doubt he heard it. I hope he didn't. I don't want to stop hugging when we meet.
I wonder what would have happened if I had known the other person who spoke, if they had posted it on Facebook and I had taken them to the Human Rights Commission? Would it have taken fourteen months to reach the "conciliation" stage? Would they have been given three days to prepare their case? Would conciliation have failed and the whole thing headed for court? Would the result have been accepted or would an attempt been made to put an appeal in place?
Of course I did nothing. There wasn't anything I could do. And, realistically, had I tried I would have got nowhere. I would have got nowhere because, again realistically, the law does not work both ways. It's really designed to protect a minority.
Minorities can need protection. They should be protected from harm brought about by belonging through a lack of choice. 
I think there was a choice here. Abusing the law in this way harms the minority it is intended to protect.

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