What is it that prevents humanity from evolving as a species so that we can more respectfully deal with difference, whether it’s race, gender, religious, sexual orientation or any other form of identity?
The recent reported case of the alleged murder of 15-year-old Aboriginal youth, Cassius Turvey, by 21-year-old Jack Steven James Brearley led Prime Minister Albanese to reportedly declare: ‘This attack that, clearly, is racially motivated just breaks your heart’.
The Prime Minister added, ‘We are a better country than that, and my heart goes out to the family and the friends.’
If the attack and death of Cassius Turvey was racially motivated, it evokes memories of the case of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man who was chased through the suburban neighbourhood of Brunswick, Georgia in the USA, in February 2020.
Arbery was jogging in a predominately white neighbourhood when he was chased and killed by three white men.
The three white men ultimately faced a number of charges and they were found guilty on all counts and two of the men, father and son Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael, received life sentences while the third man, William Bryan, a neighbour of the McMichael’s, was sentenced to 35 years imprisonment.
US history is tragically littered with racism and terrorism, and black people in America have suffered the bombing of their homes and their places of worship and the lynching of black men was something that every black man, particularly in the deep south of America, lived in fear of.
Brearley has been formally charged and the courts will consider the matter, as it should, but there will be no closure for his family and kin; there never is in these types of crimes.
What does this senseless and brutal incident and countless other similar incidents around the globe, say about our humanity?
This was a young child who was brutally beaten to death after leaving a bus and simply heading home from school.
Cassius Turvey has been robbed of his future, and his family will carry the pain of this theft throughout their lives and beyond.
There are suggestions that the brutal attack that took Cassius Turvey’s young life could be a case of mistaken identity, involving an attack on Brearley’s car during the days leading up to the attack on Cassius Turvey.
However, there is no evidence that Cassius Turvey was involved with the attack on Brearley’s car.
WA Police Commissioner, Col Blanch, reportedly told listeners of a Perth radio program as much.
Commissioner Blanch is reported as telling radio listeners that, ‘It may be a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.’
What? Being in the wrong place at the wrong time?
Does this suggest that there is a right place and a right time for such an attack?
Surely the brutal attack should be viewed by authorities as an attack that resulted in the loss of life of a young man who had so much to live for.
Claims of being in the wrong place at the wrong time is meaningless, and simply adds to the trauma and distress that family members and others experience.
Perhaps there are those who would argue that the murder of Ahmaud Arbery is yet another case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Commissioner Blanch is also reported as saying; ‘I want to be very clear, justice for Cassius is my first priority,’ he said. ‘The police must get this right’, he added.
Only time will tell if the police and the courts ‘get it right’, but history suggests that it can’t be left entirely to these public institutions, and that real and sustainable change and transformation only occurs when people speak out and exercise their considerable power.
The ongoing crisis that is Aboriginal deaths in custody, the case of murdered and missing Aboriginal women, the global rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and numerous other human rights abuses suffered by Aboriginal and other people of colour should be a source of shame and a call to action for all who are offended by such incidents, including politicians, and not just those who are members of the Aboriginal community.
The church and corporate leaders, indeed anyone who is committed to justice and the creation of a more just and equitable world must also stand and raise their voice to demand action.
A favourite time of year for young Cassius Turvey was reportedly Halloween, but tragically he won’t get to participate in events this year.
Vigils were held globally on Monday October 31, Halloween Day, and I attended one to stand in solidarity with Cassius’s family, friends and those who demand a world where kids can enjoy their childhood years, including being able to walk safely home from school.
Martin Luther King Jr reminds us that, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’
Professor Morgan is a Gumilaroi man from Walgett western NSW. He is a highly respected and acknowledged Aboriginal educator/researcher.