By Guy Stayner, ABC Net, 01/04/2018
“Lock ’em all up, that’s what they should be doing.”
Those were the words of a middle-aged white man interrupting a television interview with an Ethiopian Australian in Hoppers Crossing in Melbourne’s west.
“Lock ’em all up…”
Was he talking about all youths who commit crime or was he talking about all African Australians?
He didn’t hang around to explain the nuances of his opinion, but it is the kind of comment African Australians are confronted by in the current law and order debate about “African gangs”.
The Ethiopian Australian being interviewed was Habib Gudato Tonnu.
He is 65 years old, 165 centimetres tall and looks anything but threatening.
Media player: “Space” to play, “M” to mute, “left” and “right” to seek.
He has lived in Australia for 31 years and has been a Boeing aircraft mechanic for the past 27.
“Africans are going to be affected — all Africans, because they are pointing ‘Africa Africa Africa’,” he said.
Africa is a massive continent made up of 54 different countries and when politicians talk about an African crime wave every African Australian from South Africa to Sierra Leone feels its impact.
Kabo Matlho is a medical scientist from Botswana who is furious with politicians who continue to use the description “African gangs”.
Mr Matlho said he doesn’t believe there has ever been anyone from Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, or Malawi associated with any so-called crime gang in Australia.
“Virtually no-one from southern Africa, yet we are all painted with the same brush,” he said.
“It’s an unbalanced representation of a whole lot of unrelated people and perpetuated by the highest office in the land.”
Many African Australians say the rhetoric of politicians, the police and the media is fuelling prejudice.
Agok Takpiny is a South Sudanese shopkeeper in Werribee.
“They assume the worst so psychologically you feel like you’re being victimised,” he said.
“Stereotyping for sins that are being committed by young kids.”
Chimene Mumbanga is a hairdresser originally from Congo.
She’s been verbally attacked by a middle-aged woman who accused her of destroying the country.
“Because I am African,” she said. “The lady said ‘Oh you African’, She didn’t say ‘Oh where are you from’ first. No she didn’t. She saw my skin — she knew I was African,” she said.
“It might get even worse — that’s how I feel.”