By Kane Horspool
“To a certain extent, we’ve all sought refuge and freedom with our skateboards, our community representing a kind of ideal world where we can just push off and escape. Oftentimes we relish that outlaw status, wearing it as a source of pride. Other times we complain that folks, nervous at the sound of our rattling behind them on a sidewalk, pass immediate judgement, assuming the worst.
For most of us though, these injustices are temporary. Once we throw our boards in the trunk and resume our lives as we wish, the hoodlum label is packed away and without a second thought, we resume our daily activities …. Sadly, this privilege can’t be enjoyed by everyone. Baseless mistrust and suspicion stalk them wherever they go”. Thrasher Magazine.
The murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in front of a crowd of on lookers has once again highlighted the vast difference in justice facing people of colour in the United States. But it has also once again highlighted that same injustice throughout the world. Last week an autistic Palestinian man, Iyad Halaq was shot dead by Israeli police officers in occupied East Jerusalem on his way to his special needs school.
Unfortunately, prejudice of race, sex, gender and culture is an international issue. In the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil, 943 people were killed by the police in 2017 and of these 67% were black or mixed-race. Throughout Brazil there has also been an increase in the cases of poor black men being stopped by the police and then show up dead or disappear completely, it’s called ‘Forced Disappearance”.
And although our own Prime Minister may put on his rose-coloured glasses and act like everything is fine and dandy in the “lucky country” of Australia, there has been 432 deaths in custody of Aboriginal Australians since 1991 without a single conviction. Some of the cases mirror those in the US far too closely. Like the tragic death of David Dungay Jnr who died at the hands of corrections officers as he screamed “I can’t’ breath”, all because he refused to stop eating a biscuit. Yet most Australians stay silent.
Even this week a young sixteen-year-old boy had his face smashed into the pavers whilst being arrested because he was “talking some lip”. Apart from the violent way this young man was arrested, the thing that stood out to me was that the police went out of their way in this instance to confront this young man who was sitting with his friends in a park. If you read through the countless incidences of excessive force by police on people of colour in this country, most of these incidences all start with the person of colour being targeted by police for doing the most mundane of things. Sitting in a park, having a conversation in a driveway, walking down the road.
As a white Australian I have never been stopped by police just sitting in a park or walking down the road. I can admit that there have been numerous times when perhaps the police should have been questioning what I was up to, but my skin colour gave me a free pass. This is privilege that a lot of people in this country do not receive. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
As a skateboarder I always feel that our culture is very inclusive. I have been blessed to ride my useless wooden toy with so many people of different nationalities, cultures and identities. Hesh and fresh, black and white, male and female, gay and straight, Japanese, Spanish, Canadian and many more.
But skateboarding is not the perfect melting pot I dream it to be. This culture is still dominated by straight white men. We need to really embrace everyone in this culture. Celebrate our diversity because that’s what makes this thing so beautiful. And stand with our brothers and sisters of colour, support them, fight with them and demand more for them and for all of us.
“Now turn this off, go skate, go have fun”. Jeff Grosso