In case you weren’t already aware, last week the NSW Police sent out more than 100 police reinforcements into Sydney’s southwest to police the current lockdown. The obvious question here is, why wasn’t the same thing done when the Delta variant was causing havoc in areas such as Bondi and Vaucluse? Unfortunately, the answer runs deeper than just an explanation that this is commonplace “enforcement of law”.
Quite frankly, sending 100-and-something police officers into Sydney’s West of all places, is not just an act that smacks of racism, but classism as well. It’s a by-product of an overwhelming amount of white supremacy which is still commonplace in Sydney’s north and east.
The thing is, very few people outside of Sydney’s west see the west as a normal location to live, work and become educated within. As someone who grew up their entire life in the west but went to uni with a mixed cast of Sydney’s northern and eastern characters, the prejudice and racist stereotypes are unbelievably real.
They’ve been so deeply imbedded within culture and conversation that more than often I was met with jokes about “dodging shootouts” and “growing up poor”. In fact, just two weeks ago I was telling a boy that I was born in the west and he asked if I always carried a switchblade.
These assumptions about life growing up in the west are, whether you’d like to admit it or not, racist. The idea of “dodging shootouts” implies that a predominantly non-white area is somehow more violent and aggressive. The idea of carrying a switchblade everywhere perpetuates the stereotype that people born into a lower socio-economic background are inherently dangerous.
It’s a rhetoric that everyone from the west faces when they start to live, work or educate themselves outside of the west, and it’s far worse for immigrants and POC, many of whom are met with an unspeakable amount of racist treatment, whether obvious or otherwise.
Sending swathes of police into the west, which is visualised and fantasised as this poor, dangerous and less-educated land is racist enough. When the same thing hasn’t happened, and will not happen in the east, which is predominantly white, well that’s just making it glaringly obvious.
Yes, there has been significant community spread in the west, but policing and fines is not the answer, especially when there has also been a lot of spread in other areas across NSW.
This "major police operation" in south-west Sydney is very icky. If we wanted to ensure compliance and stamp out the Delta variant, why didn't we deploy hundreds of officers across all of Sydney at the start of this outbreak? ????
— Chelsea Hetherington (@chelsea_hetho) July 8, 2021
Where was the ‘enforcement’ in the last two weeks in affluent Bondi, Waverley, Randwick, Rose Bay and rest of Eastern Suburbs?
COVID keeps revealing again and again, how structural power of Whiteness is being deployed against the vulnerable on the basis of race and class. https://t.co/8sp2PQpSbx
— Francis Awaritefe (@FrancisAwartefe) July 8, 2021
Where are they when it's Bondi running hot?
Let me tell you where the most number of COVID cases is in NSW since June 15.
Bondi Junction: 19
Bondi Beach: 18
Bossley Park: 17
Cecil Hills: 14
Where are the cops and horses for the eastern suburbs? Unless? https://t.co/fCAckyQRL8
— Eliza Barr (@ElizaJBarr) July 8, 2021
“The fact we’ve doubled up in southwest Sydney is a reflection of the serious nature of the spread of this virus at the moment… this is the time for the police and the community to come together,” NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Mal Lanyon told the Nine Network last week.
“This is not about discrimination. This is not about racism. This is about enforcing the health order and we will do that fairly.”
Herein lies the problem of this entire situation. If you have to say something isn’t racist after copping a fucktonne of backlash for it, chances are what you’re doing is probably racist.
The amount of cops photographed policing the lockdown in Bondi versus Bankstown for instance, is a jarring representation of how the NSW Police view POC and people of a lower socio-economic background.
These are suburbs filled with minority communities, and they are no more dangerous, rule-breaking or ignorant than the rich white people from the north and east. In fact, I’d argue that in my experience, people from the west are a lot better at listening to rules than the people from Sydney’s east who just have to travel from place to place with no regard for safety.
Bondi vs Bankstown today.
My husband is worried about going to pick up our groceries like this. Fucking ridiculous. pic.twitter.com/ucG1T3g4Xg
— no F1 idea ???? (@cherry_bobombb) July 9, 2021
To send not just regular groups of police reinforcement, but mounted police as well, reinforces a stereotype of this wild, untamed west that needs to be controlled. It sends a message to everyone within NSW that the east is somehow exempt of this treatment because their whiteness proves as some sort of miraculous innocence.
It’s gotten to the point where all we can do is call the NSW Police out on their inconsistencies and lack of a clear approach to the issue.
Before I go on a tangent that lasts one million years, here’s a meme that captures this whole thing best.
Now if you need me I’m going to be angrily talking about this with everyone I know.