Opinion: The institutionalised structure of white supremacy in Australia

Tuesday 21 March 2023

By Mohan Dutta

Wall of flowers following Christchurch Mosque attack.

People visiting the 'Wall of Flowers' paying tribute to the victims of the Christchurch mosques attack. Photo credit: Luis Alejandro Apiolaza, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Last updated: Thursday 18 May 2023

The Christchurch terrorist attack is often individualised in mainstream public discourse as the act of an individual extremist. This individualisation of white supremacist violence is an essential feature of the whiteness of the settler colonial state. In this ideology, violence is attributed to a lone extremist who has been radicalised.

The response then is an individualising response, directed at the extremist with the justice system of the settler colonial state organised to respond to the extremist. The intelligence-security apparatus of the settler colonial state is organised around techniques of surveillance and monitoring directed at identifying and containing individuals likely to be radicalised and turned into extremists.

The individualising ideology on one hand places the cause of the violence in the actions of an individual who is portrayed to have been radicalised by an ideology. On the other hand, the individualisation of the violence keeps intact the very structure of white supremacy that underpins the acts.

This ideology conveniently erases the white supremacy that makes up the institutional structure of the intelligence-military-police infrastructure of the settler colonial state.

The Australian extremist who carried out the violence in Christchurch is an extension of the white supremacy that forms the settler colonial infrastructure of Australia. This structure is scripted into Australia’s political, juridical, military, security, and intelligence institutions. White supremacy is built into the structure of the Australian state that has historically been organised around violence directed toward aboriginal communities.

Professor Mohan Dutta.

Professor Mohan Dutta.

On 18 March 2023, a few days after the four-year anniversary of the Christchurch terrorist attack, at an anti-transgender event hosted by the British anti-trans rights figure Kellie-Jay Keen who is currently touring Australia, Nazis dressed in black are seen taking the Nazi salute on the steps of the Victoria parliament.

As the Nazis march through the streets, the Australian police are seen protecting them. These are powerful images that depict the interplays of white supremacy of the police and the Nazis, the police are shown lining up to safeguard the Nazis as they take the salute.

Anti-fascist activists challenging the Nazis document the violence carried out by the police directed at the anti-fascist activists protesting the Nazis.

Anti-fascist activists document an Australian police member who flashed a white power sign at an earlier protest. In another report, Australian activists document the presence of Nazis in the Australian military. The institutionalisation of white supremacist hate within the infrastructures of the police and military exists in continuity with the racist colonial structure of Australia.

Four years since the Christchurch terrorist attack and the Australian state has continued to let the white supremacy within its structures go unchallenged.

To address the white supremacist hate that led to the Christchurch terrorist attack is to first recognise the white supremacy that is embedded within the organising logics of the state.

This recognition then can offer the starting point for undoing the racism and hate percolating through the cellular structures of Australian police, military, and related institutions.

Professor Mohan Dutta is Dean’s Chair Professor of Communication at Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa Massey University. He is the Director of the Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE), developing culturally-centered, community-based projects of social change, advocacy, and activism that articulate health as a human right.

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