Saturday, December 19, 2009

He's not racist, he just wanted to kill blacks

Ok, is it just me, or did the definition of racism change recently? Because Victoria's law enforcement bodies appear to have their own definition of racism that is different to what everyone else thinks it is. I mean, there was this case of an Indian man and his wife being bashed with a chair and iron bar while being racially abused, that the police decided was not racist. That was one thing, but this next one takes the cake.

The Herald Sun reports that Clinton Rintoull, 24, was earlier today jailed for the murder of Sudanese 19-year-old Liep Gony, which took place in Noble Park in September 2007. Rintoull received 16 years, while his co-accused Dylan Sabatino will serve 6 years for manslaughter.


Gony's death was a significant one as it led to former Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews announcing he would cut back the intake of African refugees, since they weren't settling well enough in Australia. This was after two white guys had beaten an African to death - which perhaps shows that white people aren't settling well enough in Australia. I wrote about Andrews' statement here.

I have no problem with the sentences handed down, which are probably fair in the scheme of things. In that respect, presiding Justice Elizabeth Curtain got the important bit right. What almost made me spit out my dinner, however, was her statement that she didn't think the attack was racially motivated. Instead, she said he was driven by a sense of anger and frustration and a belief that violence involving a group of youths congregating at the Noble Park railway station was out of control.

Now sure, I'm sure he was motivated by those factors. But not racist? You be the judge - this is what Rintoull did leading up to the attack:

On 23 September 2007, Rintoull was involved in an altercation with a group of Sudanese youths at Noble Park train station, after which he called the police, claiming he had nearly been stabbed. Three days later, drunk and stoned, he sprayed graffitti on the wall of his share house which read "F*** the niggas".

He then found a pole and told a neighbour: "These blacks are turning the town into the Bronx. I am looking to take my town back. I'm going to kill the blacks."

He and Sabatino then came across Gony, who was drunk and walking by himself. Gony was no saint, and was known to the police as a troublemaker, but it seems he was targeted by Rintoull and Sabatino for no other reason than being a young Sudanese man. He was set upon in an unprovoked attack by the two men, who struck him 15 to 20 times with metal poles, cracking his skull. They left him and returned home and washed the blood off their poles. Rintoull told Sabatino's girlfriend at this point, "I bashed a nigger and I think he's dead." Gony was discovered by a passing motorist and taken to hospital where he later died.

Ok, so a quick summary: a man who because of his past bad experiences with one group of Africans, writes racist anti-African graffitti and tells his neighbour of his desire to kill Africans, then kills a man in an unprovoked attack simply for being African.

And this is not racist?

The judge's reasoning for this - that Rintoull had several days earlier made sandwiches for a homeless Sudanese man who was living in a nearby derelict property.

Ok, and this proves what? That Rintoull is not a monster but also has capacity for kindness? Fine; few people are totally evil and I'm sure Rintoull had a nice side as well. But if he could be nice to some black people, does that mean clearly he is not racist? Umm...

There are a number of different definitions of racism, depending on who you ask. But I get the impression that many people, including Justice Elizabeth Curtain, think that being racist means being a member of the white supremacist movement or something. Clearly, Rintoull was no Grand Wizard of the KKK, but clearly he had some racist tendencies.


As do we all, to varying degrees. Too many people perpetuate a racist/not racist dichotomy, which I think is unhelpful. We need to understand that in all of us lie various prejudices, which we can choose to ignore, or nurture, or act upon. His run-in with a group of Sudanese youths did not make Clinton Rintoull racist; it only provided him with an opportunity to nurture his racist thoughts, which he then acted upon.

In the context of the verdict, this matters not; whatever the motivation, Rintoull and Sabatino killed someone and have been punished for it. But for victims like Liep Gony, racism is a big deal indeed, and something we ignore at our peril.

26 comments:

  1. I think a cool-pose culture adopted by all too many young males of this newly arrived immigrant group may have had antagonistic effect. (Opening up a franchise of the Crips and the Bloods in Noble Park, for example.) Perhaps this is what the judge was referring to and taking into consideration.

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  2. I sometimes wonder how Australia would look like in another decade. More race issues? More racist violence?

    I have a very different view of Australia today than compared to say 2 years ago. I'm from India, and the Indian media coverage on the attacks of Indian students is one major reason for the change. Since then I was interested to know more about Australia, and frankly what I hear and read is scary.

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  3. I think there's been a very high immigration level without the requirement for assimilation being made clear enough. Once this point is emphasized, I think the revolting masses will calm down. The sight of that Sudanese-born Aussie Rules Football player, for example, is having an immediately calming effect on the most anxious, especially given the reality of his ocker accent. If all newly arrived turned out like him in quick order, then I don't think you'd have any of this mounting anxiety.

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  4. @ Anonymous Dec 19 - actually from what I understand (with my limited knowledge of "tha streetz", Melbourne's version of the Bloods gang seems to predate the Sudanese and is predominantly a Pacific Islander gang.

    @ Shaw - perhaps it is scary, but any country can seem that way if you focus on the negative. I still think Australia is safer than most places, but we are certainly not living up to the standards we strive for.

    @ Anon December 20 - I agree that perhaps we need to swing the balance more towards assimilation rather than what is often called "hard multiculturalism".

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  5. I was thinking more in terms of what was revealed in articles like this (see link below), which showed to me an unfortunate (if inevitable) attempt by all too many young males to mimic the cool-pose culture emanating from the United States. Obviously such a culture celebrates a menacing attitude as an identifying characteristic, and this probably explains why that Kenyan friend of yours, for example, no longer can get into nightclubs, as the bouncers probably can´t distinguish between him and the practioners of cool-pose culture. I know a guy who only recently finds it difficult to get into nightclubs.

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/escape-from-the-mire/story-e6frg8go-1111116071033

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  6. ^ True, although the gang phenomenon is far from restricted to Sudanese.
    As for black people suffering from racism in terms of getting into venues and so on, I think that is mostly a generic suspicion of black people, of which the "cool-pose culture" as you put it, is one aspect.

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  7. So the Sudanese are the ones getting given a hard time now? When I left Australia, it was the Vietnamese in Cabramatta and thereabouts.

    It just seems like whoever is the newest group to start turning up freaks the whitefellas out. Why should they have to develop ocker accents or start acting like other Aussies to be "less threatening"?

    Also, you are absolutely right, ES, even if he was a total thug criminal whatever, doesn't make his murder any less horrific or racially-based. And agree 100% with this: "Too many people perpetuate a racist/not racist dichotomy, which I think is unhelpful."

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  8. @ Soda and Candy - the Sudanese are probably going to have it harder than the Vietnamese for several reasons.

    Firstly, their appearance: often very tall, very dark, and more "otherly" than the other black people Australians are used to seeing on TV. This is scary for some people.

    Secondly, the traumatic experience of fleeing Sudan (and its flow-on effects, such as broken families, etc) has meant that some Sudanese young people are struggling to settle into a peaceful life in Australia, and are easily drawn into crime. This, for some Australians, confirms their initially held suspicions, and in turn makes it harder for Sudanese to integrate because many feel they are not being welcomed.

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  9. It reminds me of a documentary I just watched called God Grew Tired of Us, about Sudanese refugees settling in the American Midwest. Devastating.

    "This is scary for some people." - I get it, but doesn't that mean "some people" need to grow up?

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  10. ^ Undoubtedly. But to an extent, human nature is always gonna be what it is, and xenophobia is a part of that, unfortunately.

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  11. I think this article indicates an incredibly good step in the right direction.
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/escape-from-the-mire/story-e6frg8go-1111116071033

    I hope for the best to any new Australian, however, having been approached by these kind of troublemakers myself, I understand why people have a tendency to feel uncertain or unsafe.
    It's unprovoked, and multiple people onto one.
    I got lucky, and most likely credit to a friend of the prime troublemaker who told him to back away from me; he even pulled out a knife to protect me. The whole situation was beyond bewildering and angering, but I can be thankful I wasn't harmed, and very pleased to see the troublemaker's friend protect me.
    It had definitely left a bad taste in my mouth for a while, but being the individual that I am, I continue to move forward in positive directions.

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  12. Personally, Im not sure if you agree with me here, i think that the media plays a bigger role than we think in the matter. Being anonymous i feel i can say this openly.. The Sudanese have trouble immagrating in society, which i don't think is there fault. I think people all to often get comfortable with their country being a certain way, and masses amount of immigration happen becuase of our quota to the 'UN' for letting in refugee's etc. But they also settle in masses which then prevents them from integrating. I wish it was adressed just plainly like this, so communities would understand and help, instead turn and run 'so to speak when they see them in big groups'. No doubt if australian's settles in africa in large numbers we would get negative attention. So the answer is instead of the media focusing on all racist slurs and fears.. They should look at the prevention of groups of anyone congregating and isolating themselves from the community.So thus not creating so much tension. between groups, it's human nature to be afraid of the different.

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  13. Yo! Eurasian Sensation, you seem like an intelligent enough guy to not believe everything the herald sun says right? they have a way with words :) You can get access to the sentencing notes easily. Put your dinner back in your mouth and have a read. Branding people as racist is just well easy to say the least.

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  14. @ Anonymous (February 18, 2010 3:17 AM) - if there is more to it, please enlighten me.

    If you read what I wrote in this post, I certainly didn't imply that these guys were hardcore racists by any means. But what is clear is that they committed a racist and racially motivated act.

    If there is another way I should be interpreting "I'm going to kill the blacks," I'd be interested to hear it.

    Racism is a pretty universal trait, and everybody has it within them to some extent. The key thing is whether you let it influence your actions.

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  15. Ok, I'm from the area and things didn't sound right, so I did some research other than the the *herald sensationalist sun*. A brief rundown; From what I understand the pair pleaded guilty because they admitted what they did. I believe this was to save the courts time and money for a trial and all the family's involved from taking the stand and drawing it out longer. I believe Rintoull's mother was diagnosed with cancer a few days prior and this may have been big part of the anger issue leading to to the event.It appears they were all heavily intoxicated and on drugs. From articles I have read they where allegedly chased by a group of Sudanese, notorious for getting drunk and hanging around the station in my area, and these people attempted to stab Rintoull and Sabitino. Interestingly the Victim was locked up that night for being intoxicated and given a curfew. It's interesting channel 9 had images of the victim recorded on a train beating up someone for their mp3 player and stealing from the Noble Park bottle shop. They had a slander campaign against the Sudanese weeks prior to the incident, spreading fear hostility amongst resident's of noble park. One article in the local journal I remember "Bronx Fear". So I'm not exactly sure what to make of it but I don't entirely agree they should be branded as racist thugs because that's just too easy.
    http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/sinodisp/au/cases/vic/VICSC/2009/617.html?query=rintoull%20and%20sabatino

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  16. G'day.
    Came across this blog while I was looking for info about this case, since it was plastered all over the front of the herald sun, I wanted to know more. Digging a little deeper, it seems very convenient to label two blokes as 'evil' and use emotive words like 'racist, hate crime, racially motivated'. You don't have to be a genius to look at the facts, not the biased, opinionated and often blatant lies that the herald sun seems to use on a regular basis just to sell papers. From what I understand, the judge had all the information put in front of her. Alot of it not showering the victim with praise. What she would have read probably said something along the lines of: he had a criminal record, stole from a liquor store, with a few other sudanese guys beat some other guy up on a train for his mp3 player, was a general trouble maker and known to police. Apparently the night Rintoull claims he was chased by sudanese youths he called 000 twice, but got no response from the police. But the police DID come, saw this group, saw that they were armed, and arrested the victim Liep Gony for being drunk and disorderly. Apparently he then was given a curfew, which he broke by being drunk and disorderly on the night which he was bashed to death. Would this information help or hinder the herald sun sell newspapers? Hinder. So don't say much about it.
    Nobody deserves to be beaten to death with a pole, it's wrong and the attackers have been jailed for it. But it's upto the people who buy these trash newspapers to filter out the garbage and not let the media in general make you scared or make you hate a specific group of people.
    From what I understand Rintoull and sabatino both had no prior convictions. Obviously not angels or pillars of the community, but human in that they took their emotions too far, appear to have let their anger get the better of them, and want to take revenge on the very group who tried to stab them. “Not necessarily any black person will do”. But because the victim was there a few nights before.
    It's very easy to take one persons alleged comment, which was not proven evidence in court, only an allegation which was denied by the accused, and use it as concrete evidence in a trial by media. Sabatino and Rintoull both knew they did something wrong, both very young adolescents, and many stupid decisions later, they do the right thing and plead guilty, thus averting a timely and costly trial which would not do much good. Which has not done them any favours as now any allegation can be misconstrued to be a fact, not proven or said under 'oath'.
    Tobecontinued..

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  17. There are many factors at play here, immigration and refugees not given the right foundations to make a real go of it feels like a big one. Back in the day the Italians were immigrating, they set up restaurants and milk bars. The Vietnamese were considered a problem for a while, but they set up grocery stores, businesses, beautiful restaurants and both integrated very well. Indians come here to study and drive alot of taxis to make their way (along with other professions) but in the African minority, it seems that they've come here under the worst circumstances, and the parents and older immigrants are very appreciative to be here, and given a better life. But the CHILDREN of these immigrants, either were too young to remember too well what was happenening in the country they left and have grown up with non english speaking parents with probably no money, and see their peers with everything, and it makes them angry and 'want what they've got', OR are so traumatised by their experiences that they may find it difficult to differentiate old to new lifestyles. Either way there needs to be more education and counselling for these minorities. Not just, “hey come live here, here's the local centrelink office”. And an interpreter so you don't need to learn the language. Integration is the key to success and if people are grouped together they don't have the motivation to, because they don't need to.
    Looking back on what i've written it seems like a big tangent, but at the same time feels relevant or just food for thought.
    I wrote all of this to try and say- don't believe what you read; it CREATES problems, and divisions, and is not necessarily the best representation of the news.
    And to put 'evil' into perspective, one previous case that Elizabeth Curtain ruled on, was a few men torturing a disabled man to death over a 3 days period. I believe that person got one year more of a jail term than Rintoull. AND it went to trial. But since the herald sun invested all that time and money taking the judge to trial over her ruling so they can sell more papers, they have to splash around some fierce language, ey?

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  18. @ Anon and Racmam:

    I agree that there are a lot more factors going on that simple racism. But it is still a racially motivated act nonetheless. One of the things I was getting at in this post is that we tend to set up a dichotomy in our minds, with good people on one side and evil racists on the other. Things aren't that simple. There are certainly far worse people walking the streets than Rintoull and Sabatino, but nonetheless they did the crime and they are now paying for it.

    Talking about Liep Gony's alleged criminal activities doesn't really wash with me. Whatever he was involved in is not relevant to what happened to him. Because it could have been any young Sudanese man walking down that street and they probably would have ended up being attacked in the same way.

    Racmam, re: the case of the men who tortured Christopher O'Brien; I knew the victim actually, he was a client of mine many years ago. I agree that their crime was far more evil and deserving of a harsher sentence. But that doesn't mean Rintoull didn't get what he deserved.

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  19. "But it is still a racially motivated act nonetheless."

    According to who? Not according to the judge. Not according to the evidence, but somehow, according to you.

    Rintoull and Sabatino's crime was motivated by vigilantism against a group of people who they had been threatened by, and also believed were harming the area. This group happened to be predominantly black, but this does not in any way mean that the group was targeted simply for their skin colour. To suggest that if this group was white the pair would have acted differently is pure conjecture, and I think you should be smart enough to see through the racial garbage which the media use to sell papers.

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  20. ^ "Rintoull and Sabatino's crime was motivated by vigilantism against a group of people who they had been threatened by, and also believed were harming the area."

    This is true. However, let's just say I have been threatened by a group of, let's say, Chinese teenagers, who I think are harming the area.
    Now, if I take revenge against that particular group of teenagers, I may be committing assault, but it is not racial.
    But if I write "F*** the chinks" on a wall, tell somebody "I'm going to kill the Chinese" and then beat to death the first Chinese teenager I see, that is a racially motivated crime.

    Was Liep Gony specifically one of the Sudanese gang members who attacked Rintoull? Maybe, maybe not. He was attacked because he was the same race as the people who had earlier attacked Rintoull. Had it been another Sudanese teenager walking along that street dressed in hip-hop fashion, he likely would have suffered a similar fate.

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  21. What happened was a tragedy, but I have no idea why you are so hellbent, like the media, in turning this into a race issue. Perhaps it is your own insecurities about race?

    "Was Liep Gony specifically one of the Sudanese gang members who attacked Rintoull? Maybe, maybe not. He was attacked because he was the same race as the people who had earlier attacked Rintoull."

    You state you don't know, yet continue to assert (with no proof) that Gony was only attacked simply for his race. The judge had more than 1000 pages of evidence before her, including phone intercepts from the guilty duo, and even she states that to claim this issue was motivated by race is 'to deny a complex set of factors'; but somehow, you know better.

    "Had it been another Sudanese teenager walking along that street dressed in hip-hop fashion, he likely would have suffered a similar fate."

    Once again, this is pure conjecture, based on no-fact, but simply on the way you perceive the situation to be. It is also sideways in terms of what you were saying before: first you say that it is simply race, but in the very next sentence you make reference to clothing and race. Is it one or the other? Is it both? Maybe it isn't about race at all, and more about a certain group of youths in Noble Park; either way, you are all over the place.

    What astounds me, is that both yourself and the media, in being so eager to push the story that Rintoull and Sabatino just wanted to kill someone black, totally ignore that the deceased was the person arrested when found hiding by police after Rintoull phoned triple-0, after been chased a few days prior. You also choose to ignore is that Gony had been involved multiple times previously as a guilty party in group violence against innocent people; this includes the train footage in which a single person was attacked for their mp3 player by 5-6 people, and the attack on the Noble Park bottle shop a few weeks prior to the murder.

    I find it quite interesting that what is put forward by the media and yourself as the most plausible story is that Rintoull and Sabatino were indiscriminately targeting someone black, and Gony was the one they found, when it seems a much more plausible that Gony was known to the pair, who purposely targeted him.

    Unfortunately, thr defence presented a case in stating there was no prior intent to cause harm (which is highly questionable) meaning the evidence given did not address in what capacity Gony was known to the pair, but as I said, I find it incredibly interesting that despite this doubt, the situation that both yourself and the media choose to put forward as the most plausible.

    Given the above, Gony's history in no way excuses the pair for what they did, and in any way implies that Gony deserved to die, and Rintoull and Sabatino are rightly in jail for their actions.

    Based on your writing, it is not only obvious that you have not read the court transcripts, but in your constant mentioning of the word 'nigga' you also fail to understand the context in which the word was used.

    Something which Barrister Georgiou submitted to the court during the evidence stages was that the word 'niggas' refered not to race, but to the group that congregates around Noble Park station. The reasoning (which I understand to be) behind why the group is refered to by some locals (not just Rintoull and Sabatino) as 'the niggas' is because of the way they emulate African-American gangs in not only their attire (which is consistent with your mention of clothing), but also how they refer to themselves (eg: 'The Bloodz'), hence, why they are given this derogatory name. It is also worth noting, (which outlets such as MediaWatch have also reported) that it is not only Sudanese who make up this group.

    The fact Rintoull and Sabatino had been chased by this group made them angry at the group, hence their frustration at the 'niggas'.

    (continued next post)

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  22. It is very easy to conclude that the graffiti 'fuck da niggas' is about race, but it's not the case, and had you looked into the evidence you would find that the entire house was covered with graffiti, and this phrase was not even close to been the most predominant tag made, but part of a much larger scheme in causing damage to the rented property.


    The way you are but the way you are trying to phrase the situation is "step 1. Hate africans, step 2. spray racist graffiti about africans, step 3. kill an african". It's a very simple conclusion to make, and fits in very well with someone who is trying to attribute this crime to racism, but in doing that you are ignoring the greater issues which exist in the context of the overall events.

    Once again, if you had bothered to read the actual transcripts instead of acting like a media parrot, you might have a better understanding of the issue, and see that it is a little more than the black and white issue of black vs. white. I would also think that as a social worker, you would be a little smarter than to play into the distortions which the media generates, and would also have a greater understanding for the issues that exist in areas such as Noble Park, which create a hostile atmosphere in where the serious injury of young people is not just a chance of happening, but a certainty.

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  23. ^ I've sorta got other things I'd rather be doing than endlessly arguing over this point, so I'll try to bring this to some kind of close.

    If you read the original post, I thought it would be clear that I'm not trying to be merely black-and- white about this.

    I do think media labelling of the guys as "racist thugs" is over the top. What they did may have been both racist and thuggish, but that's not the sum of who they are. I'm sure that in many ways both of them are decent people. And they seem clearly to have been remorseful after the incident. But they made a series of really bad decisions; alcohol, drugs, pride, anger, and yes, racism, got the better of them.

    "Nigga" is a term loaded with racist overtones. Just because it may have been in common use among some locals when describing a certain group of people, doesn't remove its racist connotation.

    There are a lot of young Sudanese males in Noble Park, and most of them dress "street". This doesn't mean that they are all part of a particular gang. But with Rintoull's heavily substance affected and enraged state, I doubt he was going to be making great distinctions between the black guys who attacked him and the black teenager he came across.

    I don't think I've ever stated that racism was the sole motivation for what the two guys did. Clearly there was other stuff going on. Even if you want to go so far as to say that it WASN'T racially motivated, I find it implausable that racism had no bearing on how it went down.

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  24. Most so called "racist" attacks are perpetrated by non whites. Obviously the author hasnt been to the outer suburbs where these attacks are occuring - there arent many whites out there. So who is responsible for all these attacks? You sure as hell arent going to tell us.

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  25. @ Anon (Aug 13, 10:46):

    I can assure you that I grew up close to the area in question and have worked in Noble Park in various capacities.

    I can also assure you that as in virtually every suburb in Melbourne, the majority of people living in Noble Park are of white Anglo or European background. But because they are seen as "the norm", people do not notice them as much as they notice other groups such as the very distinctive-looking Sudanese.

    So who is responsible for all these attacks? You sure as hell arent going to tell us.

    "All these attacks"? You'd need to get police data for that. This blog post is about a particular incident in which the details are known.

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  26. Are there transcripts avaiable for the original sentencing? I have seen one addressing 'whether racially motivated' and another for 'risk of prisoners in protective custody.'

    I'd appreciate any links if someone could help. ?

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