Content warning: this article contains discussion around racial slurs.
A petition to fire Sky News host Peter Gleeson has been launched online after the journalist’s Black Lives Matter opinion piece used “archaic” language which some critics called “racist.”
Gleeson came under fire on Sunday for a Sunday Telegraph column in which he used the term “negroes” while calling Australia’s own protests against police brutality and Black deaths in custody “idiotic.”
The Guardian’s special 2018 Deaths Inside report used 10 years of coronial data to find that more than 407 Indigenous Australians had died in police care since the end of 1991’s royal commission.
The petition to sack Gleeson had more than 820 signatures at the time of publishing this story.
This is what was published in the paper:
A different version of the article ran on a number of News Corp’s online master heads including the Sunday Herald and Courier Mail.
“The reality in this country – and the United States – is that the greatest danger to Aborigines and African-Americans is themselves,” Gleeson said in the tweaked version while also using the tragic deaths of four Townsville teenagers to prove his point.
“The protests are facile and irrelevant because police and indigenous (sic) deaths in custody are a small part of the complex jigsaw puzzle that goes into making black (sic) lives matter,” he said.
Gleeson’s use of language started to become socially unacceptable in the mid-1960s and, according to Ferris State University in the US, was totally uncouth by the mid-1980s when Stokely Carmichael ’s book “Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America” stated the term indicated that Black people were inferior. Although it wasn’t always considered a racial slur, it is now treated as an inappropriate word.
“Really, how far has Australian thinking come if our popular media still publish stuff like this?””
The word “Aborigine”, also used by Gleeson in the article, has been regarded as inappropriate since the 1960s.
“Using the singular word ‘Aborigine’ stems from an era where it was used as a derogatory term and one that invoked power,” Senior lecturer in Indigenous Studies and Tourism at Swinburne University, Dr Andrew Peters told HuffPost Australia.
“Derivatives of the word have the same effect, as do words that associate us with animals. It’s so disappointing that once again we have to defend our stance on not being labelled a word that disrespected our ancestors.”
Peters added that the language used by Gleeson is at best “entitled ignorance”, and at worst a deliberate racial slur.
“They’re either completely oblivious to the root causes of many of these societal issues (again, “entitled ignorance”) or they write inflammatory things like this to get attention and thus sell papers – a form of clickbait,” he said.
“This is where my pity comes from. What kind of society are we if prominent people like this are either too arrogant and ignorant to see the world in any way other than “theirs”, or they are so driven by the attention that they don’t really care what they say or how they say it?
“It’s the same colonial logic that labelled us ‘sub-human’ and ‘ape-like’ in the 18 and 19 centuries. Really, how far has Australian thinking come if our popular media still publish stuff like this?”
HuffPost has reached out to News Corp for comment.
The reaction to the article, entitled Where’s the real justice?, was swift with some making formal complaints to the Australian Press Council.
“The fact this Racism is written, proofed and printed is disgusting but this isn’t a one off and the climate of the country that allows this rationale (or lack of),” rapper Briggs said on Instagram.
“How far have we come? Not far at all. This kind of language is archaic, but very “on-brand” for Australia. Until racist opinions are smashed. Until racist systems and structures are obliterated, we’re not going to see actual change.”