Why the death of Elijah Doughty is a racial matter.

WORDS | Raelee Lancaster

A young boy. Aged fourteen. His name, Elijah Doughty, spoken in either harsh whispers or excruciating, tortured cries.

A man. Aged fifty-six. Identity unknown – withheld to protect him and his family.

The man gets in his Nissan Navara 4WD and drives to Gribble Creek, near Kalgoorlie, Western Australia to look for two stolen motorbikes, allegedly with the knowledge and approval of the local police (Menagh & Tomlin, 2017; Wahlquist, 2017).The man saw the boy with one of the stolen bikes and decided to speed after him in his car, driving closely behind the young teen. In the short chase, the boy allegedly veered in front of the man’s car. The man didn’t stop in time. The boy went under the car. The motorbike was smashed. The boy died at the scene. (Menagh, 2017; Wahlquist, 2017).

A young boy. Aged fourteen. Dead.

A man. Aged fifty-six. Alive.

This week on Friday 21 July 2017, a supreme court jury spent six and a half hours deliberating on how to handle this situation (Wahlquist, 2017). 

Was it manslaughter, or was it recklessness? 

According to WA Police crash reconstruction expert, Peter Price, there were no obvious signs of swerving or heavy braking, though moderately may have occurred but was not visible on site (NITV, 2017). The man said he did not commit a crime when killing a boy in order to serve up some vigilante justice, though he admits he might have been driving a bit dangerously. 

Was the death of a child at the hands of an adult a serious crime, or merely an accident?

The jury did not spent even one full day deliberating before they decided on the latter. A child is dead, and a man is acquitted of manslaughter and gets three years in jail for dangerous driving, with the possibility of parole as early as January 2018 (Wahlquist, 2017).

To add to this case, media attention has been limited, with little push for more discussion on the issue. On social media, people came out of the woodwork either to speak out against the injustice against Elijah Doughty and his family or to defended the man who killed Elijah and demonise the boy.

People have defended the man and said Elijah wouldn’t have died if he didn’t steal.

People defended the man and said Elijah  deserved to die because he broke the law.

 

Regardless of whether or not Elijah stole the motorbike, theft does not warrant a child losing his life.

So, why are people blaming this boy for his own death. Why are people demonising Elijah’s family and community for protesting his death and asking for justice? Why are people defending his killer? Why did his killer only received a three-year prison sentence?

To put it simply, Elijah Doughty died because he was black.

He was demonised because he was black.

Don’t agree?

This wasn’t the first time an Aboriginal boy was hit by a man driving recklessly and seeking justice. An Aboriginal boy from Pilbara, Western Australia was ‘mowed down’ in May 2016 by a would-be vigilante who was driving reckless. The boy was badly injured and media only reported that the people responsible were charged. Pilbara has also come under fire for their treatment of young Aboriginal boys in the recent past. (Taylor, 2016). 

Stories about Aboriginal people dying or being seriously and critically injured at the hands of vigilantes or authority figures such as the police occur too often. Similarly, these instances are often disregarded by the media and general public too often, else they are used to demonise Aboriginal people.

Still unsure?

Anglo-Saxon Australians love to flip the racial dynamics to spur their racism, so let’s flip the racial dynamics of this situation to help them understand why this really is a racial issue.

Eli Westlake. Caucasian. Aged twenty-one. Hit by a car and killed because the woman driving was angry at him for throwing food at her car. The woman driving was sentenced to at least eighteen years in jail (Kontominas, 2010). A woman killed a white boy and was sentenced to almost two decades behind bars.

Here, I’ve set up a little table for you to compare the pair.

Elijah Doughty Eli Westlake
Black White
Allegedly stole a bike Threw food at woman’s car
Chased by a man in car Chased by woman in car
Hit by car Hit by car
Killed Killed
Man receives three years jail Woman received eighteen years jail

Aboriginal people are dying at alarming rates. Aboriginal people are incarcerated at alarming rates. Children are still being taken from their families and communities. Racism is very much a current issue. Suicide rates are staggering. Mental illness and drug and alcohol addiction are fuelled by two hundred years’ worth of intergenerational trauma. We are treated like second-class citizens. Some people still see us as animals.

If Elijah Doughty did steal that bike, he deserved the chance to make up for his mistakes and learn from them. He deserved to go home to his family. He deserved to grow up and have a family of his own.

He did not deserve to die. He did not deserve to be chased down like an animal and slaughtered. His murderer does not deserve to live out such a short sentence for killing a child.

 

Works cited:

Kontominas, B 2010, ‘Cheese ball road rage killer jailed for 25 years’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 April, accessed July 2017 from The Sydney Morning Herald.

Menagh, J & Sam Tomlin 2017, ‘Elijah Doughty trial: Man jailed for three years over death of Kalgoorlie teenager’, ABC News, 21 July, accessed July 2017 from ABC News.

Menagh, J 2017, ‘Elijah Doughty trial: Jury sent out to rule on alleged manslaughter of Kalgoorlie teenager’, ABC News, 22 July, accessed July 2017 from ABC News.

NITV 2017, ‘Driver not guilty of Indigenous teen Elijah Doughty’s manslaughter ‘, NITV, 21 July, accessed July 2017 from NITV.

Taylor, P 2016, ‘Pilbara boy run down by car raises vigilante claims’, The Weekend Australian, 9 July, accessed July 2017 from The Weekend Australian.

Wahlquist, C 2017, ‘The killing of Elijah Doughty: oil patch at crime scene fades but stain remains’, The Guardian, 21 July, accessed July 2017 from The Guardian.

Works consulted:

Gorrie, N 2016, ‘On Black Rage, New Funerals, And The Exhausting Resilience Of Our Mob’, Junkee, 1 September, accessed July 2017 from Junkee.

Paddenburg, T 2016, ‘Crime wave in WA’s Pilbara blamed on hungry kids breaking into homes for food’, PerthNow, 10 July, accessed July 2017 from PerthNow.

Wahlquist, C 2017, ‘Elijah Doughty jury told: decide if man’s driving was ‘crime against the state”, The Guardian, 20 July, accessed July 2017 from The Guardian.

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