Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?

I have confused feelings about this story: an Australian writer, Mem Fox, was treated to American-style customs.

The room was like a waiting room in a hospital but a bit more grim than that. There was a notice on the wall that was far too small, saying no cellphones allowed, and anybody who did use a cellphone had someone stand in front of them and yell: “Don’t use that phone!” Everything was yelled, and everything was public, and this was the most awful thing, I heard things happening in that room happening to other people that made me ashamed to be human.

There was an Iranian woman in a wheelchair, she was about 80, wearing a little mauve cardigan, and they were yelling at her – “Arabic? Arabic?”. They screamed at her “ARABIC?” at the top of their voices, and finally she intuited what they wanted and I heard her say “Farsi”. And I thought heaven help her, she’s Iranian, what’s going to happen?

There was a woman from Taiwan, being yelled at about at about how she made her money, but she didn’t understand the question. The officer was yelling at her: “Where does your money come from, does it grow on trees? Does it fall from the sky?” It was awful.

There was no toilet, no water, and there was this woman with a baby. If I had been holed up in that room with a pouch on my chest, and a baby crying, or needing to be fed, oh God … the agony I was surrounded by in that room was like a razor blade across my heart.

There are some things I’m not confused about: that was criminal and horrific, and ought to bring deep shame to all Americans. What kind of stupid people are doing this job that they think YELLING at someone who doesn’t understand their language somehow makes them comprehensible?

But what bugs me is that this story becomes newsworthy only when it happens to a white woman — as if the injustice is amplified because the target is someone innocent of the crime of being brown. No criticism of Mem Fox intended, but of the media and the people who assume it isn’t news if it’s not happening to someone who looks like them.

Where is the story of the Iranian woman in a wheelchair, the Taiwanese woman, the woman with a baby? Is anyone following up with them, or is their story not as credible or sympathetic as that of a white woman?

And most importantly, where is the follow-up to expose the immigration thugs who are perpetrating these offenses?