Sometimes the most powerful protests are those made in silence by brave individuals deciding to take a stand.
Nine-year-old Year 4 student Harper Nielsen has become a household name after reactionary politicians and commentators became hysterical on discovering she had decided not to stand for the national anthem.
Some, such as arch-racist Pauline Hanson have labelled her a “brat”, while others accused her of being “brainwashed”.
However, Nielsen clearly has a good grasp of history.
Nielsen said she decided not to stand for the anthem because it is racist.
Speaking to Channel 10, she said: “When it says ‘We are young’ it completely disregards the Indigenous Australians who were here before us for over 50,000 years.”
She told the ABC: “When it was originally written, ‘Advance Australia Fair’ meant advance the white people of Australia.”
It certainly did.
It was first sung in 1878 by the colonialists who sought to inspire patriotism and replaced “God Save the Queen” as Australia’s anthem in 1984.
Though schools were expected to sing it, it was never compulsory, and even the federal government’s own protocols do not say it is mandatory to stand for the anthem.
Nevertheless, infuriated right-wing cultural warriors such as Mark Latham, are demanding the anthem be made compulsory in schools and are treating Nielsen’s actions as some sort of crime that needs to be punished.
Those most annoyed with Nielsen’s stand are the self-proclaimed “free speech champions” who, until then, had spent most of the week defending the publication of Mark Knight’s racist cartoon of tennis champion Serena Williams against what they term “political correctness gone mad”.
For them, free speech only extends to those who espouse racist views, while those who speak out against racism must be silenced.
Nielsen is just the latest in a long line of courageous people who have been attacked by the right-wing establishment simply for exercising their right to free speech in opposition to racism.
African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos created a stir in the Mexico City Olympic Games in 1968 when they defied the “non-political” nature of the Olympics and took a public stand against racism at their awards ceremony while the United States’ national anthem was being played.
They were supported by Australian athlete and silver medallist Peter Norman, who wore a badge in opposition to racial segregation.
Like the NFL gridiron players who have “taken a knee” during the US national anthem in protest at racial inequity, these athletes were roundly condemned and ostracised by the sporting and political establishments.
But for millions around the world they became instant heroes because of their brave stance.
Nielsen too is a hero and, thankfully, she has many people speaking out in her defence.
While media reports say the state school was considering suspending her, the outcry in support of her appears to have made them reconsider the decision.
Murri leader Uncle Sam Watson told the ABC that Nielsen’s stand makes him feel “more confident” in the future. “Here you have a young girl who could have simply mouthed the words … but she pointed out that she didn't believe in the lyrics, she didn't accept the contradiction.”
“I just totally applaud her for taking a stand for what she believes.”
Watson also praised her parents for raising “a very bright and vivacious young woman”.
Socialist Alliance national co-convenor Alex Bainbridge, who is based in Brisbane, told Ten News: “Obviously, this girl has a view on the national anthem and, honestly, I congratulate her for it.
“As for being brainwashed, Nielsen has shown she definitely is not.”