I have been trying to write this for a while but just not have had the time to spare. My opening words borrow heavily from a think tank institute.
The Black Lives Matter protest movement may have started in the United States and been reinvigorated by the death of George Floyd, its impact has been widely and deeply felt across Australia. Hundreds of thousands of Australians decided it was time to shine a light on the decades and decades of inequality, racism and injustice embedded in Australian institutions – with huge crowds leaving isolation to rally across the country, and millions of posts, comments and shares across social media.
Some responses to Black Lives Matter have been All Lives Matter but this misses the point about systemic racism.
As a simple example:
There is a group of people at dinner. Everyone gets food except Tim. Tim is super hungry. Everyone’s eating and Tim still hasn’t gotten anything. Someone says “Hey Tim deserves food“. Everyone eating shrugs and says “Everyone deserves food“. They continue to eat. Well yes, everyone does deserve food but everyone eating already has food and Tim still doesn’t. So it would make sense in this situation to say that Tim specifically deserves food.
One more time:
In the words of my friend, Lusi Austin, musician:
The world is complex. There are beautiful things and there are horrible things that we see each day.
The blatant denial of life-breath and the murder of George Floyd was one of the horrible things. Sadly it was not one isolated racial incident. It was not the only time over-policing led to a person being detained and their life subsequently being taken. Not over there. Not over here.
People of colour like myself learn to not talk about these sorts of things lest we seem to be ‘playing the race card’ or accused of being ‘political’. That’s not what I’m doing or the way I’ve ever tried to live. Or my family. I’m simply sharing part of my story. Staying silent is one way to deal with this but so is finding your voice.
I hate hearing people quote one liners like, “if only you worked as hard as I have, you’d be treated the same…” I’ve worked hard. As have my family. We’ve been involved heavily in our community or in the church. Yet, we have still been racially vilified in many ways (big and small). I won’t talk details here out of respect to my parents who do not wish specifics to be mentioned on social media. This is also my story though so I’ll share what I feel comfortable with sharing.
Being openly excluded from family relationships, called derogatory names, being spoken about in third person, told racist jokes “oh but this isn’t about you” (as if that disclaimer changes everything), being type-cast as an Asian person (because my agent said “you’re the closest thing we have to an Asian”), being teased for my skin colour/fuzzy hair or told I’m ‘too white to be so brown’, being racially profiled by police on more than one occasion, my car searched for no reason in the middle of the night…these are just some of the ways that no matter how ‘hard I worked’ race still played a significant part in how I was treated.
Please listen when I say that sympathy or pity is not wanted. What is needed is listening. Learning. Empathy. Support. Being an ally.
Hear someone using a racist slur? Say that it’s offensive and not something that should be joked about. Don’t know much about our First Nations people? That’s ok…acknowledge that and start the journey to learn. Read books, have conversations, listen to podcasts, attend talks by inclusive services like YARN Australia. Do the little that you can in the world in which you live to make sure that black lives matter just as much as all other lives. Not one against the other, not elevating or devaluing. Reaching out to those downtrodden by generations of mistreatment and the acceptance of it.
Do I agree with peaceful protest? Yes! Do I agree with shops being looted and people being hurt during riots? Nope!
Respect and love should reign supreme in my book.
I’m tired of seeing posts about George Floyd being a convicted criminal. There was also once a man who committed the heinous crime of having a man murdered just because he was lusting after the murdered-man’s wife. That murderer was King David, you know, ‘a man after God’s own heart’?! So have a think about the ways in which people commit crime and do their time.
I started out by saying the world is complex and about the tension held between the beauty and the horrible. I’m blessed to call this land home. I’m blessed by the people who love me for who I am. I’m blessed by the beauty I see in the world around me. I agree that the world is neither only ever horrible or only ever beautiful.
May we move forward empowered to seek change, to acknowledge the pain in our collective past and to model a different way of living and loving. X
Courage, Compassion and Connection!