I am writing this blog post on Larrakia land
For me, the horrendous murder of George Floyd was a wakeup call. A tragic reminder that racism is still present in our world, to such a high extent. This week in America, racial prejudice led to a man being choked of air. On the street. In broad daylight. “I can’t breathe.“
And George Floyd isn’t the only one. So many black Americans have been the victims of racist attacks and police brutality.
I am not surprised that people are angry and taking to the streets. It makes my blood boil, and I live half a world away.
What is wrong with the world? Why is there so much injustice?
Injustice and racism aren’t just in the US
It’s not just in America. I think sometimes we forget the injustice and racism that is present in Australia.
Racism, hatred, and discrimination exist in many forms. Not just in harsh treatment from police and overt racist attacks, although these things happen in our country too.
How many Australians are aware of the depth of systemic racism towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia?
This week (27 May – 3 June) is National Reconciliation Week in Australia.
Did you know some of the highest rates of rheumatic heart disease (RHD) in the world are in Indigenous Australians? According to Menzies School of Health Research, Indigenous people are “nearly 20 times as likely [than other groups] to die from [RHD].” It’s a preventable disease that is caused by infections that occur in the context of poor living conditions and overcrowded houses. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people frequently live in crowded conditions, and despite the risks of diseases like RHD and COVID-19, that situation is not getting any better.
The life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is another frightening testimony to inequality in our society. From birth, there is a gap of 8.6 years for males and 7.8 years for females.
Ignorance and disregard towards Aboriginal culture and heritage can only serve to deepen the scars of previous and ongoing trauma. This last week, mining company Rio Tinto destroyed two culturally significant sites in the Pilbara, unimpeded by governmental regulations.
This isn’t right. Isn’t fair.
“Sorry” doesn’t fix this. Sorry isn’t enough.
We’re in this together
The theme for Reconciliation Week this year is “In This Together”.
That mindset, if we can get our heads around it, shifts the conversation from “us and them”, to one in which we can talk together, walk together, and change the things that are wrong. No one can say “this isn’t my problem”. Whether you’re referring to injustice in the US, in Australia, wherever– it’s everyone’s problem.
In the words of Martin Luther King Jr, “I have come to realise that [my] destiny is tied up with [their] destiny.” We are in this together.
Do I live in America? No. Then why is it my problem? Because the effects of racism pervade every country and culture, including my own. We are in this together.
What can we do?
I don’t want to be a silent onlooker, but I can’t take to the streets in the US.
“There comes a time where silence is betrayal” is the quote from Martin Luther King Jr. that is circulating around at the moment. I do not want to betray Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, Black Americans, Timorese, West Papuans, fellow humans whose voices are sometimes suppressed: whose lives matter.
Because we are in this together.
So, I will not be silent. I will write. I think, as a writer, this is something I can do.
I will read, so I can understand, and I can act. I would encourage you to also. For more on reconciliation and what needs to be done, start with What is Reconciliation? from Reconciliation Australia.
But words can just become noise unless there is meaning behind them.
So, I will love. True love is a choice, involving effort and respect. It’s a commitment to act.
…let us not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.1 John 3:18 NLT