I had no idea that writing the article, Diversity the Real Race of 2016, was a premonition of the domino effect that racism would have on the entertainment industry, sporting arena, workplace and the global political stage.
The adage ‘playing the RACE card’, has highlighted that this is not a game to be downplayed or ignored. It is something more sinister that breeds hate, bloodshed, death and an aftermath of divisive rhetoric.
This is ‘World War Race’.
We are at war with ourselves. The foundational principles representing constitutions, governments and movements are being shaken to the core. Some people are trying to make sense of all this and are beginning to question the values that govern our existence.
The political arena is offering no solace either and in many instances is making the case for this war appear intentional.
When leaders remain silent and fail to speak out against injustice, they become just as guilty as those enacting racial intolerance and divide. We have heard Donald Trump’s racist tirades and sexist remarks. Apparently making America great again relies on inciting xenophobia and bias towards others.
In Australia we are seeing the resurgence of the One Nation party led by Pauline Hanson. As much as some may cringe at what a nation led by both these so called leaders will look like, perhaps we should be examining the current environment that has given opportunity for their rise.
I was saddened to read about the tragedies that unfolded in the USA over the last couple of weeks. Saddened by the realization that this movie seems to be on replay and ever so predictable.
Black lives killed. The people responsible cleared. Riots! Protests! Speeches!
The hashtags #AltonSterling, #PhilandoCastile, #PrayforDallas.
Then the recurring hashtag debate #blacklivesmatter followed by the #alllivesmatter response.
BUT this time …..Dallas happened.
Five white policemen tragically gunned down by an act of racism perpetuated by an African American man. The movie changed. A new cast. A new director but sadly the same ending…..DEATH by MURDER. Voices that had not been heard before spoke. People that had never spoken up against the continued murders of innocent black men, found their voices. There were new commentaries, increased patriotic calls for unity and a new hash tag, #bluelivesmatter.
And therein lies the problem.
The notion that white lives seemed to be more valuable than black lives is the premise for the #blacklivesmatter campaign. A simple request by a community to get people to understand that black lives appeared invisible, unvalued and unimportant. That what happened in Dallas, should never happen again and should illicit the same outrage and outcry as what happened in Baton Rouge and St. Paul.
Former Republican Presidential nominee, Newt Gingrich, by his own admission is finally beginning to understand.
“If you are a normal, white American, the truth is you don’t understand being black in America and you instinctively under-estimate the level of discrimination and the level of additional risk……you don’t see that, that’s not part of your experience. And somehow, we have to be able to have a conversation and a dialogue where the mutual experiences start to say…… under what circumstances can we fix it?”
Perhaps we start by realizing that speaking our truth means allowing others to speak theirs. We start by acknowledging that we don’t know what we don’t know. We start by realizing that just because one’s experiences are different from our own, doesn’t negate their validity. We start by not allowing the unwarranted killing of black people, with no repercussions to the perpetrators, to continue as much as we do not allow the unwarranted killing of law enforcement officials. We start by committing to the process even when the dialogue becomes uncomfortable.
We cannot allow another tragedy to be the catalyst to get us to finally sit together at the same table. We cannot continue social media wars prompting division over which lives matters more black, blue or all?
We can however, begin to make the necessary changes and adjustments in our behavior, attitude, actions and beliefs so that #blacklivesmatter becomes an #alllivesmatter campaign.
All lives do matter!
The foundation, in which our western democracy is built, is in desperate need of repair. The structures that are built on it are flawed.
Structures that incarcerate and oppress people of color at a higher rate than others. Structures that reveal the glaring disparity in the achievement gaps of minority groups versus the privileged majority. Structures that question their credentials while limiting the opportunities afforded them. Structures that dehumanize refugees, asylum seekers and migrants from third world countries.
When we become desensitized to the plight of fellow human beings and regard them as statistical data that is confirmation, that our foundation has cracks.
Even Donald Trump has noticed the faulty foundation that, ‘racial tensions have gotten worse, not better’. I wonder if he realizes that he has contributed to those tensions and was wrong to state that the nation of America had ‘become too divided’. The reality is that America and most western democracies have always been racially divided, just look at their birth, history and claim of terra nullius.
I hope that other countries, particularly Australia, realize they are not that different from the USA, as no doubt they would like to believe. They have an opportunity to begin the dialogue and make the necessary adjustments before the bloodshed becomes uncontrollable.
As much as I love living in Australia, I have not been immune to racism. I do however realize, that the war on racism is a global one. It is an institutional, structural and systemic war that I have had to fight everywhere I have ever lived.
Race Matters! a whole deal more than the world is prepared to admit. No greater time than now is needed to explore our unconscious bias and come to terms with the fact that, there is no equal playing ground when it comes to race.
The impact of slavery, colonization, apartheid and the white Australia policy have residue to this day. The wounds from our history have never been allowed to heal properly because we try and dictate to those wounded how and when they should heal without even understanding the extent of their injuries and pain. We keep reopening and inflicting new wounds to some people who have never even left the hospital.
We can argue and say let sleeping dogs lie but sweeping centuries of blatant racism under the carpet does not remove the dirt. It makes the surface look clean but underneath, it creates a breeding ground for more bacteria to thrive. It is this bacterium that has started to erode the foundation that some structures were built on.
It is time for the walls of racism to come tumbling down. History has shown time and time again the impact of racial, cultural and ethnic oppression. We should replace the guns for hammers. As a nation, as a community and as an individual sometimes we need to look to our past to forge the way to our future.
I want to believe that 2016 doesn’t have to end the way it started.
We still have time to turn this year around. After all, it was in 2016, that it was announced, that Harriet Tubman would become the first African- American to appear on US currency. In Canada, Chief Justice Murray Sinclair, became the first Aboriginal judge appointed in ManitobaIt and in Australia, Linda Burney became the first Aboriginal woman elected to the House of Representatives.
No greater time than now is needed to have courageous conversations about race. The truth is we are all hurting. We must stop fighting and killing each other. No one person, government, policy or law will change this. No more unconditional surrenders.
It is not someone else responsibility. It is yours just as much as it is mine.