This is where I stand

I was shocked and angered to see the casual murder of George Floyd, the chilling mockery of the protest stance of ‘taking a knee’. From that moment the United States erupted. I am, of course, looking from the outside and don’t pretend to understand the broad outlines much less any finer details of the protests.

However, I do understand that a great wrong has been committed, not just this instance, but many, many times over. I understand the demands for justice and the demands to create a world where racism cannot rear its head. My heart soars when I see so many people marching together to demand change. (I also worry about the spread of the coronavirus, but let’s put that to one side.)

I found Ryan Holiday‘s latest article to be very profound.

“I’ll say it again: Not being extrajudicially murdered is not a privilege, it’s not an “exception,” it’s more than a tragedy. To try to categorize it as those things is to woefully fail to describe the injustice that is being done in modern America (and elsewhere). Callous indifference to suffering by the authorities towards minorities or the poor or the voiceless is not just a lamentable fact of modern life, it’s an active crime. “

In this post Jeff, from On the Fence Voters, writes another powerful piece. It ends with a list of about 30 things that, because of his privileged white skin, he can do while African Americans have been killed doing. Simple, daily things like shopping at Walmart, reading a book in a car or go jogging.

Of course no one can predict where this is going, and how it will end. We can see that this maelstrom this perfect storm of events creates will alter the world. To me there are some small indications that it is going to be wider and stronger than just the current protests.

For instance, bus drivers in Minneapolis refused to be commandeered by the police to take arrested protestors to police stations. Hundreds of unionists ~ teachers, postal workers, health workers, hotel workers ~ have signed a petition pledging that they will not assist the police during the protests.

As an Etsy seller I received a strongly worded letter from the CEO, Josh Silverman. Part of it read:

“We stand against police brutality in all forms.

We stand against a criminal justice system that disproportionately targets Black Americans.

We stand against the widespread disenfranchisement of Black and Brown communities whose voices are silenced at the polls.”

In Australia Channel 10, a TV station not known for its progressive stance, displayed this statement on air:

‘We stand in solidarity with our black colleagues, storytellers and viewers in Australia and the world because #BlackLivesMatter.’

In Australia we cannot be smuggly complaisant either.

Racism and social injustice exists here. White Australia was built on the dispossession and genocide of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Peoples. We can’t say “Black lives matter in the USA” and ignore the black lives here that are being lost and abused. 432 Indigenous people have died in custody since 1991. There have been very few charges laid against officers involved in those deaths, and never a successful homicide prosecution. 432. We are far more familiar with the names of African Americans who died than we are with the names of our fellow Australians.

The deaths are the tip of systematic racism towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Looking at any marker ~ life expectancy, education results, housing, employment, incarceration, etc, etc ~ you see that there is a marked difference between Indigenous Australians and non-Indigenous.

Change is not easy, but there are some points from which we can start.

  • Firstly, move Australia Day from January 26th to a date that is less traumatic to Indigenous Australians.
  • Secondly, let’s have a proper response to the Uluru statement from the Heart. It is a beautiful, thoughtful document, a document that should be prominent in all places. How powerful is this statement:

We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.

The Statement has three key elements for change ~ enshrining a First Nations Voice in the Constitution, the establishment of a Makarrata Commission to supervise agreements with Australian Governments and the Commission will also oversea a process of truth telling about colonisation. You can read more about it here.

This year has been such a tumultuous one. In Australia there has been searing drought, horrendous bushfires, floods and then the pandemic. For me the turmoil actually began six months earlier with my partner needing medical care. It is no wonder that we are all reeling, wondering how much more there is to absorb and how much more we can take.

However, let’s not loose sight of the incredible generosity and courage shown in every one of these happenings ~ from truck loads of hay to drought-stricken areas to millions of dollars donated from all parts of the world; from fire fighters to hospital workers risking their lives to protect others. In the protests we see hundreds of thousands coming together as well as the individual acts of courage where a person is protecting another from the police. And of course, the big one, the shut down the world endured to help save the lives of people more vulnerable than themselves, and often at high personal cost.

I do love a good quote, and this one from Howard Zinn is one of the best. I will leave the ending up to him:

”To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic.
It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty,
but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.
What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives.
If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something.
If we remember those times and places — and there are so many —
where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
And if we do act, in however small a way,
we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future.
The future is an infinite succession of presents,
and to live now as we think human beings should live,
in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

24 thoughts on “This is where I stand

  1. What a lovely thoughtful post Anne. here in the UK, despite laws which make discrimination illegal, it is endemic. Beacuse the big abuses are illegal mostly it is in small, subtle ways which accumulate. It is easy to shrug or throw up our hands and say ‘what can I do?’ but actually just as little acts of discrimination or disregard accumulate so too do little ones of kindness or solidarity. Mrs Snail has a lovely teaching exrecise which I will ask her to share tio illustrate how it can happen – the origin of her Snail of Happiness blog. The world is in turmoil, as you rightly point out, and we can use that instability to create movement in a healthy direction or to spiral into even worse.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. So true, Sue. I think we have excellent examples during isolation of how those little acts of kindness have such a profound effect. The outcome of all of this is not determined, so our actions ~ or inactions! ~ can have an impact.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I have been fascinated, touched and humbled by which of my friends and acquaintances have offered me help, kept in touch and which have disappeared (no doubt in many cases for good reasons of their own) and it has made me even more keen to forge connections and be kind to others. Such a saluatary lesson for me.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. The destruction in the Pilbara was a disgrace, so I am glad you signed the petition, Kate. And I look forward to reading your words, which I know will be very thoughtful. These sorts of blogs are not easy to write. I find I want to think very carefully about my words.

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  2. Hello Anne – I don’t think I realized you were in Australia this whole time (since joining the SAL and connecting with you) Well written post very educational for me her in the states = I am very concerned about the spread of the virus and what may possibly happen now – horrified by Floyds death change seems to be possible. I appreciate your posting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sharon, I am pleased that I was able to bring things to your notice. I am just sorry that there are these injustices here that still need to be talked about. I also have a dilemma about protesting and the virus. A march has been organised in Melbourne tomorrow. I would love to go, to stand there with others. However, I am concerned about the viral spread, and, as the Fella is older and has a number of co-morbidities, I have decided not to go.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have to agree with the concern with the virus. I have a very compromised husband as well as us both 65 t. It seems the concern with the virus and all we as a world community has done so far could be all for nothing. But maybe it had calmed down enough that we will be ok. Only time will tell. Stay well and positive 🙂

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    1. I am pleased that my words added to your understandings. Posts like these are not easy to write as I feel that I need to think about my words. However, it was necessary to write, and I am glad we are standing together.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for taking the time to sign the petition, Sue. I am sure it didn’t matter where you lived. It is an outrage for all of us across the world, not just Aboriginal Australians.

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  3. I do hope this event will be a change for the better. People are people, no matter what colour they have, what language they speak, what religion they have…..

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Very true words, and thank you. It is our common humanity that made us all suffer the isolation, to support more vulnerable people. Now we are supporting other vulnerable people.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Signed and commented, Anne. First step must be to repeal the law that made it possible for RioTinto to destroy 46,000 years of /our/ heritage. WA is equally to blame. Under this law, First Nations people can’t even APPEAL the decision.

    I wasn’t even born here, yet I recognize the beauty and the value of the First Nations history we’ve inherited. I also recognize that every single one of us owes our standard of living to the dispossession of First Nations people by that monster, Cook. Terra Nullius was and is a lie.

    Yes, let’s move Australia Day. Yes, let’s accept the Statement of the Heart. Yes, let’s give First Nations people a say in how /they/ are treated instead of continuing this pseudo paternalistic sham. And, if I may, let’s also accept the Aboriginal flag to represent all of us. Actually, while we’re at it, let’s change the stupid anthem to ‘We are One’. -breathes hard-

    Sorry, this post struck such a chord… -hugs-

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  5. Anne, I had only a vague idea of the First Nations issues in Australia, thank you for your thoughtful and educational post. Here is SD, we are faced with our own set of race issues, like you, with our Native American population. We still have a long ways to go. I can not understand how people can be so cavalier about their personal “wisdom” when it is so obvious that they are not treating others with respect. May we all take steps to create positive change every day!

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  6. Such a well written post , Anne. Thank you for writing this. I love the quote at the end.

    I am tossing up whether to go to the Sydney protest. May not because of COVID. The threats of the premier and police commissioner are not what’s making me think I won’t go.

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  7. Signed the petition – I found the thought of the destruction of this very ancient very upsetting. Racism is endemic, especially in post-empire countries (UK, USA, Australia, etc) and the oppression of minority groups is usually rooted in financial exploitation, as is the environment.

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  8. Such a wonderful post, Anne. I’m finding so much of what is going on at the moment deeply disturbing, like most of us are. The world has been turned on its head this year, and it seems, we as humans, are being challenged to think and behave in ways we’ve not been challenged for a long time. We can no longer turn and look the other way, and yet we are also limited in how we can react. I am hopeful however, that out of 2020, we will be standing together much stronger as a result of everything we have gone through together.

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  9. Thank you Anne for posting your thoughts. As usual they make me grateful to be in your and our other friends good company. To use Ardys’ words from her comment on my Insta post yesterday I’ve been standing strong but feeling “quite overwhelmed and bewildered” and the Howard Zinn quote you close with resonates with me. I will share it and a link to your post on my FB page. Also, the G.O. and I both signed the petition which I’ll share as well. Take care.

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  10. This is a beautiful post, my friend! it brought both a tear to my eyes and a smile to my face. To me, it seems such a simple concept that we are all humans, we are all equal. Skin colour, race, gender, religion … none of that matters in the grand scheme of life. Such a simple concept, and yet so many cannot seem to understand it. Arrogance and greed may yet bring about the downfall of the human species. I loved the Zinn quote! Be well, my friend!

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