If you, like me, are watching what is occurring in America and feeling anxiety build in the pit of your stomach as the growing tension over race spills into the streets, then maybe you’re ready to help shine a spotlight on inequality and racism here at home before more time is lost.
It may be a coincidence that the events in America are occurring during Reconciliation Week here in Australia, but it’s a jarring reminder that we have similar problems with inequality, racism and discrimination that must be addressed.
The stories of racism and prejudice in Australia may not make the mainstream media as frequently as they do in America, but the stories exist. And they are equally as shocking.
Racist lies told in the name of political expedience, fear of ‘the other’ used to whip up sentiment against anyone who looks different, is not ‘like us’, is not ‘the right colour’.
Tampa. Refugees. Manus. Chinese students. Indian students. African gangs. Adam Goodes. There are countless examples of how people of colour in Australia are made to feel like they’re lesser.
Sadly, there have been countless cases of COVID-related racism over the past few months. These are contemporary examples of racism in our own country that perpetuate the fear and the misunderstandings which can give rise to violence and hate speech.
Reflecting on Australia’s past, we can see racism woven into the fabric of who we are as a society.
The genocide that occurred here. In Australia. Of our First Nation’s People.
They were rounded up. Hunted. They were chained up. Kept as slaves. Denigrated. Treated like animals. They had their children stolen from them. Their babies. Torn from them and taken away. Can you imagine what all that does to a person? Can you imagine what that does to all Aboriginal people?
The intergenerational impacts are profound. The violence and the actions of white people toward black people are shameful. And the trauma is enduring.
The ongoing impacts on Aboriginal people are understandable given the injustice, the persecution and the racism.
The rates of incarceration of Aboriginal people are much greater than for non-Aboriginal people. In Tasmania’s youth justice system 30% of those in detention are Aboriginal. In Australia we incarcerate children as young as ten.
Aboriginal people had their lands stolen. They had their language suppressed. They had their identity and culture denied. They had their families torn apart. They were denied recognition as a people. They continue to live with the impact.
It is time to set things right.
Without Treaty, without justice, without reparation we, as a nation, will continue to deny equality to Aboriginal Australians.
The systemic racism in America which contributed to the death of George Floyd has been a catalyst for action across that country that has seen people stand together and stand up against racism.
We need to have the courage and the honesty to acknowledge all is not well here at home.
During Reconciliation Week I encourage you to embrace the theme, In This Together.
We can be a proud and peaceful nation that is inclusive and tolerant and celebrates the diversity of all the people who call Australia home.
We can’t pretend that racism is a problem elsewhere and not here.
The time to make things right is now.