What I think about the Black Lives Matter protests sweeping the globe.
Ok. Black Lives Matter. Let’s talk about that.
Now straight up, I’m a rich white guy. That’s a brand that, probably for good reason, doesn’t carry a lot of credibility right now.
But staying silent is a vote for the status quo, so let me just go ahead and lob in my two cents worth anyway.
Now, I wasn’t always a rich white guy.
In fact, it wasn’t all that long ago that I was a poor wog.
Now these days, ‘wog’ isn’t the slur that it used to be. The kids don’t believe me when I tell them it used to be.
But when I grew up, it wasn’t a friendly word. If you were walking along the street and you heard someone yell, “Oi, wog!”, you knew they weren’t about to offer you a lamington.
Me and my woggy brothers and sisters were abused and discriminated against based on the way we looked and where we came from.
And it sucked.
But you know what sucked more?
It was being told how you should feel about what you were experiencing.
“It’s not that bad. Don’t make a big deal about it.”
“Those boys who keep beating you up, they’re just mucking around. It’s not that scary.”
“All those subtle micro-aggressions – the way people look at you, the way the police don’t believe you, the way you get served last – it’s all in your head.”
“You’re making a big deal out of nothing. Pull your head in and stop offending good people.”
Oh man, that used to drive me crazy.
It was one thing to be denied the opportunities that ‘white’ Australians got – the same freedoms, the same access to justice and fairness.
But then to then be denied the right to your own feelings – to your own experience – it was enough to make you crazy.
Especially when it was coming from someone whose ethnic background meant they never had to deal with the kinds of things you were talking about.
Their ethnic background gave them the luxury of being blind to what you were talking about, but they didn’t think they were blind.
They just thought that if they didn’t see it, then it mustn’t be there.
And since they couldn’t see it, they blamed you for feeling angry.
They wanted you to stop being so sensitive. They wanted you to stop saying such divisive things like, “please don’t throw bricks through the windscreen of my Datsun just because I’m a wog.”
‘Stop being divisive. Holden windows matter too.’
And that’s why I haven’t said anything about the Black Lives Matter movement til now.
I’m a rich white dude. There is no way that I can know what it’s like to be an Indigenous person in Australia today. I can’t walk in those shoes.
And so all I can do is listen and try to understand.
And that’s what I feel like my responsibility is now.
It’s to listen, to understand.
When a group of people say that it’s their shared experience – and that’s what’s happening – when a group of people say that the system isn’t working for them, that the system is hurting them, that the system is leaving them with lower life-expectancy and a lower standard of living across the board, then I need to hear that.
I think you can judge the success of a society on its ability to be able to hear those who feel they have been left behind.
It is going to be a hard thing to hear.
The Indigenous experience in Australia has been brutal. I hear that it continues to be brutal.
But I can find the courage and the strength to hear it.
And this – a dialogue based on really listening – this is how healing happens.