“There comes a time when silence is betrayal” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I, like many others, have watched the news coming out of the USA following the death of George Floyd and have been incredibly saddened to see such a shocking loss of life. I’ve been even more saddened by the fact that this is not the first time this has happened.
There have been protests around the globe and civil unrest in response to Floyd’s death, but it’s important to remember some of the countless others who have lost their lives because of the colour of their skin.
Last month, 38-year-old Trans man Tony McDade was shot and killed by police in Tallahassee, Florida. He was approached by police over an earlier incident in the day and was shot and killed despite complying with their requests to stop.
In March 2020, Breonna Taylor from Louisville was shot dead by police after they executed a search warrant at her apartment and fired several shots, striking Breonna at least eight times. She was 26-years-old.
In Georgia, on 23 February 2020, 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery went out for a run when he was spotted, pursued, confronted, and eventually shot to death by an ex-policeman and his son in what they claim was a citizen’s arrest action.
On 22 November 2014, citizens in Cleveland reported a youth pointing a gun randomly at people in a recreation centre. While the gun turned out to be a toy replica, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot by a police officer through his car window upon their arrival at the centre, fatally wounding him.
In February 2012, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was confronted by a member of a community watch group in Florida as he walked home from a convenience store and fatally shot in the chest.
These are not rare incidents, but rather they are examples of the aggression, bias, and injustices that People of Colour experience all the time. This daily experience was eloquently expressed by Shola Richards from Los Angeles in a Facebook post where he talked about the measures he needs to take to simply take an afternoon walk as a tall, athletic Black man. Shola’s story is an important one to help us gain a deeper understanding of why this is important and why we all need to take a stand.
However, we also shouldn’t sit back and think this only happens in America. The systemic disadvantages that People of Colour experience happens globally.
I shine a spotlight on my own country of birth regarding the way in which we have treated and continue to treat Indigenous Australians. In 1991, a Royal Commission investigating 99 Aboriginal deaths in custody concluded that while the deaths were not due to police violence, there were “…glaring deficiencies in the standard of care afforded to many of the deceased”. Since that Royal Commission, there have been over 430 Indigenous Australians who have died while in police custody, with no arrests ever being made for any of these deaths. Furthermore, while Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders only make up 3.3% of Australia’s total population, they make up 28% of the countries prison population. They are among the most incarcerated people on the planet.
Rewriting these names and stories is heart-breaking. Not only because as I said before, these tragedies are commonplace, but also because what I am feeling will have no comparison to what Black and People of Colour must be feeling. These last few days have made me examine the concept of allyship. I identify as a White woman but I feel we all have a role to play in supporting the Black community right now. We need to speak up and be outraged that the colour of your skin can dramatically affect how safe you are in the world. Change can only happen when we speak out and stand in global solidarity for the lives of Black people and the fight against institutional racism everywhere.
Allyship also means educating ourselves on how we can best stand-up and support the Black community at this time. This is a link to some useful resources if you want to learn more about what is going on and how you can help. Also, please reach out to me with other resources you may have and we will share them with our community.
This blog started with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr, and it couldn’t be more poignant today. Today we can’t be silent; we must come forward and support the Black community because we all have a right to equality.