Racism in Australia – a Lived Experience

As protests circle the globe following the horrific deaths of George Floyd, Tony McDade and Breonna Taylor (the latter two to whom I pay homage because they matter so much, even though it seems to be George’s murder that has raised the global pot to boiling point), I’ve wanted to pass the microphone where I can – so that we can hear voices that matter. I’m about to share a story I saw on Instagram. It was shared by a friend of mine who is educated, intelligent, sophisticated, traffic-stoppingly gorgeous and brown. She is a mother of four mixed-race babies, to whom she gives her heart and soul every day. I am in awe of this woman. 

When she posted her own experience of racism in Australia, a move done with much trepidation as its not usually something she speaks about, I had to reshare it (with permission of course). 

But before I do, I must quote our esteemed PM, Scott Morrison, who said in an interview on Monday that “There’s no need to import things happening in other countries here to Australia.” He was referring to the Black Lives Matter protests. It is a triggering time for many Australians, as we have had more than 400 indigenous deaths in custody since 1991. One of them,” David Dungay, said “I can’t breathe” 12 times while being restrained by prison guards in 2015. He died, and the video of Floyd’s killing has been traumatic for his family. [1]” None of the officers have faced consequences.

I raise it to say this isn’t an overseas problem.

And now, on to Laura’s story – reposted with permission.

Muted posts are easy. Anti-Racism work is not. Do the latter.

“I’m about to talk about racism, and the Black Lives Matter movement. I rarely use this space for anything other than our homeschool journey, but I believe the current situation warrants a conversation. If you’d like to pass over this post, feel free to do so.

I’m brown. I’m equal parts Anglo-Indian, Scottish, Welsh, and Polish, but my skin colour is brown, and when I’m asked what nationality I am, what people mean is “What part of your heritage makes you brown?”, so I just say I’m Anglo-Indian. My husband is white. Our children are bi-racial, two are white, two are olive. Racism is no stranger.

I was born and raised in Australia, and I have dealt with racism since childhood. As a kid, there were slurs, outright hostility, and violence. I remember a kid at my school following me on my way home, hitting at my calves with a garden stake. I remember my concerned Dad teaching me how to defend myself physically when I was seven, knowing I would probably face other similar incidents. I remember punch-ons, and teachers who turned a blind eye when I defended myself, as they knew they couldn’t always be there to intervene. I remember stories from my parents, uncles, aunts, grandparents, of the insane levels of racism they had faced. My grandfather (Scottish) married my grandmother (Indian) and was disowned for it. His own mother refused to help my grandparents care for their starving children, because their kids were mixed race.

As an adult, the racism I have encountered most often is of a more subtle nature; generalisations of my work ethic based on race, on the number of my children I have based on race, of my talents based on race, of intelligence, of hygiene, of parenting… and the occasional bout of outright hostility.

My kids haven’t had many of such experience (yay for homeschool!) but the thought that they might both breaks my heart and kindles my anger. The awareness that there are children who are dealing with this… the awareness that George Floyd was someone’s son and he cried out for his mum, the injustice of it all… it just makes me burn.

How is it that we are still having to defend a belief that people are people?!?! How is it that a Black Lives Matter movement is being diminished by responses of “all lives matter”? Of course they do! But Black Lives Matter is the burning issue, and pointing out that your life matters too does nothing to extinguish those flames! It is not helpful. Posting a black tile doesn’t make you an ally.

Muting yourself doesn’t make you an ally – and frankly, how utterly ridiculous to think that you should be silent because you’re white. Instead, listen, and then use your voice and your privilege to support change. Share posts from black content creators, and from black platforms. Silence around racism has not saved anyone yet, but it sure as hell has enabled it to continue.

Lovely people, if we want to change, then we need to do the work. Ask questions of yourself and of others. Please don’t mute yourself – learn, and listen, and then speak. Being Anti-Racism is not a something that we can achieve, as such; it’s an ongoing journey, learning to challenge racism in ourselves and to grow in love as we do. I hope you’ll grow with me.

xxx.”

Laura Grimmond

@inspired_unschooling 

Thank you beautiful lady for sharing your voice. Thank you for letting me honour it with a reshare. Props also to  LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash for posting some pretty amazing photos including the one featured on this post. Words matter so much when it comes to capturing these infinitely significant cultural moments. Photos do too.

Kit K

 

 

 

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Terry Morgan says:

    In all my correspondence I strive to remove emotion, biases and illogical thinking to get to the truth. That doesn’t mean that that truth will not then spark emotions. But deaths in custody needs a good unemotive look. I did and reprinted below, is what I came up with. When the class “All people” is subject to oppressive or over zealous behaviour, I simply cannot abide the segregation of one sub-class for special hand wringing. Sure there are stand out cases but I don’t know how many black lives were involved in police publicly blowing away a mentally challenged individual on a city freeway.
    I know that prejudice exists in our country, and it should not. But as I am increasingly being discriminated against with the disparaging “boomer” epithet to dismiss my input, when trying to apply clear thinking to the eternally enraged, I am beginning to understand the distress (not mine) of the recipients of discriminatory behaviour.
    Anyway:

    “This is gonna be touchy but it needs an airing, because some in our country are bandwaggoning the Minneapolis catastrophe. Note that I infer no bias in the data or comments I offer here. I will present the best data I can find in the public domain.

    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) incarceration rates in Australia compared to non ATSI rates are disproportionate; considerably so. I care about that. But I do not know why it is a thing and cannot proffer a knowledgeable, non biased reason. (But curing this disparity would logically also go a long long way to curing the subject of this post.)

    Something I can present, which is the emotive object:

    DEATHS IN CUSTODY

    The death of any person in custody is unwelcome, no matter their race, or in what phase of custody, or for what reason that death occurs, from initially being detained to incarceration. As a non believer in capital punishment it is my view that no life should be forfeit for any crime, real or suspected.

    So with all the heat and light at the moment and our local well doers trotting out their slogans I thought I would do a little research. Its fairly raw but its real.

    The Australian Institute of Criminology publishes incarceration rates for the whole of Australia quarterly. The data is broken down by many factors like ABS data, for further study. But the top level data I refer to is the following and is for all of Australia:

    December quarter 2019:

    Males and Females,
    Total incarceration…..43 069
    ATSI incarceration…..12 331 or 28.63%

    Total deaths in custody 1979/80 til AIC report dated 27 APR 2018:

    2 608 of which 500 were ATSI or 19.17%.

    This raw data (but with a high degree of reliability) therefore shows that even though the ATSI incarceration rate (all types) sits at a skewed 28.63%, the death rate in custody for the ATSI population is only (meant statistically not qualitatively) 19.17% of the total deaths in custody.

    There will be variance in this data when studied closely and manipulating for age, pre-existing health, causes of death etc I am sure, but only at the edges. More non indigenous prisoners die in custody, numerically and by population percentage. Not a great quantum difference necessarily, but the focus needs to shift, in my view, to remedying all custodial deaths, (and remedying the disproportionate ATSI incarceration rate will go a long way to doing that.)

    I have no intention here of reducing the value of human lives to a statistical assessment. Rather, I wanted to present some balance into a very heated, emotive and race charged issue.

    Should people be angered at the rate of indigenous deaths in custody? Bloody oath! But let’s get angry about the majority rest too.

    Like

    1. Kit K says:

      Hi Terry! At last! A topic upon which we aren’t in furious agreement!

      I see the frustration you raise, and I had a giggle at the “OK Boomer” meme whilst simultaneously thanking my lucky stars I haven’t been on the recieving end. Oh the passive agreession!

      I think though, on this issue of racism and Black Lives Matter, indigenous deaths in custody (etc), yes, its emotive. Yes, its more complex and nuanced than one can put into a little blog post or facebook post or what not, but I think its a time for listening and understanding, and stepping aside so that the people who have suffered under a very specific form of oppression get their moment.

      As for our criminal justice system – I’m thankful we don’t have the systemic problems we seem to be witnessing in the states. But we have our own. The incongruencies and overrepresentations you mention are issues! Complex ones that won’t be solved by protest rallies. But if these things give voice to an issue that has been bubbling away under the surface for decades, and if all the anger and emotion spills out and raises good points in the process, I’m on board.

      Love your comments as always! Keeps me on my toes!
      Xo

      Like

      1. Terry says:

        Dame Margot was at her very best on her toes.❤

        Liked by 1 person

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