What’s the problem with being ‘not racist’? It is a claim that signifies neutrality: ‘I am not a racist, but neither am I aggressively against racism.’ But there is no neutrality in the racism struggle. The opposite of ‘racist’ isn’t ‘not racist.’ It is ‘antiracist’. ― Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist
It is well past the time to be antiracist.
Yes, Australia is a racist country.
It was built on stolen land, stolen generations, genocide and wars. Indigenous Australian’s were not granted the right to vote until 1962, and not required to compulsorily vote until 1984. And up until the 1967 Referendum, First Nations people were not recognised in the Australian Constitution or counted in the national census. Currently, Indigenous Australians have a life expectancy of around 10 years less than non-Indigenous Australians.
Our First Nations people are just 2% of the population, but 27% of the national prison population, and are amongst the most incarcerated population in the world. Since 1991 there have been at least 432 Aboriginal deaths in custody, but during the process of writing this blog post over the past few days, horrendously a 40-year-old Indigenous man died in custody in Western Australia.
Today, Australia is also one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world. One in four of Australia’s population were born overseas; 46 per cent have at least one parent who was born overseas; and nearly 20 per cent of Australians speak a language other than English at home. And yet:
- One in ten Australians (1.5 million of the nation’s adult population) believe that some races are inferior or superior to others.
- 18 per cent of Australians surveyed said they had experienced discrimination because of skin colour, ethnic origin or religion.
Our current policies regarding asylum seekers are abhorrent. Currently, we have a Tamil asylum seeker family of four (including two young girls born in Australia) in indefinite detention limbo by themselves on Christmas Island, asylum seekers are in offshore detention centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, asylum seekers locked up in hotels in Melbourne and Brisbane, and cut off from social services, and even overseas students are not eligible for COVID19 federal government support and have been told to ‘go home’. And let’s not forget in 2018 the when Attorney General advocated for the rapid visa processing of white South African farmers, and in 2019 the bill supporting the medical evacuation of detainees from Manus and Nauru for treatment Australia was repealed.
Yes, I have white privilege.
I am a colonial white, able-bodied, cis, straight woman who has lived on the land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation for most of my adult life. I do not experience disadvantage because of my skin colour, race, body, or sexual orientation. And I benefit from the systems that centre and advantage whiteness. I recognise that I must use those privileges to dismantle inequity and advance antiracism.
Yes, I will work to educate myself to advance anti-racism.
I was formally educated in an era that told us Australian history started in 1788. Not being taught the truth about the history of this country at school is not an excuse. It is my responsibility to educate myself about the truth of our history and how racism is embedded in our culture and policies today.
Yes, I need to be part of helping to actively dismantle white supremacy.
Right now that looks like:
- Financially support grassroots organisations, starting with a monthly donation Pay The Rent;
- Educating myself about racism and white supremacy through reading articles, books, watching films, documentaries and listening to podcasts;
- Taking classes on cultural insights and acting on learnings;
- Following BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) leaders and participating in amplifying their voices and supporting their work (particularly for self-determination);
- Sharing what I’m learning with my community, calling out/in racism when I see it and staying open to being called out when I’ve missed the mark;
- Actively protesting and campaigning against racial injustice, and voting for equitable policies;
- Using my business and platform for positive social impact through fundraising and education;
- When sourcing services and supplies for my business, actively searching for and buy from, businesses that support social impact in racial, climate and gender equity;
- Where I’m invited to speak at events, ensuring there is an equitable and diverse representation of speakers, and if not, insist that opportunity is passed on someone who meets that criteria;
- When I speak to an audience, I use the platform to acknowledge the stolen country we are occupying, that the land was never ceded and that a treaty is yet to be established;
- Ensuring any images used in my marketing materials represent the true diversity of humanity;
- … And to continuing to being open learning and growing this list.
Yes, there is a very tight intersection between racial injustice and climate injustice.
And we have to work on both at the same time. Already the most disadvantaged people are the ones feeling the effects of climate change. First Nations people across the world are on the frontline protecting their homes and the environment that supports life. To work for climate justice must be to also actively protect the rights of First Nations people to their land. Just last week, mining company Rio Tinto blasted a 46,000-year-old Aboriginal site to expand iron ore mine, during Reconciliation week no less.
Additionally, having to deal with violence and inequity racism also slows down the capacity we have to address the existential climate threat to all life, because racism is an additional burden for black climate scientists and activists.
Yes, I am an imperfect ally who will take missteps and make mistakes.
I will stay curious and open to learning and changing. I am open to being challenged and uncomfortable. I strive to support and amplify Black/Blak, Indigenous, and People of Colour’s (BIPOC) voices and work. Better to show up imperfectly with the intention of learning, than to stay silent and complicit. Courage over comfort.
Yes, this is a lifelong commitment
Beyond the hashtag, beyond the energy of the moment, I recognise that this commitment is for both today and every day, forever. We collectively create culture and policies based on our words, behaviours and votes, needs need conscious tending to for the duration of our lives. We can’t just cram for an antiracism test, check the boxes and walk away. It’s a life-long, embedded way of being, fuelled by values of equity, belonging, resilience, self-determination and common humanity.
Like fighting an addiction, being an antiracist requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination. – Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist
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On the recent murders, and on the systematic racism that continues to fuel ongoing genocide, not only in the US but in Australia and everywhere else. I hear too much “I’m just not sure how to navigate all this” from other white people. Yes it’s upsetting, yes it’s overwhelming, yes it’s uncomfortable to unpack your own privilege and see how you benefit from a racist system. No, it’s not enough to be “not sure” about it all. We’ve had far too long to learn, unpack, understand and act, at the cost of generations of Black & Brown lives. Be sure of that and do something. #blacklivesmatter #acab #justiceforgeorgefloyd
Calls To Action
This is by no means a complete or comprehensive list. I am not an expert. The intent of this list is to amplify not replace the work of activists who are experts and who have been doing this work on the ground for a long time. Here’s are a few things we can do, imperfectly, together, overtime to support them.
Pay The Rent We live, work and play on land that was forcibly taken from Aboriginal people. There has been no Treaty with the First Nations of this land and the effects of colonisation continue to this day. We are far from a Treaty or commitment to justice and restitution for Aboriginal people. Act now in solidarity with Aboriginal people. Commit to pay 1% (or what you can afford) of your income in stolen land rent. Donate alongside us here.
Sisters Inside Inc crowdfunds money for the disproportionally imprisoned, single Aboriginal mothers in Western Australia who make up the majority of those in prison who do not have the capacity to pay fines. Donate here.
Justice For David Dungay Jr In December 2015 David Dungay Jr. was killed in police custody and caught on video screaming “I can’t breathe!” as the guards continued to press on his neck. In September 2019, the NSW Coroner presented his findings on the Inquest and decided that the Corrective Services officers were not responsible for his death, despite the video evidence. Support his family legal action and donate here.
Firesticks Alliance Indigenous Corporation is an Indigenous-led network and aims to re-invigorate the use of cultural burning by facilitating cultural learning pathways to fire and land management. It is an initiative for Indigenous and non- Indigenous people to look after Country, share their experiences and collectively explore ways to achieve their goals. Donate here.
Reconciliation Australia is an independent, not-for-profit organisation, with a vision for a just, equitable and reconciled Australia. Its purpose is to inspire and enable all Australians to contribute to the reconciliation of the nation. Donate here.
Common Ground was created to help Australians see the value of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures by providing access to engaging and authentic content that will help bridge gaps in knowledge. It is designed to build a foundational level of knowledge for all Australians, and be a go-to resource for those wanting to learn more and connect with our First Peoples. Donate here.
Consider also volunteering your time.
Stop Adani destroying indigenous land and culture: In an uncontested decision in the Queensland Supreme Court, Adani achieved its goal of banning Traditional Owners from parts of their ancestral lands. Stand with Traditional Owners in opposing. Click here to sign their petition.
Stop First Nations Deaths in Custody: support GetUp’s work in advocating for the end of indigenous deaths in custody. Sign here.
Change the Record is Australia’s only national Aboriginal led justice coalition of Aboriginal peak bodies and non-Indigenous allies. They work to end the incarceration of, and family violence against, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Sign their petition here, calling on all sides of politics to commit to strong and self-determined Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, by providing:
– Vital Aboriginal-run support services across legal, family violence, disability, family supports, youth and women
– Robust social safety net & income support with fair conditions
– Safe & well maintained public housing
– No offences that target people who are living in poverty
Raise the Age Across Australia, children as young as 10 can be arrested by police, charged with an offence, hauled before a court and locked away in a prison. It’s time for the federal, state and territory governments to do what’s right and change the laws to raise the age, so children aged 10 to 13 years are not sent to prison. Children belong in classrooms and playgrounds, not in handcuffs, courtrooms or prison cells. Sign here.
Commit to The Anti-Racist Small Business Pledge to use your platform to act for change. Pledge here.
At the time of writing, Australians are still facing in-person gathering restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Nevertheless, there have been protests organised for this weekend which you can access here.
While I won’t be participating in these in-person protests, I will follow the live stream and amplify the messages of the day. And when it’s safe to return to in-person protests, I’ll participate.
Rent In My Blood It Runs (2019) documentary: “Ten-year-old Dujuan is a child-healer, a good hunter and speaks three languages. As he shares his wisdom of history and the complex world around him we see his spark and intelligence. Yet Dujuan is ‘failing’ in school and facing increasing scrutiny from welfare and the police.” When you rent this film, 30% of all online screening profits will go towards immediate crisis response in Alice Springs to support Arrernte communities to prepare for and face the health impacts of coronavirus. A further 20% will go directly towards supporting those in the film to stay safe during this uncertain time. Rent here.
Watch Australian Dream to educate yourself about racism in sport and beyond on iView for free.
Watch this adaptation of The Tall Man, a book written by lawyer turned author Chloe Hooper on Australian police brutality on Palm Island.
Ask us anything: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff and students at The University of Sydney answer anonymously submitted questions to confront myths and stereotypes about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
This list includes both Australian and international documentaries: 10 Documentaries To Watch About Race Instead Of Asking A Person Of Colour To Explain Things For You,
Understand White Privilege, Advantage and Supremacy
Watch this documentary by antiracism educator Jane Elliott, a white woman known for her brown/blue-eyed experiment with school children. This documentary shows her work with adults. Watch: How Racist Are You?
Educate yourself about ‘advantage bias‘.
“White privilege is an absence of the consequences of racism. An absence of structural discrimination, an absence of your race being viewed as a problem first and foremost.”
― Reni Eddo-Lodge, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About
“Privilege is not in and of itself bad; what matters is what we do with privilege. I want to live in a world where all women have access to education, and all women can earn PhD’s, if they so desire. Privilege does not have to be negative, but we have to share our resources and take direction about how to use our privilege in ways that empower those who lack it.”
― bell hooks, Homegrown: Engaged Cultural Criticism
“Being privileged doesn’t mean that you are always wrong and people without privilege are always right. It means that there is a good chance you are missing a few very important pieces of the puzzle.”
― Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want to Talk About Race
“White privilege is the unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements benefits and choices bestowed on people solely because they are white. Generally white people who experience such privilege do so without being conscious of it.”
― Peggy McIntosh
Develop New Language
Check out this incredible resource to have vocabulary and language to address racism with your family, children, friends, neighbours, teachers: Speak Up: Responding to Everyday Bigotry
Know The Truth of Australia’s genocide, intergenerational trauma and continued Indigenous incarceration
What an introduction to the #FrontierWars
Understand what intergenerational trauma means for our First Nations people.
Common Ground is a BRILLIANT site full of resources to:
- Learn about kinship systems, The Dreaming, appropriate language, connection to country, massacres, the Stolen Generations, knowledge and sustainability, diverse aboriginal identities, deaths in custody, race relations, Mabo and native title, happiness, Australia Day, 1967 Referendum, Acknowledgement of Country, death and Sorry business, caring for Country, land rights, flags, songlines, self-determination and more.
- Watch documentaries, films, shows and videos of indigenous stories and voices.
Understand the importance and significance of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
Advocate for your workplace to develop a Reconciliation Action Plan.
Take a free online course to understand the kinship systems of indigenous Australians.
Know and acknowledge the land you’re on Explore this interactive map to discover the name of the indigenous land you are on. Click here for the AIATSIS map of Indigenous Australia
*HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for Australians* Brilliant and deep list of Antiracism resources form Australia and beyond by the Victorian Women’s Trust, including places to donate, leaders to follow, podcasts, books, videos, documentaries, films, speeches and articles.
And another Australian-centric list #BlackLivesMatter Solidarity Actions & Education Resources to access and act on.
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Map your social change role
Being antiracist requires all hand on deck throughout entire systems. Find where your best suited to contribute and serve, aligned most with your values, skills and resources. Read this brilliant post, and download the reflection sheet to find your lane.
Your entire world, the money you inherit, everything you have, was built on black bodies. – Rachel Rodgers