Words by Lachlan, 25 QLD
Why was this the spark that lit the bonfire? Was it the fact that this murder was documented on camera? Was this the proof white people needed to believe what Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) have been saying for years?
The murder of unarmed George Floyd on 25 May by Minneapolis police officers sparked a worldwide movement within weeks. Hundreds of thousands of people have marched around the world in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. In Australia, huge rallies have been held to protest against the incarceration rates of our First Nations peoples, as well as the 434 deaths in custody for which no one has ever been held responsible.
Whatever caused it, it has had an electrifying effect. Donations to racial justice organisations and protests have reached unprecedented levels; people have been educating themselves like never before – the Amazon bestseller list is almost completely dominated by books about racial discrimination.
However, it is not the responsibility of BIPOC to continue this movement and to keep educating white people. White people created and continued racism; it is up to us to fix it. As a white person who benefits from white privilege and systems that continue to perpetuate oppression, I want to say that education and donations are not absolution for white guilt. This is hard, ongoing work, and we need to continue to show up with the same energy that we have had over the last couple of weeks.
How can I be a good ally?
First of all, you’re not one of the ‘good ones’ for caring about racial injustice and oppression; you are performing a basic moral duty. It is unfair and exhausting for BIPOC to be constantly explaining racism and prejudice, when Google exists. If you have a question, Google it!
In Australia, we often dance around the complicated racial history of our country. For example, how many of you know that slavery was an accepted and relatively widespread phenomenon here? But engaging with this past, and determining to learn from mistakes and work in partnership with First Nations people, is critically important if we are ever to make progress towards reconciliation.
Beyond taking the time to educate yourself, it’s also an imperative that we listen to BIPOC narratives and perspectives on the problems that most directly affect them. Just because you’re learning about systemic prejudice and racist behaviours doesn’t now make you an authority on them.
Critically, it’s important not to get swept up in self-congratulation. Acknowledging and learning about white supremacy doesn’t do anything to change it.
So, what can I do now?
At the risk of speaking on behalf of Indigenous people, learn from them about what it means to be a good ally now and into the future here, here and here.
Donating to Indigenous organisations is fantastic, don’t stop doing that; but what else?
Don’t be afraid to have hard and awkward conversations with your friends, your family, your partner.
Being an ally means calling out prejudice and bias wherever you see it, whether it’s in the group chat or in the workplace. It means recognising that white people are complicit in, and benefit from, a society that cements whiteness and aids oppression. It means you have a responsibility to help dismantle structures that perpetuate those injustices.
Change your media diet. What Indigenous writers or journalists do you follow on Twitter? What black artists or designers do you follow on Instagram? How diverse are the podcasts that you listen to? Media is often the primary way that we receive our facts, form our opinions and make sense of the world; but who is delivering that media? What perspective is it coming from? It’s hard to change or break our comfort zone, but it is incredibly necessary work.
#BlackLivesMatter isn’t the social justice fad of the month, it is a daily lived reality for Black and Indigenous people everywhere. Keep turning up to protests and marches; keep signing petitions; keep pressuring our governments to do better. Write to your local MP and encourage them to adopt the recommendations from the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
Most importantly, keep showing up.