I have no idea what it feels like to be black.
I am not well informed on the Black Lives Matter movement. Ofcourse, I have heard of it, and I have read about each case of police brutality and black deaths as they hit the media, both in the US and here at home in Australia. I have been disgusted and I had shed tears for those who’s lives have been cut short for no reason other than their skin colour.
I know that Black Lives Matter is about more than the atrocities committed by police officers, but I sit here writing this still emotionally crushed by the imagery of a grown man pleading for his life, telling officers “I can’t breathe” as one kneeled on his neck, and calling for his Mama.
Our police system here in Australia is very different to that in the US, but our indigenous people are dying in custody under horrifyingly similar circumstances. I’m googling and reading and catching up on what has been happening in my country, under my nose, that barely scratches the media’s white privilege bubble. These things are coming to light now, and its past time.
I’m ashamed to say that I have been one of those who stand by and do nothing, while racism continues to destroy lives and families. I am not racist, but I haven’t engaged with the cause. I have done nothing to try and change the status quo, I have taken no action. I sit here wondering what I really can do, but first and foremost, I can learn.
I can educate myself and others. I can sign petitions. I can show my support across social media. I can stand in solidarity.
Most of all, I can LISTEN.
I don’t know what it feels like to be black.
I need to listen to those who do. I need to learn from those with lived experience. I need to believe them. And I need to take the actions they ask of me.
That racism is still so entrenched and so readily accepted and dismissed as ‘normal’ in 2020 is as appalling as it is depressing. We all know that people of colour face a tougher time than those of us with white skin. I know it, and I have never addressed it. Previously, I watched the atrocities unfold on my TV but I didn’t feel responsible. I, as a white, disabled person spend most of my time isolated at home. I am far removed from any kind of community or society. I am alone. I am not responsible. Or so I told myself.
But now the time has come for me to engage. For me to take responsibility. We are one world, and if I stand by and let racism go on around me without doing anything about it, then I am complicit.
Back when I first heard the Black Lives Matter tag several years ago, my immediate response was “Don’t ALL lives matter?”
I didn’t understand. Then I learned. Now I understand.
Yes, of course all lives matter, but the slogan All Lives Matter is ignorant and offensive because it implies that all lives are equal even while dismissing the fact that black lives have NOT been equal. ALL LIVES have not equally at risk, ALL LIVES have not been equally discriminated against, and ALL LIVES have not been equally ended by police violence.
Black lives have been destroyed by racism and violence in far higher proportions than white lives. I know, in a perfect world, there should be no notice of black or white or yellow or pink or purple. But it is NOT a perfect world. Now is a time to try and set things right, and now is a time for the privileged to show their support and solidarity. And stand with Black lives.
I am a disabled person. I have suffered discrimination because of my disability. People judge me as wanting, in multiple ways. I am either too sick to perform a job, or I am too lazy. Because I “don’t look sick” few people believe that I am, in fact, disabled. Most think I am scamming and enjoying a pleasant life on disability, not having to work.
Nothing could be further from the truth. But I can’t convince people of that. There is no diagnosis, or lab result or scan that will convince some of my family members that I am truly disabled.
I know what it feels like to be up against attitudes that you can’t change. I know what it feels like to be judged harshly and unfairly. I know that its like to NOT be given a chance on the basic of preconceived ideas of who I am and what I can or can’t do, based on my disability. I know what it feels like to be demeaned and discriminated against. I know what it feels like to be powerless, completely and utterly powerless, and entirely at someone else’s mercy purely because of the way I look. To be reliant someone else’s kindness, to give me a chance, to accept me as I am without preconceived notions of what ‘disability’ is or what it looks like. I know what it feels like to be at a disadvantage in every situation, because before anyone has even laid eyes on me they already have an opinion on who I am.
I am very rarely given a chance. This is largely why I am always alone. Even those closest to me have not bothered to understand my disease, my disability, my life. They either judged me a liar or abandoned me altogether. I did nothing wrong, except get sick. And then then steadily sicker.
I have no idea what it feels like to be black, but I can take my experience of disability and extrapolate. I have empathy. I have compassion. I have intelligence. I want to contribute to erasing racism from out world.
And I have a voice.
What can you do?
Learn. Educate yourself. Don’t ask someone to teach you, google is your friend.
Show solidarity and spread quality information on social media. Share links to events or fundraisers or petitions.
Sign a petition. Here’s just one:
Attend a protest if you’re able. Remember social distancing, wear a mask, stay safe.
Donate if you are able.