By Emmanuela Roi | ABC News
As the Black Lives Matter movement gains momentum, people have come together and the crowds have grown louder, carrying the voices of new allies. But some of us are rendered voiceless by this “opportunity” to finally speak. Sometimes silence feels like the only semblance of control we have.
The issues unleashed by the Black Lives Matter movement have left some of us fight battles within ourselves, to make sense of who we are in the places we live.
I am a South Sudanese woman in Australia. For others like me, this movement requires an examination of what it means to exist as a black person outside Africa, in a country founded on the erasure of black people. Australia remembers history only when it’s convenient.
The Black Lives Matter movement has also meant seeing how our shared histories, and daily realities, match with the experiences of African Americans.
A shared history with African-Americans
My black experience is an uncontested matter of fact and the shadow of racism, fear and anger that hovers over my life has become as normal as the sky is blue, or the colour of the skin I must wear every day.
This truth is not just African American, Aboriginal or Sudanese: it is universally black.
Yet while we must not view this as an imported American problem, we must also accept that there is no “Australian” way of dealing with it.
Australians must first acknowledge the recent damage done to black populations in this country: the bodies of more than 400 Indigenous people who have died in custody, of overlooked injuries of South Sudanese youth at the hands of police, of disproportionate remand rates and incidences of minors in solitary confinement, of the damage done to black populations in the past, of the present, and (if we don’t speak up) of the damage done to black communities in the future.
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Australia must acknowledge the incremental breaking of the black spirit in the justice system, in schools, in the workplace, in hospitals, on television screens and in the most intimate places of our own minds.
Facing the voice inside of me
Black Lives Matter has compelled me to finally face the voice inside me, the one that says “refugees can’t complain”.
The voice that says “guests take what they are given”, and the voice that tells me to accept the treatment I get because the of the colour of my skin.
It’s the same voice that tells me perhaps I’m not trying hard enough, not educated enough, not successful enough or that there’s something about the manners and choices of black people like me that make us among the most over-represented, after Indigenous Australians, in the prison system.
But it’s hard to know how to change some of the daily realities facing those in my community: like how being too poor to meet bail conditions eventually leads to life in prison or that committing an offence while black, and without a citizenship certificate, warrants a life in offshore detention. That being black anywhere seems to be the crime before the conviction.
Is it any wonder that the colour of our skin feels like being condemned to suffer?
Echoes of an invisible catastrophe
The reverberations of this invisible catastrophe have never stopped echoing in the background. For generations muted rage has been burning our insides.
But now, while the world is making noise, is the time for it to matter.
Black lives must matter.
We need to acknowledge the incremental injury sustained by black people in the justice system, in schools, in the workplace, in hospitals, on television screens and even in the most intimate places inside our own minds.
Even as part of me wants to mind my own business and enter into what has felt like much-needed emotional hibernation, I choose to wake up.
Whether I choose to act on it or not, I am innately connected to the plight of George Floyd in America and every single black person killed, injured or silenced for being black anywhere else.
This grief has entered my psyche and I struggle to find the energy to articulate it. This grief is not performative nor vicarious — it is inherent.
Our experiences, our voices, even if just for a moment, have been lifted from the sidelines and placed firmly in the centre.
Concern for black lives is an opportunity to re-evaluate our silence, to listen to black communities when they speak, to question assumptions, attitudes and responses to black voices, black issues and black people.
It is an opportunity to support the grassroots when they advocate for our request for decision-making platforms; create accessible, independent mechanisms of systemic accountability; centre our humanity and dignity in all of our dialogue and for all this to be integrated into how we are treated.
This is not a publicity stunt, a trend “imported” from the US. It is an urgent matter of life and death and the shadow of racism retains its place whether I choose to repost or hashtag, jump on or off the bandwagon, resist or submit, survive or thrive, live or die.
We cannot insulate ourselves in our own suffering. Ignoring suffering, no matter how it slows the poison — still, eventually, kills.Posted 3 JulJuly 2020, updated 4ddays ago
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