This article was written by Nicole Conner on her bog Reflections of a Mugwump.

Nicole Conner

“Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.
 Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.
A long way from home, a long way from home.”

Traditional Negro spiritual, 1870

Signs, artwork, and flowers were placed by people to pay their respects and protest the Monday death of George Floyd at the intersection of 38th St. and Chicago Ave. in Minneapolis on Saturday, May 30, 2020. (Scott Takushi / Pioneer Press)

The distressing footage filmed on a phone camera was watched across the world. We literally saw the life drain from George Floyd. He pled with this murderers, “Please, please, please…I can’t breathe.” He was shown no mercy, no compassion, only sheer dehumanising brutality, and violence. No matter what the outcome of any trial will be, the world clearly saw what happened: first-degree, cold-blooded murder!

I have hesitated to put my thoughts in a blog. To do so with any sense of integrity in place, I need to acknowledge the position of unearned privilege from which I write. I am a white, educated, middle-class, cisgender woman. My very appearance and identity have allowed me to benefit from the dominant side of the power system. Privilege is as real and invisible as the air we breathe. It is simply there, a part of the world, a way of life. It is the invisible knapsack I was given at birth, filled with benefits for my travel through life. It is only if and when I stop, and choose to unpack it, that privilege becomes visible.

This knapsack can render us blind and somewhat removed when it comes to grasping racial injustice. It becomes difficult to truly understand what George Floyd feared and faced. However, we can use our privilege to become an ally and advocate – to stand in solidarity with those affected by toxic power systems built on ideas about race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, ability level, education, or wealth.

Ideas about race have forged an ugly history in places like America and here in Australia. Coming to grips with Australian history since the European invasion has proven difficult. There is a guilt or shame that comes when we are confronted with information of historical injustice. It can produce a ‘corrosive anger’, we turn to denial instead of facing the past. White privilege is very fragile and it is called ‘blind’ for a reason. 

Indigenous people were nearly wiped out because of the conquests of white colonisers. They stood no chance against ‘God’ and guns. Policies that dehumanised anyone who was not white and Christian have played a key role in shaping the attitude of a dominant culture towards anyone considered ‘other’. We may all gasp with horror at what unfolded on our TV screens as we witnessed the murder of yet another black American, but I would argue that we simply saw the brutality of a system that is alive and well not just in America, but right here in Australia. A system that has kept the knee on the neck of people since the looting, plundering, and invasion of this country.

Australia, we are Minneapolis!

Humphrey McQueen was right when he wrote, ‘Racism is the single most important component in Australian nationalism.’ We may hate it, we may ignore it, or we can stop and listen…

Please, Please, Please… it’s time to listen.

Many books and articles have been written on Australia’s racist history. A little research and you will discover that we have an incarceration epidemic of Australia’s First Peoples. Our policymakers are best mates with giant corporations that continue the looting and plundering of country, disregarding the ‘Please’ from its Traditional Custodians …

Please, Please, Please…

We listen when we stop making excuses.
We listen when we consider how we have benefitted from a ‘knee on the neck’ system.
We listen when we shut up long enough to hear the stories of those who have been pushed to the margins and silenced.
We listen when we acknowledge that the content of our invisible knapsack has been bought with blood money.
We listen when we apologise with no ‘buts’ involved.
We listen when we stop using dominant religion and politics to control policies and conversations.
We listen when we start to ask questions and defer to those who hold the answer because of life experience.

Please, Please, Please…

Will anything change this time?

Will we go through another round of outrage, feigned apologies, political bullshit by infantile demagogues, religious feel-good sermons, social media memes so everyone knows about our outrage…and then nothing?

Please, Please, Please…

For the sake of all that George Floyd was and represents, please, please, please, let lasting change come this time.

Please, Please, Please…

Let it come because I changed, 

because YOU changed, 

because WE changed…

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE…“Racism can well be that corrosive evil that will bring down the curtain on Western civilization. Arnold Toynbee has said that some twenty-six civilizations have risen upon the face of the earth. Almost all of them have descended into the junk heaps of destruction. The decline and fall of these civilizations, according to Toynbee, was not caused by external invasions but by internal decay. They failed to respond creatively to the challenges impinging upon them. If Western civilization does not now respond constructively to the challenge to banish racism, some future historian will have to say that a great civilization died because it lacked the soul and commitment to make justice a reality for all men.”— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

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