In regards to the recent (and the not so recent) deaths due to racism and prejudice, regardless of colour and/or any other perceived justified reason for such behaviour to any extent, life threatening or not, I considered my own power to have influence, based on the choices that I make.
Two stories came to mind. Both of which I experienced while in Africa in 2013.
Story One: I had gotten off my bus at the station and was now walking through a marketplace to get to the stop where I would catch my bus home. It was while I was walking through the market in the middle of the day, albeit not very busy, that a guy casually started walking beside me . . . I continued walking with my backpack on my front (because that’s the ‘safest’ place for it) when a group of guys (obviously his) stepped out from a stall and surrounded me.
First it was just the usual jeering, but then it became more threatening in the tone of their voices, their comments, and their reaching for me and my backpack. While everything within me was trembling with fear, I kept my head high, stared them down, and spoke back at them with the same volume that they were using to taunt me.
There was a brief moment of thinking: “I’m in a market with people all around me, and no one is doing anything to help out a woman being taunted by a group of young men.” It was then that I realised, that apart from divine assistance, I was in this alone.
Then I dont know how (other than that divine assistance), but one of the guys in response to something I said, stepped back laughing, and that was my ‘gate of escape’ and I ran for it!
Story two: I was walking along a street, with shop fronts on my left, and fruit and vegetable market vendors lined the curb on my right. A guy started walking along beside me, making loud intimidating comments. I was ignoring him, hoping that if I didnt respond, then he’d give up.
Then came a voice, loud and clear, a real serious ‘you better listen to me’ voice and I turned to see an African Mama behind her stall yelling something, that made him turn and walk away, leaving me alone.
I went and thanked that woman for having the courage to speak up, because without her voice, who knows how that situation may or may not have played out.
And so we all have a choice,
And we make that with our voice.
That woman changed my situation,
Through her verbal declaration.
She chose to stand in authority.
Looking out for me – a minority.
And so I’m reminded to be on the look out?
For when someone else needs a way out!
Racism: prejudice, discrimination or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalised. (www.lexico.com)
And so just as that African woman in her own country was able to influence one of her own to stop his behaviour, so too as an Australian in my own country, I have the same power by way of using my voice, to influence such behaviour towards anyone, minority or not.
I am well aware that as a white Australian I have not experienced racism to the degree that other cultures have. But such experiences (as in the above stories) when I am a minority in another country, have helped me to have a small insight in to how it feels to experience such treatment because of my colour, and also how it feels to be alone in that, and rescued from that.
And so out of that, here’s a piece I wrote a few weeks ago:
Sometimes we look without seeing it.
And sometimes we see without looking for it.
Sometimes we dont like what we see.
And so we turn our head to avert our look.
For we wont see
If we dont look.
Or maybe its a matter of listening & hearing.
Comments & conversations that resonate with slandering.
When we dont agree,
with what we hear.
But we turn away,
with a closed ear.
Listen to hear,
the words that are spoken.
Extend your ear,
to correct thoughts that are broken.
Words from the mouth
Thoughts in the mind.
Thoughts gone south
Humanity bein’ unkind.
Look that you might see.
And when you see
Continue to look . . .
Search every nook.
Be it found within you.
Or seen in another.
Challenge it & change it!
Stand up for each other.
I’m challenged to look within myself.
My mind, my heart, my words and behaviours.
To see is there anything sitting on my inner shelf.
While ignorance is no excuse,
Arrogance is a form of abuse.