Along with many Australians, I'm pretty annoyed about the BLM protests going ahead in this time of national crisis. While most of us have diligently stayed at home to avoid spreading the virus – including foregoing things that are very important to us, such as attending church or keeping our businesses alive – the tens of thousands of people who joined the protests seem to think that their cause is more worthy and means that they can break the rules.
Given the civic unrest in the US at the moment, many here in Australia think that despite the current COVID restrictions, the time is right to speak out on behalf of black people. And while most of the protestors no doubt have good intentions, the crux of the problem lies in the phrase 'on behalf of''. The BLM movement is, at its heart, patronising. How dare we, with our white privilege, elevate ourselves above black people to the point where we say 'let us help you,' or 'let us fight on your behalf'? Surely, in Australia at least, this smacks of white man's burden whereby we are still trying to control the Indigenous peoples of our nation. In doing so, we cast them as victims and us as rescuers.
Over in the US, there is of course a wide range of black voices and some of them are speaking out against the BLM protests. Healthcare worker and Army reservist Nestride Yumga hit the limelight last week by disagreeing vocally with white protestors, saying 'we don't need you to speak for us' and 'those who say we are oppressed are also those who seek to set limits on us. I am not oppressed, I am free.' Yumga called the protestors hypocrites and identified violence and economic depression as the key problems facing black Americans, rather than racism. Good on her. It's time to treat everyone as equals with their own agency. We need to stop looking down from our white vantage point and seeing racism everywhere. And we need to stop forcing black people into feeling like the victims of it.
Nestride Yumga is not an isolated voice in America. There are others expressing similar views. Well known political activist Candace Owens is also on record disparaging the BLM protests. Like all of us, Owens denounces the despicable way in which Floyd was murdered, but she refuses to accept the narrative that sees 'criminals turned into heroes overnight' to serve the cause. Owens says that the BLM movement has falsely painted Floyd as an upstanding citizen rather than telling the truth: that he was high on drugs when he was arrested and that he lived his entire life as a violent criminal. She refuses to accept that the 'only way to be black' is to agree that these types of people (like Floyd) are amazing and are the best the black community has to offer. Her video has garnered 70 million views. "I've had celebrities and athletes message me from all around the world thanking me-telling me they agree with me, but have to publicly support BLM or risk being labelled as a 'racist' by the mob."
Over in the UK, where there are similar protests occurring, we've heard from campaigner Inaya Folarin Iman, of British-Nigerian descent, whose interests lie in freedom of speech and expression, democracy, liberty and human potential. She surely speaks for many black people when she says 'I do not need a person who happens to be white, to tell me that my life matters. If anything, it's incredibly condescending. I know my life matters because I do not define my self-worth by the validation of white people.'
Here in our own country, there is no doubt that indigenous Australians suffer great disadvantage and we all know the history of why, starting in 1788. And, yes, there are way too many Indigenous Australians in custody and some horrific treatment in these cases. However, similarly to both Yumga and Folarin Iman, the Indigenous peoples of our country do not want to be treated as victims, because this removes their own agency to change the status quo and succeed on their own terms. Nor do they accept that our 'white' view of their lives is accurate.
Back in 2016, when Bill Leak published a racist cartoon highlighting what he saw as neglectful Aboriginal parenting, Senior Research Fellow Chelsea Bond wrote 'As a daughter of an Aboriginal man and the wife of an Aboriginal man, I know that Bill Leak's claim that Aboriginal fathers are neglectful is not representative of Aboriginal family life. Instead, this cartoon is representative of a white man's imagining of Aboriginal men.' I would argue that movements like BLM are largely white people fighting for what they imagine needs to 'be fixed' in Indigenous culture. This perpetuates a shackling of Indigenous Australians to false stereotypes (in a similar way to what Owens described regarding black communities in America) – that this is the best they can be – that are difficult to break away from.
On another protest-related note, my daughter wants to join the police force. I find it upsetting that she sees crowds of citizens shouting 'F the police' and 'a dead cop's a good cop,' when 99.9% of what they do is amazing and essential. Yes, they are essential workers too, but they are receiving very different treatment to healthcare professionals in this current climate of crisis. The healthcare workers in the US even cheered on the BLM protests, with little thought to their essential worker counterparts.
By the way, did you know that LEGO has paused production of its police sets because they are now seen as bad role models? They have also directed their affiliates to remove the sets from all marketing sites. What a slap in the face for police workers everywhere.
I cannot believe how quickly the virtue-signalling folk on Facebook have changed their profile pic from 'stay the F at home' to 'black lives matter.' What will they champion next? Perhaps a dismantling of the Police force, as seems to be happening in New York, or maybe eradication of the entire political system? One thing's for sure, this is about a lot more than just race.
One good thing to come out of this hot mess is that the lockdown is now exposed for the lie that it is. Caution early on, when we didn't know how bad things were going to get, was a good idea, but surely there is no longer any need to obey the ridiculously slow return to normal that the state Premiers are forcing on us and we can get out there and enjoy our freedom again.