Steve Baldwin, Sale
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
DURING this past week, I have benefitted immensely by reading and hearing many others’ thoughts and words and actions on the subject of race-based vilification.
My eyes have been opened more by the brilliant oratory of US author James Baldwin (I commend the SBS re-run of I Am Not Your Negro, Monday, June 22), as by the written words of our own sports writer Greg Baum in the Sunday Age June 28 – and others in between.
I have been challenged to do more.
We white people are lucky to have been born white, for we have claimed (nearly all) the world as ours.
We have no idea, no understanding at all, of what it is like to be black, or brown, or yellow, or anything in between.
From the moment those fellow Australians of ours walk out their front doors to when they get home, they wait – for some put-down, some sneering or blank look, some sniggering remark.
They wait, holding their breaths that they might be ‘profiled’ in going into or leaving a shop, or in using public transport, or in simply trying to engage, with me, by eye contact and hoping I will return their attempt, and not look away, with disdain.
Baum makes it oh, so clear that racism is out there nearly every day for our sports people, even for our ‘good guys’ like Eddie Betts, let alone our ‘villains (??)’, like Adam Goodes and Nicky Winmar.
Baum knows that the vilification does go on and on and on.
Baldwin has shown me that when I insist that anyone different to me must change to my culture, my way of thinking, my standards (whatever those standards are – and don’t we all really know they are not standard across all white Australians anyway), then “they shouldn’t be here” or “they’ll never be any different”.
He knows that I debase myself – and that by extension – my country debases itself, is causing harm to itself, by not giving recognition to the fact that whether it is by neglect, or by non-involvement, let alone direct hostility, when we remain tight-lipped, when we do not speak out and actually be anti-racist, we run the risk of degenerating into a total spiral of disrespect and distrust.
We have put our political leaders where they are. We must care enough to remove them if they choose not to give us better example of what it takes to make us a truly multicultural country, indeed to be proud to be multicultural.
And all of us must share a willingness to speak up, to act as we can, when we witness acts of vilification or violence, be they verbal or physical.