Its not just America burning…

How Minneapolis is showing the world that we all need to change.

Protesters out after the curfew in Minneapolis (Photo by Josh Hild on Unsplash)

Fires burn and shops are looted. People are being gassed, shot and beaten in the streets. I think back to my friends who recently returned home to Minneapolis from their gap year. I hope they are safe but I know in my heart that they will do what they can to fight for the rights of others. Human rights above all else.

My brother in law watches the news footage on his smartphone, eyes wide and visibly distressed. He is frustrated that people have to go to such extremes to prove a point to their politicians and leaders.

Others do not have the same response as they watch the scenes on the news and appreciate their current position in the world. They watch, mutter a few words about how sad this all is, then go back to their normal lives.

America. It is always America. The greatest country on Earth. It seems that the world has chosen it’s scapegoat and at a time where we are trying to forget about a global pandemic, the world is choosing to focus more than it possibly would have before. America is crying out and other countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom are looking at themselves in the mirror and choosing to ignore their flaws as long as they seem to be doing better than their big sister. Ignorance is bliss.

Perhaps patriotism is to blame for America’s public image. Sarah, a Texas native now living in New Zealand explained her feelings well; “New Zealand definitely has their issues with racism but there is an attitude of egalitarianism here that makes it easier to fight for just treatment. There is also no weird idea that critiquing the country’s history and laws is somehow unpatriotic”.

There are a lot of people in America who believe that acknowledging the bad parts of their history is unpatriotic and unfair on those who fought to make changes. There are many others who would argue that ignoring the negatives actually minimizes the true sacrifice of those who have gone before. No matter what side of the fence they stand on, however, every American I have ever met agrees on one fact: their beloved homeland is broken.

A woman stands in protest against the death of George Floyd (Photo by David Ramos on Unsplash)

Mark, originally from New Jersey, lives in the United Kingdom and was shocked by how easily the world rallied. He told us “it is incredible how quickly the world made COVID-19 vanish. It also shocked me how people will jump on the bandwagon when it is not their own country. They think America needs to be saved from itself when in reality every Western Country has these issues”. Mark’s observation is a valid one, that many people in the west would love to ignore. Systematic racism is not limited to America. The rest of us are just slightly better at hiding it.

Here is the reality:
Australia — 41% of Aboriginal deaths in police custody occurred in a situation where not all procedures were followed correctly. David Dungay said ‘I can’t breathe’ 12 times before his death.

New Zealand — 66% of all people shot by police in the last decade were Maori or Pacific Islanders. Police also regularly target Pacific Island and Maori communities over more affluent neighbourhoods.

Canada — Eishia Hudson, a 16 year old indigenous girl in Winnipeg was shot dead by police while unarmed after being suspected of robbing a liquor store. There was no large international outcry and many people have never heard her name.

Wake up.

The events in America are shocking but they are also deeply misguided. Racism is not caused by a choice to hate. It is caused by a misunderstanding, a sense of apathy and centuries of systems built up to ensure that people of European descent rise above everyone else in colonized countries.

I asked a young woman from North Carolina about desire to protest. Abigail is Caucasian and from a middle class background. She told me that her state is mostly made up of Republican voters and yet they are seeing people rally in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. “I think it is the responsibility of the people who have power and privilege to fight for those who can’t. Historically change has come when people without these struggles stand with those who are oppressed”.

I’ve spent many years working as an Early Childhood Educator and the ability to love other people is something children learn as they develop. Each time a child shares their toys, plays with a new friend or interacts with someone from a different race or social class they learn how to interact with other people better. These social skills are vital in a child’s development. These interactions also slowly teach children to stand up for people who they see are being treated unfairly. This is vital in their development as good citizens and also in our development as a global society.

If we wish to change, truly change, then we need to learn some skills as adults. Cross-cultural communication, the ability to look at all of history and accept our mistakes, and the ability to accept our own insecurities so we do not thrust them upon others. Alicia, an Early Childhood Educator and Support Worker from Wisconsin who now lives in Western Australia, has some advice for all of us. “Gain knowledge. Research. Be the change you want to see in others. Teach your children about different races. Race relations have always been bad in America but we need to stop and really look around if we want to make changes. Get your head out of your ass”.

The flag of the United States of America (Photo by Arnaud Steckle on Unsplash)

America, I hope that when my grandchildren go to school and learn about the COVID-19 pandemic and the events following they will learn about a time of a peace. A time where the world unified and, although a man died as a martyr, his death led us all to make valuable changes to our lives and attitudes. Changes that allowed us to stop, think and actually put some effort into our inter-racial relations as individuals and as nations.

Australia, New Zealand and everyone else, I hope that we can stop and acknowledge our own scars. I hope that we make enough of an impact that we stop using America as a scapegoat to avoid our own problems.

Black lives matter. . . but they will continue to be unfairly lost until we change our own hearts and minds in a way that will force those in power to change the laws and social ‘rules’ that systematically push people into places of oppression.

The enitre world burns with Minneapolis.

It’s up to us to put out the fires.

Lyn has worked in journalism in several countries in Central Asia and Europe, with a focus on written format and radio. Her focus is politics and LGBT+ rights.