Our request for text submissions recalling episodes where readers experienced racial discrimination has so far received no submissions. Of course, I have asked myself why this might be. There are many possible reasons. Perhaps not enough people have seen our post, at least not the people who are ready to share their story.
Last weekend I read an article about Grace Tame, recently voted Australian of the year; she made a speech about how insufficient Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s response to sexual assault claims within his government was. Apparently, the speech reduced those present, including some of the nations most powerful men and women, to silence. But it was something else which she said which caught my attention:
“…Tame pointedly reminded journalists to take care with those stories.
“Listening to survivors is one thing – repeatedly expecting people to relive their trauma on your terms, without our consent, without prior warning, is another,” she said. “It’s sensationalism. It’s commodification of our pain. It’s exploitation. It’s the same abuse.”
Now I’m not proposing to publish stories without consent; on the contrary, and if requested, anonymity will be preserved. But whilst my intention has been to promote understanding, I am white, born and raised in England. I do not deny I am naive of many problems experienced by people from other groups. It cannot be otherwise. Am I then, albeit unawares, contributing to a commodification of pain? Hopefully not. If anyone feels so, then please let me know. But perhaps part of the reason we have no stories to relay is that people are suspicious of being exploited. And that victims of racism don’t want to relive these episodes in their lives. They, understandably, may want to put it behind them and get on with life.
Another reason might be people don’t want to cause trouble. They may appreciate their chances for work and experience they have here and don’t wish to rock the boat.
This subject is immensely complex; there are pitfalls where we might not expect them. That whilst we might be meaning well, we can also be causing more damage. It becomes clear that what is required of everyone is more than just tolerance. Understanding all sides, empathy from all sides, forgiveness and above all, humanity will be required. It might be a big ask, but it must not be impossible.