Where do we begin to make change?

During this past week, images of violence have haunted me. Media coverage of the protests throughout the United States of America has pushed me to tears on more than one occasion. The raw emotion, anger, heartbreak and frustration on the faces of people who are begging, pleading and fighting for change grips me. And yet, I feel like a helpless outsider. I have no idea what to do, how to help or what to say. I even second (and third, and fourth) guessed writing this blog post. But to sit back and do nothing, to say nothing will achieve nothing. 

A few nights ago, I watched a documentary special on the 1992 LA Riots. I had watched it before, and yet I watched it again. It shocked me before, and it shocked me again. The 1992 LA Riots were a response to the acquittal of four police officers charged with the horrific beating of African-American man Rodney King. The reason it shocked me isn't because of the destruction, although that is shocking. It isn't because of the violence or the anger. The reason it shocked me is because it is so brutally apparent that in over eighteen years, nothing has changed. 

I am a white Australian woman in my mid thirties. I know that I speak from a position of privilege. I know that I cannot possibly begin to understand the racism, violence and inequity experienced by Aboriginal people in this country, which is devastatingly similar to what is being challenged in the US right now.  But I know that I want it to stop. I want there to be change. 

 

Where do we begin? 

Yesterday I saw footage of a small child at a protest, being sprayed with tear gas and I felt sick to my stomach. My initial reaction is 'why is that child there?' But, upon reflection, I realised that child is there because that parent wants there to be change. I don't know their story, it's not for me to judge. We, as people who care for children, want the best for them. We want them to be safe, to be healthy, to be happy. And we want them to live in a better world. There is a quote that is often used in relation to environmental sustainability, but I feel like it is fitting here also: 

"We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children."

When we think of our world in that way, surely we want to make it a better place for our children. A place where people are people, a place where people are treated with respect regardless of the colour of their skin. 

And, while I'm not suggesting that we need to be protesting with children or exposing them to violence to do that, we do have a responsibility to do better with them and for them. 

It is suggested that our attitudes can be formed early in life, often a result of our experiences and opportunities. And there are two key points here: 

1. Let's ensure that the experiences and opportunities we provide to children are the best that we have to give. Connection is key. Connection to a sense of self. Connection to one another. Connection to their community. Connection to culture. Connection to their earth. 

2. While our attitudes may be formed early in life, they  evolve over time. As adults, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves, to seek to understand the perspectives of others, to gain a deep awareness of that which may not be our own personal experience, but is the experience of human beings. 

 

So, what can we do? 

This is by no means a list of "must-do's", nor is it an exhaustive list. These are some things that  I am doing in an attempt to make change in our world. Is there more that can be done? Absolutely. Are there people more qualified and more well versed in this than I am? Absolutely. But, if just one thing on this list supports just one person to make a move toward change, then that is a positive outcome in my eyes. 

  • Listen. Listen to the people who are sharing their experiences. And really listen. Listen to understand, don't listen to respond. 
  • Ask questions. This may be a challenging one, but if you don't understand - ask. Ask with openness and respect, but ask. 
  • Challenge. When someone makes a racist comment or shows bias, challenge it. This isn't about being confrontational, but about encouraging respect rather than silently "accepting" behaviour that is not acceptable.
  • Connect . Seek to connect with the Aboriginal community and culture within which you live or work. Go beyond paying lip service to the culture and seek to build authentic relationships. We are seeing many early childhood services working in meaningful ways to connect with culture and the benefits are incredible.

As I said, I am no expert. I am just one person seeking to make change. 

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