Statement on Black Lives Matter
From the Ministry Development Committee
In light of recent events in America and in response to the protests here and elsewhere, The Ministry Development Committee of the Anglican Diocese of Ballarat have prepared this statement to encourage people in our Diocese to reflect on our theme for 2020: to challenge violence, injustice & oppression, and work for peace and reconciliation.
We are distressed by the shocking death of George Floyd in the United States of America. The protests in America and the subsequent protests in many parts of Australia and across the world, demand that we not just stop and reflect, but take action on the systemic inequality that people of colour face the world over, especially in Australia.
On the one hand it is true to say that “all lives matter”. We know this because the story of Genesis tells us that all people are made in the image and likeness of God. The imago Dei (image and likeness of God) means that, in a perfect world, all people are accorded the same dignity and respect irrespective of whether they are female or male, black or white. On the other hand, we do not live in a perfect world and we know that the reality of this is vastly different.
All forms of racism, discrimination and oppression begin with “othering”, that is, making another person the “other”. The German philosopher, Martin Buber, describes two kinds of relationships: the “I”-“It” relationship and the “I”-“Thou” relationship. The former sees the other person as an object or possession; expendable; someone we can use or experience. The latter form of relationship does not see “I” as objectifying the “It”, but rather acknowledges a living relationship of mutuality and respect. This kind of relationship mirrors that of the relationship between God and humankind. When individuals or corporations “other” another human being, they do not allow for a living relationship of mutuality and respect. Thus, “othering” allows us to dehumanise another, as we have seen in the case of George Floyd.
It is insufficient to say that “all lives matter” whilst there are systemic forms of racism and oppression that keep people of colour, who are more often than not caught in a cycle of poverty, excluded from education, adequate health care, housing, and other forms of entitlement. In short, when we agree that people of colour are equal as human beings but are prevented from equal and reasonable access to those things that enable them to live as equal human beings in a flourishing society, it is not possible to say that “all lives matter”. To say that “all lives matter” as a response to “black lives matter” is another form of othering – it is an impenetrable argument designed to undermine the severity of abuses of power and the blatant inequality that exists in our world. To say that “all lives matter” in response to George Floyd’s tragic death is to perpetuate the same rhetoric that allows abuse of power to continue unchecked.
In our own country, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people suffer from poorer health, lower education, are twice as likely to die earlier and from a preventable disease, and are more likely to experience higher rates of incarceration than non-Indigenous peoples.
It is important to remember that throughout the Bible, we are called again and again to care for the most vulnerable in our community: the alien, the widow, the orphan, the oppressed…these are our neighbours who we are called to love as we love ourselves.
The theme for 2020 in the Diocese of Ballarat is to challenge violence, injustice & oppression, and work for peace and reconciliation. We can do this by examining our attitudes towards those who are different from us and by seeking to change our attitudes; by rising above any form of “othering”, whether in thought, speech or deed; and to sincerely love the other, to wish for their good, to see their humanity and dignity and to respect it.
We can use our agency, our voice, to speak up for and challenge those around us when they fail to recognise the dignity of another because they are unable to see beyond the colour of skin.
All lives will matter when we recognise that black lives matter.
Racism and the “othering” of people is sometimes incidental; it is often ‘casual’ and masked as ‘humour’. Where in your community have you noticed casual racism? Who in your community is “othered”? Let’s reflect using the See-Judge-Act model.
See: What is happening?
Who is involved?
Who gains from the situation?
What is the situation doing to people?
Why is it happening?
Why does it continue?
Judge: How do you feel about casual racism? Have you ever behaved or acted like anyone in the situation? If so, what happened? Why? How did you and/or those involved feel? What do you think should be happening? What does your faith say about it?
Act: What can we do to bridge the gap between what is happening (the reality) and what should be happening (the ideal/what our faith says)? What action are we going to take? Who can we involve in our action?
The Ministry Development Committee
Chair: The Rev’d Robyn Shackell
1800 377 842 [1800 DPS VIC].
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