With images of protests across the US dominating headlines around the world, the outpouring of anger and global solidarity in response to the murder of George Floyd exposes the profound structural racism and injustice that simmers below the surface, not only in the US but in so many countries. In Australia we have our own long and tragic history of Aboriginal deaths in custody built on a foundation of colonisation and dispossession.
For any of us as individuals, or for any organisations who profess to care about justice, the need to speak out in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in this moment of anguish and turmoil is clear. Silence is consent.
Black people are being killed by police in the US, in Australia and in many countries. It has to stop. Structural racism denies millions of people an opportunity to feed their families, to lead dignified lives and indeed to live at all. It has to stop. We know that climate change is already hitting people of colour hardest and it will continue to do so. Placing justice at the heart of efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change is a clear moral imperative.
It might feel to some that it is hard to speak out when police cars are being set on fire and there is looting in the streets of US cities. But the issues are clear. The current turmoil does not muddy the moral waters, indeed it creates even more obligation on people of conscience to be strong allies in this moment and to step up and take responsibility for dismantling structural racism so that we can move beyond anger and fear towards justice and healing.
As the abolitionist Fredrick Douglass famously said, “The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favour freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” (Frederick Douglass – Letter to an abolitionist associate, 1849.)
The Sunrise Project stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in the US and elsewhere, and with the movement for Aboriginal justice in Australia. Words and statements are important but are not enough and we’re committed to offering active support to movements for racial justice, to listening and learning from their leadership, and to doing the hard work it takes to challenge racism in our own organisation and the movements of which we are a part. The struggle for racial justice, economic justice and climate justice are intertwined.
The Sunrise Project team