IF YOU promote black screens on social media or show solidarity for murdered African-American man George Floyd, then truly understand and believe it, Ballarat's Ronnie Singh says.
The Indian-Australian man said scrolling through his social media this week hit a raw nerve, having been the target of an abusive racial slur as a black man in a pub. Mr Singh said it was easy to follow a movement but this was a chance for all people to raise awareness and make a difference, starting here in Ballarat.
Race as a global issue has come to the fore this week with the death of George Floyd in the United States after he was pinned to the ground, by a knee on his neck, for almost nine minutes in police custody.
This has sparked protests across the world, including a peaceful, silent protest set for Camp Street on Saturday in a bid to stamp out systemic racism.
Ballarat community leaders from different cultural backgrounds agree the Black Lives Matter movement offers an important time to reflect on our values.
Without even considering that just because someone is a different colour, we need to think is it really ever okay to say that?Ronnie Singh
Mr Singh said the response to his call on social media had been overwhelmingly supportive but it was important everyone work together to call out poor behaviour. He said the person who verbally abused him was an educated and respected person in society.
"Without even considering that just because someone is a different colour, we need to think is it really ever okay to say that? This has been going on for generations," Mr Singh said. "It's all about giving as well once you're in the routine of looking after each other. Something happened to me and I try to move on."
Mr Singh's father is a police officer in India. The family moved home a lot in India - a country of many cultures. He said sharing cultures was key to respect and the kind of Ballarat he hoped his two young children of mixed race experience.
'We all bleed red' in call for humanity
Outspoken Gunditjmara senior elder Ted Lovett has long championed for equality in Australia from the football field, to Aboriginal health and in the broader Ballarat region.
Uncle Ted said racism was entrenched in Australian culture, including the treatment of generations of migrants, but you only had to look around the world for many examples of groups of people who felt superior.
Mr Lovett proudly marched years ago in Melbourne for steps towards Reconciliation. He said the movement right now kept that discussion going.
"My favourite saying is we all bleed red," Mr Lovett said. "People need to stop and think we're all one people."
This is a sentiment echoed by Anglican priest Father Constantine Osuchukwu, who hails from Nigeria. Father Constantine said there was only one race and we had to look after each other.
While he had not personally experienced overt racism in Ballarat, Father Constantine knows others who had. He said as long as there was "othering" of people - marking people as other in race, gender or sexuality - there were issues.
We may not have equality in ability or wealth but we all should have equality in dignity.Father Constantine Osuchukwu
":I was very distressed at the state of George Floyd in the videos, not only because he is a black person but because he is a human being. From my Christian perspective, every human life matters...it is what motivates me to care for the homeless and refugees," Father Constantine said. "We may not have equality in ability or wealth but we all should have equality in dignity.
"...Racism, or any other 'ism', means we have forgotten we belong to each other. Until and unless we see each other as brothers as sisters, there will never be peace."
Neil Para, the man named one of Australia's best neighbours, said in his experience racism tended to arise from a fear in not knowing or understanding and a prejudice.
A Sri Lankan of Tamil heritage who fled to Australia, Mr Para said he worked hard to give back to the Ballarat community and found strong support in return. The proud State Emergency Service volunteer said there were times people he did not know would call out a friendly hello.
But he was conscious if he travelled to other communities or cities where people might not know other Sri Lankans the reception could be different.
Mr Para's advice to all migrants was to get involved and give back to the community.
For Mr Singh, this community support mattered.
Mr Singh had uncertainties about speaking out amid the Black Lives Matter movement. His intentions were not to inflame or provoke racism.
Rather than avoid saying anything, or feeling negative and sorry for himself, Mr Singh said he chose this time to call out the incident and show he was strong enough to move on.
He hoped people were aware what they said and did mattered. For those who chose to share black screen on social media, or to join silent protests, Mr Singh said it was a powerful show of support if made with understanding for those who have felt discrimination.
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