This morning in my attempt to get back into running I did the first day of the couch to 5k program. It didn’t feel great. When I think about where I was this time last year it felt really bad. But then I remembered how I was when I did the first day of C25K the first time. That made me feel better. I might not be able to run 10km at the moment (or probably even 5km) but I am much much better than I was when I started.
Progress is often like this. We expect it to be linear and consistent, but it so rarely is. The important thing with progress is to study the trend, not the individual moments in time.
I see the events in the US and it feels hopeless and insurmountable. How do we find ourselves in this position yet again? How has there not been any progress made?
Then I remember our visit to the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis two years ago. I remember being confronted with just how bad things were. It wasn’t just the slavery, it was the attempted annihilation of a whole cultural identity. This didn’t disappear with the end of the civil war, the oppression and treatment as sub-class citizens persisted to modern times. The sixties were almost like another civil war, with bombings of buses, forced segregation and all sorts of atrocities that were openly accepted, if not enabled, by people in positions of power. All based on a collective societal view of white supremacy.
When I hear that term it conjures up images of neo nazis and people with criminal behaviour. Romper Stomper. Bad people. But I suppose they’re just the most extreme examples. When I think about it more deeply, less personally perhaps, I can see a different perspective. I can see just how much our society is geared toward meeting the needs of white people. How I’ve benefited from that. And I can see that when we prioritise the needs of one group over another, even if its not intentional, we diminish the needs of the other.
My views on racism have matured a lot over recent years. Some of it a result of actively pursuing greater cultural awareness, but some of it because our society has also matured. Last week, my six year old daughter came home from school telling me all about Sorry Day and Reconciliation Week. Years earlier she taught me how to count in the language of the Kaurna people and how to recite the acknowledgement of country. When I was at school, we didn’t talk about the Kaurna people at all. I didn’t know I had friends with parents from the Stolen Generation until I was an adult. I don’t think some of them knew. There was such shame and stigma associated with it that it didn’t even get talked about. That wasn’t so long ago.
We see events like the death of George Floyd and riots in the US, or Rio Tinto bombing a sacred Aboriginal site and it feels like no progress is being made. We judge society by the worst that happens, because just one incident like these is too many. But we need to remember that we are making progress. It might not feel like it at times, but we are. And we need to keep working at it.