Racism: Why We Care

 by Alphonse Mulumba

It was lunch time on an ordinary Thursday. Famished as he was and tired from a long Launceston-Hobart drive, the 26-year-old African stopped by McDonald’s Bridgewater (a northern Suburb in Hobart) to have his favourite take-away meal: a Big Mac.

For this piece, we’ll call him Tatenda.

Tatenda gently parked his car, and majestically walked through the main entrance before placing his order.

‘Next please!’ the crew member called on Tatenda.

He approached the counter. His accent called for attention from a group of young men behind, in the queue. Clearly he didn’t speak like an ‘Aussie’. They laughed. And laughed even harder when Tatenda looked back covered shame.

Just as he begun degusting his meal, the mob occupied the next table and begun imitating his accent in derision. Tatenda ignored them for some time till he couldn’t hold it any longer. Visibly disturbed, he abandoned his meal. He begun walking out, to loud mockery and racial slurs: ‘’‘Black dog’, ‘Tassie N****’, ‘You all eat people there in Africa, don’t you?’, ‘Get the f*** out of our country, b****’’’.

No one in the fully-packed restaurant said a word. Crew members, people in the queue and those seated, no one uttered a word to the racist mob.

Tatenda thought: ‘Sometimes, silence is consent’. As he wrestled with a million other thoughts and feeling unwanted to his new country, he missed his steps, stumbled against his own foot and fell flat to the ground.

In ebullition, the mob laughed their lungs out and humiliated more the vulnerable quiet man who kept silence all the way through to avoid any physical confrontation. Tatenda learnt that lesson from many other painful racist past experiences.

It’s now been 7 years. Tatenda still relives the scene. He thinks twice before going to any restaurant alone. As confident as he looks, he is still scared and a part of him still thinks he doesn’t belong here. Not even his Australian passport can convince him of that.

Racism hurts. Racism dehumanises. Racism is a slow killer. Racism still exists.

Tatenda, now works for The Salvation Army. He believes there are many others out there, who live in the shadows and continue to suffer and reminisce on racial abuses they were victims of in the bus, at the train station, in shopping malls, in interview rooms, and all over this country.

Tatenda’s work with The Salvation Army uses his experiences to fight for an inclusive and equal society; and support our mission to create a welcoming environment for all.

Many may ask: why does this even matter?

The fight against racism and other forms of injustice is core and centre of the work and belief of salvationists. As a mission, we are called to follow the example of Jesus who held all humans equal and of great value. He died for them, for us all: the Black and the White. Thus, our work should all be about diffusing the love and unity of the gospel, rather than disunity and differences brought by race and skin colour.

Consider these words in I Samuel 16:7: ‘’The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

As an International movement, we know and believe that ‘’Racism is fundamentally incompatible with the Christian conviction that all people are made in the image of God and are equal in value. The Salvation Army believes that the world is enriched by a diversity of cultures and ethnicities. The Salvation Army firmly believes that racism is contrary to God’s intention for humankind.’’[1]  

What’s next?

As Salvationists, Jesus is our model and His unconditional love is to be shared with all humankind, all races. Just like Him, we cannot afford to see injustice and pretend it never happened.

This is our heartbeat and we can do the following:

  1. Educate yourself about other races, cultures and people’s personal experiences
  2. Stand up and speak up for the victim
  3. Ensure your department has inclusive policies
  4. Pray and support people who look different to you

For more information, please do not hesitate to contact us at diversity.inclusion@salvationarmy.org.au

Written by Alphonse Mulumba – Inclusion Engagement Coordinator (WA) in the Diversity & Inclusion Team

[1] https://salvosau.sharepoint.com/Shared%20Documents/Positional%20statement%20-%20Racism.pdf?CT=1591917492691&OR=ItemsView

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