Once the false flag around the Sydney siege disintegrates, we will know two things.One, how quick we were to conjure this as Islamic State or other terrorism. And two, how quick some of us were to reject #illridewithyou as ‘white helping’, as patronising grandstanding by people unprepared to question their own racism.
What was #illridewithyou? A hashtag that grew from this exchange.
Just a short time after that tweet, @sirtessa offered this via Tiwtter: If you reg take the #373 bus b/w Coogee/MartinPl, wear religious attire, & don’t feel safe alone: I’ll ride with you. @ me for schedule. Then this at 4.29pm, just a few hours after the siege began:
“Maybe start a hashtag? What’s in #illridewithyou?” By nightfall, it was the worldwide top trending hashtag, more than 100,000 mentions, around 250 tweets a minute.
But the simple act of generosity had some baffled:
And here was an unusual moment in Australian political history – with hand wringers urging us not to use #illridewithyou because it colonised Muslims, placed white helpers at the centre, and patronised those who didn’t need help.
Now let’s make one thing clear before I proceed: it’s important to collaborate on any assistance. All of us have to listen and be guided about what makes our society the most civil it can be. And hand wringers, don’t turn this into an intellectual debate right now. Save it for later. This was straight from the heart and that’s a good thing.
While some of my best friends are handwringers — second guessing every reaction they have to these issues just in case it’s seen as disenfranchising — it’s actually not good enough to call out privilege when you see it. It’s time to call it in. Make it work for greater decency.
We should never wait for the opportunity to speak out in support of others. Here’s why.
If you wait for permission to speak up, to give support, if you wait for an invitation, you may never get one. It’s not up to anyone to issue that invite to speak for decency, it’s up for all of us to know what’s wrong.
Here are a few of those things in case you’ve lost your own moral compass. It’s wrong to take people hostage. It’s wrong to kill people. It’s wrong to beat anyone, least of all someone small and vulnerable who trusts you. It’s wrong to abuse anyone physically or mentally. And if you see those things happening and you don’t speak out, you are just as bad as the abusers and the murderers.
And no matter what race or religion or gender the person is, you give them your wholehearted support. If they reject that support, so be it – they may think they can win their battles on their own. I personally doubt that. We need to work together, working collaboratively on making social change, not excluding anyone from the process.
Perhaps you are all too busy to recite Martin Niemöller. I’m not.
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
You should never – ever – wait to speak out.
My four grandparents were all murdered by Nazis. Do you think they would have been reluctant to receive support from non-Jews? I don’t think so. Would they have thought that support was ‘patronising’? Doubt it.
They would have been grateful. Then, as we know, very few non-Jews spoke out. If more had spoken out, maybe not so many people would have died.
Do Muslims in Sydney need to be protected? Maybe, maybe not. There are plenty of social media in the last day gratified by the response.
#illridewithyou is an offer and not a demand. Of course a hashtag won’t cure the problem of racism – but it’s not nothing. It’s speaking out. And that’s something.