An Open Letter from Aron Baynes
They say ignorance is bliss. I say bullshit. Ignorance is an excuse and a crutch my friends, and it is what will drag this world under if we’re not careful.
Trust me, I know what I’m talking about.
I grew up ignorant. I grew up uneducated. I grew up as part of the problem - part of the white majority in a small Australian town.
Don’t mistake me. I didn’t dislike any certain individual because of their race or culture. But I didn’t support them either, which was just as bad. I was a silent bystander. I did not have the knowledge or the will to stand up for those who were oppressed or marginalized.
I do not understand firsthand how a lifetime or generations of being oppressed feels. What I do know is it breaks my heart that people would judge my children, or any other child based purely on the colour of their skin. I now understand some of the fear, the anger, the helplessness and the resilience that is the fight for equality. As a father I care more about my children and their happiness than life itself. So Instead of just bottling it up and working towards a goal in my silent way as I have for most of my life. I want to let it out, breathe life into my beliefs through my words and speak on this issue.
It was around the age of 16 that I was old enough to understand that racism came in all shapes and sizes. It could be loud and proud, but worse yet it could run as silent as the cool waters of a river quietly swallowing people up.
No matter what form it took or how clearly it presented itself, I realized the problem was systemic throughout society, and ignorance was not only part of the problem but also an excuse.
As I’ve grown older and I’ve earned great opportunity in life, I’ve worked to educate myself and become a better citizen to all people of the world.
As a father and as a man, I now know that I have a voice to be heard when I see injustice and I will not stand for it. Ignorance is not a crutch.
I’m usually a private person. Most people don’t know that my wife is black, and we have mixed race children. I am grateful for them as they have taught me as much about myself as I have taught them about the world.
I am instilling in them a love for people from all backgrounds and ethnicities. And when they are old enough to understand, it is my duty to educate them on the injustices and inequalities of the world.
Remember what I said about ignorance? Education starts at home and it can’t begin early enough. Our children must learn through words and action not to pass judgement on people based on their colour or background. Judge a man or woman on their character - integrity is afforded to all cultures but not everyone chooses to take it up.
As my four year old son told me yesterday, “Dad, I don’t always like you sometimes, but I love you forever in my heart.” People can change for the greater good, just as their dad has and continues to do.
There are many people much smarter, more poetic and more impactful than me who are speaking up. I appreciate the time you’ve given me to listen to my words in hopes that my lessons can be passed onto others to learn at an even younger age to push ignorance to the side and grab education by the horns.
The pursuit for equality is a global issue, a fight for our human race, our country, our community, our colleagues, our friends. I will do all I can within my own sphere of influence to make sure love, acceptance and understanding are paramount and that ignorance has no place. My family - my wife and my children - they are my world and I will not let the ignorant drag us under.