Listen: Emma Mullings chats to Katrina Roe
By Clare BruceFriday 12 Jun 2020Hope Mornings
When former Hope 103.2 presenter Emma Mullings and family moved to Miami in 2019, with a passion to bring love and unity to a city of diversity and division, she had no idea how timely it would be. Now, with racial brutality like George Flloyd’s death sparking worldwide outrage, Emma has seen just how much healing is needed. On Hope Mornings, Emma shared her shock over the depth of racism in the USA – and her great optimism for change. Listen ? above or read ? below.
KATRINA ROE: Our good friend Emma Mullings moved to America last year; she’s living through this crazy time with her family, her husband Terrance and her four kids. Emma joins us from Miami in Florida. Hey, Em!
EMMA MULLINGS: Hey, how you going?
KR: How are you going? Are you okay? Is your family okay?
EM: We are. Everyone’s healthy. We are still here in Florida. We are still on a relative lockdown.
KR: Okay. You really picked interesting time to move to the US! Did you imagine that it would ever be like this?
EM: I didn’t. I had no idea what was coming for me Katrina, I definitely had no idea but here we are. And you know what? Honestly, “for such a time as this”. I think God knew, and yep, we’re here at the right time.
KR: In terms of the protests and riots and things like that, are things starting to calm down at all?
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EM: So we are in, I guess, a general lockdown, as in, most things are still closed. We have to wear masks if we go anywhere, but now we have a curfew in place which is separate to a lockdown. The curfew is that we cannot leave the house after 8pm due to riots. You cannot leave your house. You’re arrested if you break the curfew. And people who are on visas don’t want to get arrested!
KR: Wow, that is full-on.
EM: So we’re staying indoors.
KR: What has actually happened in Miami and how’s it affected the family?
EM: Yeah, look, that’s a big question. I follow Australian news in American news. And I did find it quite interesting how Australia has supported and been privy to some of the things that have been happening here. There were actually four incidences in one week. So I know you mentioned George Flloyd. He was one of four in one week here. So there’s been quite a bit going on. And yes, there are resulting riots here.
After living here for a year, I actually have a very different perspective.
“The depth of the racism here has been the most shocking thing for me moving to America… Anything that has to do with customer service – I’ll go and line up, I’ll go and ask the questions – stuff that Terrence in Australia wouldn’t think twice about doing.”
I just want to break it down a little bit. I understand that it would be quite hard for some Australians, not all Australians but some, to kind of understand the rage – the depth of the trauma, of the racism here. But it is so – it’s actually been the most shocking thing for me moving to America. And I guess what was even more shocking was that everyone was a little bit like, “Oh you know, it is what it is”.
Everyone kind of talked about it [racism], saw it, didn’t do anything. For an Australian stepping into it and racism being everywhere and just so ‘normal’, you know, we were not quite used to it. I’m not saying Australia is perfect, but we’re not used to it at the depth that it is here.
I am white Australian, my husband was born in Brisbane but he’s black Australian [of Jamaican ancestry], and we have four kids. In Australia we’ve never been referred to as a ‘mixed race couple’ but here that is our ‘label’.
So, yeah, the racism was definitely a hard pill for me to swallow. I was fully I was aware of it, I just didn’t realise it would affect so much. Just, like, little things. Anything that has to do with customer service – I’ll go and line up, I’ll go and ask the questions, just stuff that Terrence in Australia wouldn’t really think twice about doing.
EM: You know, buying a house…
KR: Are you saying that you get in the line because you’re white and you’ll be treated differently than if Terrence gets in the queue – he’ll be made to wait or he won’t be treated with the same respect? Are you serious?
EM: I am 100 percent serious, and I know, see? You’re shocked! Because in Australia that just wouldn’t fly. But here it’s just so ‘normal’.
And it’s definitely been the most challenging thing about our move. Like, applying for houses, you know – you don’t put your photo on certain things. Like, I’ll put the application in my name. What shocked me even more than the racism was, that people were just like, “it is what it is”, that kind of thing.
But now – we had four incidences in one week – you couldn’t pretend it wasn’t happening anymore.
I heard TD Jakes say this quote this week: he said, “America is like a bad marriage where the only thing that keeps you together is silence”. It’s like, we don’t ‘fight’, but we just don’t talk about it. We just don’t really like each other.
“My husband’s grandmother, her parents were slaves. And even here in Florida in the 1970s, black people still weren’t allowed to swim in the same pool as white people.”
I didn’t really understand America, because I didn’t have a really good understanding of the original slavery, and how long it went on, the depth, the depravity of it, how it took a civil war to end it. And the residue that has been left in the culture of how people see each other. And yet, nobody really has up until now talked about it.
My husband, Terrence was born in Brisbane, but you know, his grandmother, her parents were slaves. And even here in Florida in the 1970s, black people still couldn’t go to the public swimming pool because they weren’t allowed to swim in the same pool as white people. So, it’s pretty fresh. And I think for us here in Australia, we’ve been, you know, a little bit separated from it. I know, Australia obviously has its own issues. But I’m just talking from an American perspective.
KR: Well, that’s really informative for us to understand that. The phrase “Black Lives Matter”, has been a little bit divisive for some people. They they feel, “why is it just black lives matter?” What’s your take on that phrase and what it really means?
EM: I have to be honest with you, Katrina, before I moved to America, I probably would have thought the same thing. In fact, I shouldn’t say that; I did think the same thing. But now, after living here for a year, I have a very different perspective on that as well.
So I explained it to someone like me, the other day. I said, “I have four children. If one of them gets bullied, and has been getting bullied for hundreds of years, hypothetically, I will attend to that child and do whatever it takes to stop them being hurt. My other three kids aren’t being bullied. It’s not that their lives don’t matter. It’s just that I need to focus on my one child that’s being bullied, as it’s an ongoing problem.”
So it’s not saying that “your life doesn’t matter”, it’s saying there is a group of people who are severely oppressed, marginalised; and I’m choosing really nice words – just treated so incredibly differently – it’s hard to even get my head around it. If I hadn’t seen it for myself, I wouldn’t have believed it. And yeah, we need we need to attend to that group of people, and we need to get behind them and support them. And fight for them.
KR: Yep, I heard someone mention – I mean, not comparing people to animals – but someone said, “it’s like, ‘Save the whales’ – doesn’t mean you don’t care about the rest of nature or the rest of the ocean, but it’s recognising that they’re critically endangered and need extra help”.
Through this whole campaign, have there been any positives come out of it? Do you think it could lead to change?
EM: Do you know what, Katrina, I actually do think some positives are going to come out of this. I’m quite hopeful. And I’ve been speaking to a lot of people here about this; black and white. And I think in general, what has held back any change has been the silence. Even if they don’t endorse it, they’re not racist themselves, they’re just silent. So it by default endorses the oppressor.
So I think now that prominent people, and a lot of people, are continuing to talk and make noise, I actually do think that this could be the beginning of lasting change.
I think when enough people unite behind something, lasting change can happen. And they haven’t seen this kind of, I guess, support. So I personally think it could be the beginning of something good.
KR: Well, that’s good to hear. Thank you so much for talking us through it and helping us to understand a little bit better, both what your experience has been, but also the culture that you’re living in.
EM: You’re very welcome.
KR: That’s Emma Mullings, our “Mumma in Miami” living through this extraordinary time in the US.