10/06/2020 8:44 AM AEST | Updated 10/06/2020 8:52 AM AEST

Julie Bishop On Unrest In The US: ‘People Cannot Accept Injustice’

The former foreign minister weighs in on Black Lives Matter while reflecting on family history of fighting the slave trade.

The former foreign minister on Who Do You Think You Are

Former foreign minister Julie Bishop has been left “shocked” by scenes of police brutality at the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States and said the reason for the unrest is down to racism.  

Bishop added that the US has a great deal of healing to do but must acknowledge what kind of country it is.  

“It (the US) must have an honest conversation about the kind of nation that it is and what it inspires to be,” she told HuffPost Australia. 

Millions have rallied across the US and the world ― protesting not only police brutality against Black Americans in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, but the systemic racism that pervades America’s institutions.  Since the abolishment of slavery, policymakers wrote Black Americans out of the economic system, including blocking them from obtaining mortgages, land and credit.  These policies created an immense wealth gap between Black and white Americans that persists to this day and is one of the reasons many are protesting. 

JASON REDMOND via Getty Images
Washington State Police uses tear gas to disperse a crowd during a demonstration protesting the death of George Floyd, a black man who died May 25 in the custody of Minneapolis Police, turned destructive in Seattle, Washington on May 30, 2020. - Clashes broke out and major cities imposed curfews as America began another night of unrest Saturday with angry demonstrators ignoring warnings from President Donald Trump that his government would stop violent protests over police brutality "cold." (Photo by Jason Redmond / AFP) (Photo by JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images)

“People cannot accept injustice, where the system is designed to deprive them of the same rights as others,” Bishop said.   

“What we’re witnessing in the US at present is racism. And racism in all its forms evokes injustice and creates anger and resentment. 

“We can all seek to better ourselves through education or learning new skills but we can’t change our race. I think it’s something that, individually, we all need to confront to ensure that our personal actions don’t contribute to any form of a racist agenda.”   

Bishop provided her thoughts while talking about an upcoming episode of “Who Do You Think You Are” where she learns her two-times great grandfather was connected to the wars fighting the slave trade.   

Filming in a maritime museum near the English seaside town of Dartmouth in September last year, Julie Bishop was horrified when SBS producers said her paternal relative JB Fry “was on a slave ship” in the 1840s. 

As foreign minister, Bishop introduced legislation to Parliament to tackle forced labour, human trafficking, child labour and other abhorrent practices.

“I was just horrified, ‘he’s part of the slave trade?’ I nearly died,” she said. 

“They clarified he was part of the British Navy who were fighting the slave trade. Relief was an understatement. If I had learned that an ancestor of mine, however remote, was part of the slave trade, that would have been a moment of great shame.” 

Bishop travelled to a maritime museum in the south of England to learn her two-times great grandfather fought in battles to suppress the slave trade in the 1800s.

On the program, Bishop discovered that despite knowing a lot about her family that farmed land in South Australia for five generations, she has distant relatives that shared more values with her than she could have imagined. 

JB Fry was a young man who sailed the world and was involved in dangerous battles to suppress the slave trade in West Africa, as well the Crimean War in the 1850s. Slavery was outlawed in the British Empire in 1833. 

“I felt very proud of his life,” she said aligning Fry’s work with her own efforts with the Walk Free initiative. 

“It was emotional as much of my work as foreign minister was seeking to provide opportunity to the poorest communities worldwide and to reduce the drivers of conflict that have brought so much suffering to the world. 

“With what’s happening in the world now, I can’t help to think my great, great, great grandfather JB Fry would be shocked to learn that so many centuries after his heroic actions, there remains millions of people who are subjected to racism so many years later.” 

Bishop’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? airs at 7.30pm on SBS on June 30th.