At my workplace I attended a two part racism workshop. Just recently I went to the second and final workshop and heard a lot of stories. We talked about racism specifically to Indigenous people of this country and due to my workplace being very multicultural we talked about racism that crossed oceans into other countries.
I heard so many stories of workplace racism, home life racism, racist friends, cousins, uncles and strangers. We all have experienced racism in one form or another and I bet we have all at one time felt like an ‘other’. An ‘other’ being the minority in a group or situation, a time when you felt out of place because of the people
People shared their experiences, the good and the bad and it brought me back to the thought that racism starts with assumptions. Assumptions that because of someone’s appearance you automatically know everything about them.
I have blonde hair and blue eyes. Immediately I’m either German or born and bred Australian, when in fact my heritage includes, Aboriginal, Italian and English. However because of my looks you can assume I’ve had a stock standard upbringing. In some ways I have and in some ways I haven’t.
Thanks to my upbringing I have an understanding of all aspects of my cultural background, my parents enforced the importance of a good education and that because of my genitals, I am not a baby making factory.
Some of the racism I’ve had to deal with has been from friends, the workplace and complete strangers. One thing in particular is defending the fact I’m Aboriginal, that my pale skin and blue eyes only means that in the genetic lottery the English genes won. The fact that I’m close to my community, work for my community and am accepted by my community is not a consideration.
The most recent experience of racism was in my workplace. A photo of me and two others was taken to be used for an internal Indigenous related document. It was presented to the Indigenous network for comment (which I participate on) and the photographer and designer made the comment ‘but can you tell these people are Indigenous’?
There was a complete silence and no one spoke up. I had to look at the ground, if I had looked anyone in the eye I probably would have burst into tears or flung something. Not long before that Andrew Bolt had been taken to caught for his blog posts relating to several influential Indigenous people and in my own workplace my heritage was being questioned at face value.
I didn’t speak up that day, I felt very intimidated by the situation. However now I think I’d be able to address something similar with a cool head.
Have you experienced racism?