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The arthoe from Oz: ‘Australia is a racist country. There, I said it.’

25 Jun 2016

When I was a child, my biggest worries were what cereal I was having that morning, or if my pink hairclips matched my yellow socks. This all changed when I was seven and moved to Australia with my mum and brother. I’ve always identified as African so adapting to the cultural and societal norms of Australia was very hard for me.

I immediately felt that I didn’t fit in. I wanted to fit in. I had to fit in. For a long time I struggled with identity and it took me forever to find myself and feel content in my own skin.

Dealing with racism growing up was hard. There were times when I would cry to my mum and ask her why I looked different from the other girls in my school. I would ask why my hair was called “nappy”, why my lips and nose were bigger than my white classmates. Their facial features matched the pretty girls that dominated the movies and TV shows, while mine made me an outcast.

Australia is a racist country. There, I said it. Whilst it seems the majority of people living here seem to sugar-coat this reality, from my experience, Australia is far from welcoming for migrants.

History has shown that each new wave of migrants that has come to Australia (whether from China, Greece, Italy, Vietnam or India) has faced a range of settlement and social inclusion issues – both positive and negative – as they have sought to establish themselves and become part of Australian society.

Although migrating here is one of the best things that happened to me, it is also the worst. This is in part due to the media which discriminates against migrants and refugees to the point where society is brainwashed with insidious misconceptions about non-Australians.

I’ve been told multiple times to “go back to my own country”, after disagreeing with white-Australian’s on particular subjects. It is the reality for many new migrants.

You don’t have to venture far from your front door in Australia to encounter racist attitudes or hear racist remarks and jokes. No-one thinks they’re closed-minded, and no-one considers themselves racist – they just think “this” about “those types” or “that about them ones”.

They never say it explicitly, but the undercurrent is this: if you are Australian you are living in a racist, homogeneous society; a crudely segregated version of South Africa where the black African has no place.

Australia is a country that gives the world such captivating iPhone footage of angry whites berating ethnic groups on trains and buses, in restaurants, cafes and on the streets. The fact that a few minutes of a deadbeat racist mouthing off on a train actually makes the news says, to the thinking viewer, that it isn’t an everyday occurrence. That in this society, it is so abhorred, and so rare, that when it happens it makes the news for days.

Racial profiling is at an all-time high in Australia and the media generates stereotypes surrounding people of colour. There’s this belief that black people or anyone that doesn’t identify as being a ‘white Australian’ are only here to cause trouble and abuse the opportunity they’re given. A perfect example of racial profiling includes a group of “white Australian” boys breaking into people’s houses and causing trouble on the streets, with the media lightly labelling them as “ just a few kids having a laugh”. In contrast, media outlets are quick to paint a different story when a group of African-Australians cause trouble its “deport them back to their country, they don’t deserve the opportunity they’re given. A group of African boys are denied entering an apple store because the staff believes they might steal something. The Video showed a group of African students being asked to leave the Apple store at Highpoint shopping centre in Melbourne. It caused widespread outrage on social media amid claims of blatant racism. The video, clearly shows an Apple staff member telling the Maribyrnong College boys that the store’s security staff were concerned they were going to shoplift.

I and my group of friends decided to create a collective for underprivileged and social outcast Australians. One thing that really inspired us were the art hoe collective, a group that was founded in America by young, queer people of colour. We aim to reach out to artists of colour and include a range of different genders, race, and people with spiritual beliefs. People without and many that don’t have a voice in society. We created the Ethereal being collective for the sole purpose of exposing Australians to queer artists and writers that aren’t given the opportunity to express themselves. The goal of the movement is to give a space for artists to show their work and in the process widen the definition of what counts as art. We range from writers and singers to visual artists and social activists. It’s all art and I would want to showcase that. I think at this moment the Instagram we run is our best bet. It’s easily accessible and it immediately gives artists a platform to showcase their work worldwide and, it could possibly mean opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise get because of the rigidity within the mainstream art world is.

Creating a safe space for young people who aren’t recognised in society is very important for us and it’s definitely something we’re glad we started. I think everyone deserves a chance in life and at present people of colour aren’t given that opportunity in Australia. We aren’t recognized for anything other than violence or racist stereotypes. I’m hoping for a better future for immigrants in Australia. I’m hoping we start getting treated with respect and we’re given the same opportunities as our white mates.

One thing I’m glad about is that young people of colour are starting to take a stand; they’re starting to protest and voice their opinions. It makes me happy to see, whilst we still have a long way to go there’s evidence that an awakening is happening.