Dear people of colour,
I am sorry.
I am also a person of colour and I realise that I was racist.
I was racist in my language, in my perceptions, and in my judgement of you.
I want to say it is not my fault, and that I picked up my habits from my parents.
But as an adult, it is time I take responsibility for my part.
I worry that even with this awareness I will still somehow portray racism.
For this, I say, “I am sorry” in advance. I promise I am learning.
When I first saw black people, my mother’s words echoed in my mind, “wow, they all look the same. I can’t tell who is a girl and who is a boy”. I was only 9 at the time and repeated this statement in school. Imagine the look on my classmates’ faces who were black children.
I knew at that moment that what I had said was rude, and racist.
My mother didn’t mean to be racist, she was just exclaiming what she had observed, without thinking of the impact, as so many of us do on a daily basis. Was it racist? Yes, it absolutely was.
When coronavirus began to spread around Australia, my colleagues decided to cancel a dinner trip to an Asian restaurant. We all knew it was because they presumed Asian people are carrying coronavirus.
I should have said something.
I should have pointed out that they are being racists.
I didn’t say anything, and I regret that.
I was even racist towards “my own kind”. Brown people. I judged them on their habits, such as dancing in elaborate ways and using their hands to eat instead of a knife and fork.
I also presumed that most brown people drive taxis, yellow people are great at maths, and black people are dangerous.
When I met people of colour who did not meet my perception, I somewhat praised them. As if they had broken out of a mould they didn’t belong in.
And that is EXACTLY how I was treated as a person of colour and strived so hard to assimilate.
As a brown girl, it is not lost on me the generations of trauma that my parents, grandparents and ancestors faced.
From the time the British colonized India,
to the time my grandparents crossed the partition,
to the time my parents flew across the seas,
and to the time I found my own feet…
My family tree is riddled with the impact of racism.
It is no wonder then, that the people who want to retain their cultural heritage congregate in specific suburbs. Perhaps racism drives them into a corner and a reason that certain suburbs are known for their majority of coloured folks.
And yet, we want to fit into “western” countries. I mean, how dare we?!
Sadly, some of us even developed a hatred for our traditions and lost them along the way. Parents who chose not to teach their children their mother tongue, and children who judged their own kind so much that they could not even see them as equals.
Imagine the hate and the hurt these two simple examples caused and will cause future generations if not corrected.
To those of us who changed the colour of their hair to blonde,
who changed their name to a white name,
because their ethnic name was too hard to pronounce,
and who shed their favourite traditional garments for jeans and a t-shirt…
I see you.
So what can we do?
1. Call out racism – You know what racism is. You feel it in your bones and in your gut. Speak up about it. Tell your friends and your family off when you catch them in the act.
2. Accept people for who they are – Nobody has a choice in where they are born, or what colour they are. Don’t let your prejudice impact an entire race.
3. Educate yourself – We all have a rich history. Most races have a history of oppression. It lives through our generations. Understand the insecurities that people carry about themselves and their upbringing.
Racism is a collective responsibility and it is VERY real.
For those of us who think we are not impacted by racism,
perhaps you are in denial and perhaps the reason is in fact,