Where are you from?

This piece is a reflection on racism, discrimination and the Australian cultural identity.

Where are you from?
It’s subtext. Four words designed to make me feel like I don’t belong.

Where are you from?
It’s a question that’s enough to make me feel like an outsider. The way I look, my skin colour, the way I look at the world is a giant target on my head. A target for that very question.

Where are you from?
I’m not pale enough to be Australian. I’m not dark enough to be counted as a person of colour.

Where are you from?
I’m too ‘ethnic’ to be Australian. But how can I be called ‘ethnic’ just because I have a different skin colour? Everyone is ‘ethnic’. Everyone has an ethnicity.

Where are you from?
When I say that I’m Australian, I’m given a look. A look of disbelief, skepticism and confusion. ‘How are you Australian? You don’t look like one.’ But really, what does an Australian look like? We’re all migrants. We look like all the different backgrounds we come from.

Over 50% of Australians are first or second generation migrants.

Where are you from?
What you don’t realise is that most Australians are migrants. Unless you have indigenous roots to this soil, at some point in history, someone in your family took their first steps onto Australia’s land, and adopted its values and everything it stands for. So how is it so hard to accept that I am Australian too, just because of the colour of my skin?

Where are you from?
It doesn’t seem to matter to you whether I identify as Australian. It doesn’t seem to matter to you what country I call home. It matters what you think I am- based on how I look. Based on my face.

Where are you from?
We all have backgrounds. We all have a heritage. Maybe I’m prouder of my heritage than some others are of theirs. Maybe my inherent culture is more ingrained in me than it is in many others. That doesn’t make me any less of an Australian than you.

Multiculturalism in Australia should be celebrated.

Where are you from?
‘For those who’ve come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share. With courage let us all combine.’ We sing this as proud Australians on each and every occasion where it is possible. We sing this rightfully as if it is more than just a song, as if it is more than just our national anthem. We sing it as if it is an oath, a promise. So why are we not courageous enough to truly combine? Combine in a way that no one will feel like an outsider.

Where are you from?
I am an Australian. I am no less of an Australian than you are.

Where are you from?
I am more than my face. I am more than my skin colour. I am Australian, no matter what you say, no matter what you believe.

Where are you really from?

I hope that one day you will see 
      just how sad being different can be.
         I wonder, will there ever be a place for me?
(written by Michelle Hetherington, Indigenous Australian poet)


One thought on “Where are you from?

  1. Zuiena says:

    When I first came to Australia 23 years ago we had to do a foundation course – a pre condition of entry to Melbourne Uni. The very first class for the entire group of some 150 international
    students was a “well-being” class which was part of our philosophy course. I remember that class and content of that class as if it was just yesterday, and I am thankful and grateful
    for that class as it had a profound impact on me, and set me up for coping with life in a foreign land then and today.

    It taught me that Australian culture is an egalitarian culture and communities are a melting pot of many different backgrounds and ethnicities, that every one is equal here and every opinion is heeded equally, respectfully.

    To date I have not felt “racism” from any Australian ( what we call the “shada” pepole- how intrinsically racist is that though!), however copper a lot of racism from within my own community or lets say from the people that forms our Indian continent, or a from community that has closed off its doors to anyone who is NOT from their country, differently shaped eyes or different shades of colours.

    I have never felt uncomfortable when anyone has asked me “where are you from?”, for I never detected anything but genuine interest, curiosity from the person who asked the question. It has never stopped me from asking anyone I have come across “where are you from?”, yes even the “shadas” because 90% of the times the
    answer was “here, but my parents are Dutch and German”, or “ I am from Norway ( for example)” in fact most of the “shadas/their shada
    dads/ grandparents were naturalised to
    become Australian.

    In my opinion like women empowerment, racism is a very broad subject, needing much broader discussions with and open mind as they have thousands of branches and schools
    of thoughts.

    Like

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