So, I’ve been back in Melbourne for 4 months, and no one has tried to touch my hair.
If you’ve read any of my previous posts about Melbourne, you’ll know that this is an astounding fact for a black woman living away from her ancestral and residential home. My first thought when it didn’t happen was:
Huh, I guess some progress has been made.
And it has in a lot of ways. No hair touching. No random comments about my appearance from older, balding white men (although a visiting friend did have this same experience recently, and was also mistaken for Serena Williams one too many times, but you know, we move??), no more head nods from my fellow black people seen on the street. Which really only means one thing:
There are so many of us here now that the necessity for acknowledging each others presence no longer exists.
So yeah, we move, but it’s not all solved and fixed, because it never is.
I still have work colleagues who fist bump me hello like I’m Flava Flav. I keep hearing this collective reference to black people here as “The Africans” which is wild to me because it’s a continent of 54 countries but OK. And to be fair, I’m privileged to have grown up in a place where your individual background is acknowledged and celebrated, whilst also sitting under the guise of Black British, which has become much more of a collective consciousness that expresses itself through the arts and business and beyond, within an ever worsening system of oppression towards anyone who isn’t white and wealthy. But I digress.
It’s different here, for sure. Not better, or worse. Just different. To quote my good (and literal) sis on Twitter:
When I was coming back here, it was only the white people in London who heard about my Australian plans and said;
“Erm, you know it’s really racist there?”
And most times I bit my tongue, but sometimes I reminded them that it was really racist in Britain too, they just had the good fortune not to be affected by it because they were white.
As it turns out, every country behind colonisation (Britain being the true GOAT when it comes to that and let’s NEVER FORGET) has some warped view of themselves as being the eradicator of the racism that they started. But racism hasn’t died, and sometimes, a lot of times, it feels like it never will. Plus now that we’ve f’d up the planet, we might never get a chance to even evolve beyond the archaic idea of ‘You are different to me therefore I’m going to hate you’.
But still, we move???
I’m tired right now, and I can’t even really explain why. But seeing that white woman in the pub the other day in a dashiki did make me uncomfortable. And knowing that that one white work colleague will make eye contact with everyone but me, does make me feel a way. And even though I’ve travelled 10,000 miles from home, I’m still surreptitiously followed around the shops by security guards, who are more often than not, people of colour themselves.
I’m purposefully not using the word microaggressions here because it feels too small at this point. Because what do you call it when hundreds and hundreds of racially-motivated incidents have happened, have piled up to the point where you’re either in a fort or a prison depending on your perspective?
And I know that some reading this will ask:
“What the hell are you still doing there then?”
To which I will refer you back to my sister’s tweet.
And even then let’s be clear, no brand of racism is good, but if you’ve lived with it your whole life, you truly know what the lesser of two evils is. I think I’m just a bit tired by it right now.
But still, we move, innit?