When you live in a country like Australia, it isn’t difficult to stand out at social gatherings when you’re the only black person there. I’ve made it a habit to sweep my surroundings with my gaze and search for other people of colour at events before checking my phone to see if my friend is on her way. Seeing another person of colour gives me a sense of solidarity. There is almost a certain bond that keeps us together, and we share the same understanding of our place in society. A small nod, or a quick glance is all it takes to create a link and a feeling of unity between us.
Why do I still feel this way? Australia has always been my home. I’ve lived here for most of my life, yet I always feel comforted when I see another person who looks like me. I have a Chinese-Malaysian mother and a Ugandan father, I’m two parts of two continents, but since most people can’t guess that. I’m a black woman to them.
When I see another woman of colour at an event, in my head I’m screaming, “Yaaaaaas girl! Keep doing you, you’re killing it!” even though she’s just helping herself to more chips or nodding to someone else at the party. I’m hollering because I know her experience, we share something in common, and I feel a little more comforted knowing I’m not on my own. We share the trails of being marginalised in a society rooted in the systematic oppression of our people through the domination of white power. We both live in a “white world” where it’s easy to be overlooked because of your appearance and ethnic sounding name, and it takes a certain amount of strength to fight against a system that doesn’t cater for you.
I live in Melbourne, a huge melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities where it’s easy to find your niche. Despite this, I will never stop looking over my shoulder to see if there’s anyone “like me” at an occasion, and I hope that one day I won’t have to activate my default search.
At the next event I attend, I hope more of us will reach out to each other and make connections with a diverse range of people to make it easier to forge better relationships within our communities. Through tolerance and understanding, we could move forward to a more diverse future, in which we are united through our differences, and willing to learn more about our fellow citizens.
This article was first published on 29 December 2016