“To live anywhere in the world today and be against equality because of race or colour is like living in Alaska and being against snow.” -William Faulkner
My name is Kagendo. It means Traveller. My name has meaning; my language affords it this opportunity to have meaning, to be more than just a sound leaving one’s mouth. The Whites have described it in many ways- strange, beautiful, exotic, unknown, difficult to pronounce. I am a black woman. I am educated, but I am not free. As a result I have often wondered how different my journey would be if my skin were the colour of the Whites. Whether I would be ashamed of my history, or whether I would disregard it as several breaches of human rights I had no control over back then and am not interested in addressing presently. But I am not White.
At my age, no one wants to talk about race. We are all walking on eggshells trying to avoid any topic that may result in our individual classifications as extremists or even racists. We live in an age where race, colour and creed are topics for the anti-social, the politically motivated, and the unpopular. But if you strip away my education, my status, my character, all I am is black. All I have is the skin that defines years of struggle. All I have is the history they will associate with my legacy; the odds I will have faced, the barriers I will have crossed, the fight I would have put up to ensure mine is a burial equal to that of my white counterpart. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela- these Blacks struggled. These people put their lives on the line so that those with skin, various shades of brown, would have reason to believe that someday equality would be more than just a spoken promise. But make no mistake- the fight cannot stop with them.
I remember sitting at my desk at a previous job and overhearing a conversation between two co-workers, one who openly admitted to being racist towards Indigenous Australians. She found them to be dirty, inferior beings- notorious for stealing in her case. Yet she is just one of the many misguided Australian’s who due to a faulty education system may be unaware of the atrocities the Stolen Generation had been subject to as a result of their skin colour. So this is the question I must ask, what will it take for white Australian’s to acknowledge the damage they have done to this unsuspecting race? I’m not talking about an apology made before man, as has already been done by a previous administration, I’m talking about calling a spade a spade. Why isn’t the truth in the history textbooks taught to the descendants of the colonialists responsible for the murder and bloodshed of numerous Indigenous Australians?
If I were to answer my own question I would say it is out of shame that the history textbooks are lies agreed upon by the white colonialists with blood on their hands. For decades now they have neglected to shed light on their transgressions, choosing instead to dismiss important facts in history that have led to the demise of Indigenous Australians. Surely this is unacceptable and something no man or woman who believes in basic human rights can ignore. Yet this is exactly what we do. It doesn’t matter that I sat there disgusted by the words that left my co-worker’s mouth, what matters is that I said nothing to change her view. Despite her seniority, I did nothing to defend those who share my colour and all this in the name of courtesy in the workplace.
Who does it serve to be courteous?