I have just come back from “Courageous Conversations about Race: It begins with me!” and I feel the need to start writing about my Racial Autobiography – to begin the humble conversation about race – because if it doesn’t begin, it doesn’t end. One of the most memorable things that I remembered was:
“Australia is the most silent place on Earth [when it comes to racial conversations]!” And this is how Australia maintains the white dominance and stigma.”
And the absurdity is full, given that only a very small percentage of the population in Australia is indigenous, and the majority is from population are of other-than-Australian background. How is that even possible? The US even have a black president in the white house, who is so perfect, that is even scary – there aren’t any sex scandals, no drug allegations for his kids, or even speeding tickets issued. If that is not enough big question for you, then how about starting on a small-scale and ask ourselves a different one: “How much percentages of your life has been affected by race?” My answer is “i” – the mathematical imaginary number, that does not exist, but it is extremely useful in everyday situations to calculate even the precision of the radar. Or in other words: “I would like to think that it is as much as we would like it to imagine”.
So…my racial biography:
The first time I became aware of the concept of race, or more broadly of concept of cultural differences in my case, was when I was a child –and if I have to pick up a specific example –when I was 6 years old in my very first year of school in Konevo near Shumen in Bulgaria. I was the only Bulgarian kid amongst the whole class, the rest of which were Turkish. The only other person, who was also Bulgarian in the classroom, was my lovely and amazing teacher. I don’t know if it was because of that, or because of any other reason that I was also the favourite and most excelling kid amongst the class. The greatest disadvantage, however, was that I didn’t speak Turkish and missed on mingling with other kids during the class breaks. This lasted only one year, after which I left for the medium-sized town of Kresna, located picturesquely in the foot of Pirin Mountain, between the cities of Sandanski and Blagoevgrad. There, although everyone looked the same and spoke the same language – the people around me mostly identified themselves with being Macedonians. In between this physical transition, there was also another significant event – and that was reading one of my very first books “Vinetu” in three volumes (blue, green and red) on the oppression and resilient of native Americans. I learnt about social justice, white oppression in the United States and overall – developed a life-long fascination about Indigenous Americans, to an extend that my first out of three principles in life was never to forget the dignity, the struggle and the beauty of the Indians in America and especially Vinetu; my very first lesson of race, racial discrimination and white supremacy.
Since then I lived in more than 10 different countries and became more familiar with the concept of cultural differences, ethnicity and race, and even wrote a PhD on migration. However, the most recent experience of race is in one of the most isolated major cities on the planet – Perth.
Skipping back to the present, 2014, in the state of Western Australia, in one of the most distant cities from other major ones -Perth, I have had different lesson A wonderful experienced, however shadowed not only by the Immigration Australian office, but by all the three circles of power-relationships (on an individual level, on an organisational level and on state level).
The reason that I need to say all of this, is because there is a real hunger to talk about race. There is very little point in blaming others or the system, if we do not start first by examining ourselves. And where else we can even begin the courageous conversations about race and break the deafening silence if not by talking about ourselves, by our story and by acknowledging the multiple perspectives of our views?
If our views on race are so vastly different, and no one perspective as the same as anybody else’s, then isn’t it logical for us to collectively take a guess on how to end the silence on racism, and take as many guesses as we can? Even if I am wrong about this, I am sure I am right about the following: we cannot change a system, if we do not change its components of behaviours, and most fundamentally- believes – that sustain it.
Simple conversations about race at any level cannot eliminate racism, but they are fundamental in addressing racism. And none of these conversations would be possible, if we did not bring a problem to the table.
I have been both privileged and excluded for being who I am. If anything, it has made me more resilient, that is – has made me to draw on my strengths, on my family, land and history not only in order to survive, but also to create a stronger me – one that can live in acceptance with myself and with others.
My name means ‘forest’ in Latin, and I am wondering what kind of trees is this forest made of – now I realize that it is the strong and very flexible willow that is at heart of it.