I just thought we were the same…
Even from my youngest memories I remember looking to family and never seeing colour but seeing their smiles, their eyes and hearing their laughs.
But when I no longer lived with family, the colour of my skin didn’t stop me from copping the ugly names that came with the racial abuse that happened behind the front door from someone who had the same skin colour as me.
I would learn that regardless of my skin colour, that I was Aboriginal but was taught to be ashamed of my Aboriginality in favour of embracing my skin colour and assimilating to the social expectations of someone with my skin colour.
This is not a quote from the memoirs of a member of the stolen generation, this was my life growing up in the 90s and early 2000s in metropolitan area, Perth.
When I went to apply for my own medicare card at sixteen, I faced the same ugly demeanour from some one with the same skin colour as me who questioned and refused to process my form because I had identified as Aboriginal.
I worked in government services and when community members came in, nobody in the office wanted to serve them because of their skin colour. At first, the community members would judge me because my skin colour was different but once they found out I had the same history running through my veins as their veins, colour didn’t matter anymore.
There are many other moments in my life where colour seemed to be the divide and colour does divide us but not the colours you’re thinking of. Journeying into the employment sector and volunteer opportunities, what I saw was more colour dividing us and that colour is the colour green.
It doesn’t matter what colour your skin is, your hair, your eyes – if you are green, you will divide.
Green like a one hundred dollar note
Green with envy, if other’s have what you do not
When someone is green, we become disconnected from one another and when we disconnect, our survival instincts kick in but for all the wrong reasons.
If one person has a resource that someone green wants, instead of helping each other, we are destroying one another. We destroy one another by throwing shades of colour at each other, by stating that only one colour is our identity, by letting others identify us by a colour, for too long we have been defined by colour.
Everything in modern society is designed to strike us green.
“How come THEY get Abstudy, THEY get more money from Centrelink”
“THEY get all the good identified jobs and opportunities but THEY don’t know what it is to be Aboriginal”
“Why do THEY get more funding than our mob’s organisation?”
“THEY need to get off Centrelink and work like the rest of us”
“THEY’LL pay for this, THEY make me wild true!”.
How can we champion reconciliation or sovereignty in the wider community when our own
communities are self – destructing because of colour?
How can the wider community walk by our side when most of their community only sees colour?
Being in green is not our way and this is how we have all lost our way because it never leads to healing.
In my journey, it has been the moments when I have met others who do not see colour but hear the words of generations past or feel the presence of those who walk in their truth, it is these moments that reconnection has occurred.
If we want to continue being the world’s longest surviving civilisation, we need to learn how to reconnect.
We need to stop letting being in green dictate our life choices, our career decisions and more importantly, the decisions that lead to not lifting our people up when we make it in life in some way.
We seem to be repeating what was once done to us but to our own people: Once in a position of authority start looking down, walking over, dividing and destroying.
Being in green never leads to healing or reconnection yet we are surrounded by decisions and incentives to address what being in green causes to our community, usually developed by those in our community who are sitting in a state of green.
A few years ago now, I sat for an interview and a cousin was on the panel. One of those cousins you run into once in a blue moon or the last time they saw you, you were still a kid.
The cousin walked me out after the interview and just as we were about to go our separate ways she says with a smile on her face…
“You look just like how I remember Aunty! Spitting image, just blonde” and we hugged.
Ever since that day, any shade, any colour that might get thrown at me could no longer hide or dismiss my connection to my nana, my mother, my aunties, to generations past, my connection to current generations and my connection to future generations. For someone who is the first of the younger generations that many have touted “is the stolen generation happening all over again”, to grow up and make their way through modern society, that day was the first of many steps to reclaiming my identity and developing my reconnection.
It is our connection that makes us who we are, not decision, words or statements made by those in a state of green.
The colour of someone’s skin is not an indicator of how strong their connection is but it is a person’s presence and words that will resonate so deeply with a part of yourself that needs the most healing, that feeling is your first step towards reconnection.
By Nita Spedding
Nita can be found on LinkedIn with a full list of the many hats she wears.