My blog post about my fear of speaking out and how public gas-lighting of racial experiences can affect young POC
When I was younger, often, I was confronted with racism and ignorance of schoolmates and schoolmate’s parents and then stuck in a conundrum, speak up and risk creating an uncomfortable environment and become an outsider or bite my tongue and have the shame of not standing up for my people, my brothers and sisters and myself.
One example of this was with football. My teenage football team had a cool little Koori crew of 5 Aboriginal players. One of these players, who was much darker than the rest of us, was called “boonga” and “coon”. My fellow teammates treated this like they were his nicknames or that they were terms of endearment. He, like the rest of Koori crew treated this like it was no big deal and that it didn’t bother us, but I know for a fact that it bothered me and probably the others too.
However, we never said anything. I think this was not just to avoid conflict, but to ensure that we didn’t miss out on the camaraderie of being in a team. All the Koori crew saw how Anthony Mundine and Timana Tahu were perceived and talked about after they stood up against racism (this is way before what happened to Adam Goodes). They were called divisive, whingers, buzzkills and were generally hated by the people around me. I didn’t want that for myself.
Thinking about this in retrospect, I realise while my teammates might have thought they were saying “boonga” and “coon” as terms of endearment, I think what they were subtlety saying to me and the rest of the Koori crew is “you may be part of the team, but in our eyes, you are still not of one of us”.
So, I should have spoken up, I was outsider to them either way. But recently, hearing Heritier Lumumba experiences with racism within the Collingwood football club reminded me of the pervasiveness of white supremacy and the reaction to him talking about these experiences demonstrates how forcefully white supremacy will protect itself. When Heritier Lumumba and other high profile POC speak out against racism, it inspires the generation next, however if these experiences keep getting publicly dismissed, it can cause fear in younger POC of condemnation and isolation if they speak out about their own experiences. But then, maybe , that is why its done.
by Nathan Sentance