“Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it.”Frantz Fanon
Prior to starting my postgraduate studies, I began having discussions within my small circle about the challenges we face as Africans in Australia. It is from these conversations that led me to start my course. I was interested in not only furthering my knowledge within the area of human rights but also trying to unfold the different issues that exist within Australian society today for minority groups and in particular African Australians.
Growing up African in Australia comes with various obstacles and challenges everyday. The complexities behind navigating life between two very different cultures, particularly as youth, can be insanely overwhelming. At home, we are eating our traditional food, speaking our mother tongue and our parents are playing music from back home. At school or in the workplace, we are speaking English, eat the same food as the majority, participate in similar hobbies as the majority because it is expected of us to follow Western cultural values and norms in these spaces. It may seem like the best of both worlds, but this is not always the case. We often find ourselves negotiating between the two cultures. At times the values of one culture may clash with the other. This can be very difficult for a lot of us growing up, as we may feel pressure to conform from both ends. Often, failure to assimilate will result in isolation and alienation from others.
The burden of assimilation can have a huge impact on diaspora. How many times a person of colour in Australia is asked “but where are you really from?” Many who were born here and many who have lived here since they were a child. It seems harmless, but when analysing it further you can see the ignorance behind those words. It is as if though, for one to be “really from Australia,” one must be white, and come from an English speaking background, regardless if one was born or raised in this country. We have to ask ourselves which groups are generally being asked this question, and what is it that makes someone “really” Australian? Will our children be asked this same question, and their children? I ask this because, while Australia identifies itself as a multicultural country, there is still a sense of otherness and non acceptance towards people of colour. It is not an issue discussed frequently, yet so many of us feel it everyday.
The human rights system present in the world today is heavily based on one set of beliefs and values. While current human rights argue to be ‘universal’, the validity behind this is left questioned. Universality implies recognition of all people and cultures. Human rights today, however, appeals to Western cultural values and fails to capture the ideals of other cultures in the world. The problem with this is, is that it means marginalised groups at many times do not get the support they require when trying to protect their rights. This really calls for change. For Africans in Australia this could be in the means of implementing new policies and programs within the health and education system that consider colonial history and the effects of colonisation that are present in people of colour today, such as intergenerational trauma. It could also be through introducing new methods within the workplace that promote and encourage real diversity and inclusion, as current methods are not cutting it. We need to see increased positive representation of Africans through various platforms, especially the news. The list goes on.
The African Australian experience and our ongoing challenges are so rarely highlighted in the media, education spaces, work spaces, health and wellbeing spaces. I hope to keep sharing content that looks into the different issues that the diaspora face in Australia, and to engage with others on these issues. We are here, and it is so important for us to be recognised and for our voices to be heard.