I found myself having an interesting conversation the other day with a teacher-friend. She’s married to an Aboriginal man, and teaches at a school with lots of Aboriginal kids at it. I’m there too, and we found ourselves with a few minutes to have a chat, and it got me thinking.
We talked about a few things…. And here they are in no real order.
We talked about how her kids will not tell her school that they are Aboriginal, because they don’t want to be trotted out as either ‘success stories’, or have to do all the ‘Welcome to Country’ stuff that schools often ask children to do. This led to me wondering out loud what it must be like – to be a child in a family who is really struggling, who is dealing with mental health issues in the family (a lot of the kids I see have to deal with this), or addiction, or some kind of abuse. These children’s families are often struggling because of the way white Aussie society has treated them – and then we (white Aussie society) expect them to get up at functions and welcome us. To the land we’ve taken from them. I’m still wondering about that.
We talked about when she took a bunch of kids from this school on the train – good kids – and watched commuters hold their bags a bit tighter. She was angry. These kids must have seen this. Does this happen a lot, I wonder? I think it does…. Probably not just to Indigenous people (or Aboriginals, or First Peoples, or whatever you want to call them. The ones I talk to don’t mind…). Probably also to Muslims. How has that happened? In my experience, people live up to the expectation you give them – especially little people.
And we talked about how we hear security guards following Indig kids in shops. Here’s an example of it. Here’s another example. What must this be like? How can we tell these kids to be proud of who they are if this is happening outside school?
Again, I don’t claim to be an expert. I don’t have any answers. Neither did this teacher. But it’s been something I’ve been thinking about. And I’m slowly learning that people read this (Hi, Gen!). So I wanted to raise it. Because if you do read this, maybe the next time you see an Aboriginal kid, smile at them. Maybe we can slowly turn the tide. They won’t hurt you. They might smile back. The kids I see deserve all the smiles they can get, you know.