I’ve been living in Australia collectively for two years if you count my previous visa stay and I must say it’s been an interesting experience. Surprisingly, I haven’t encountered any blatant acts of racism here given the predominantly white demographic and their history with aboriginals. Racial and economic disparity among race is far less than U.S. It’s a bit refreshing coming from a country where your skin color is seen as a threat and treated as such. Here I’m able to thrive as a Black man bringing the drive, ambition and work ethic fabricated from a system that’s fundamentally built to oppress people of color, so the saying: “work twice as hard to get half as far” has been ingrained in my mind since youth.
I work in the hospitality industry so I have firsthand exposure with Australians and based on my experience I would describe Aussies as friendly, nonchalant, simple and curious. That goes what saying there has been a few awkward exchanges and experiences which I wouldn’t chalk up to being racist but more so culturally oblivious given the lack of exposure to Black Americans. Recalling an awkward conversation between my boss and I from one of my previous jobs when he would greet me using “our slang:”
Him: Yo, Yo, Yo….. BJ Wassup?!
Me: Oh! Hello! How are you?
Him: I’m good bro!…..Man! That guacamole you made the other day was so good.
Me: Awe thanks!
Him: That shit was gangster!
Me: *Stares at him like a deer in headlights uncomfortably cringing on the inside.
That’s just one of the many dialogues.
What has become increasingly bothersome is having to be the spokesman for Black people. I get asked to weigh in on things that pertain to my culture and ethnic background, most often I’ll respond but with a disclaimer that I don’t speak for all Black Americans with the remaining questions chalking it up to a simple “I’m not sure”.
While Australia pride itself on welcoming diversity, a common occurrence taints their ability to fully live up to their reputation and that’s appreciating black culture. If you attend one of the clubs you’ll hear hip hop/rap all through the night with them reciting every lyric even the N-word without any regard. There’s a plethora of hip hop dance clubs, themed nights, even ethnic soul food cafés all in which I’m a bit skeptic about visiting but it’ll probably be an interesting piece to write about the experience. Similar to U.S, Australia profits off black culture but remain oblivious to the history surrounding it.
A recent experience took place New Year’s Eve where me and group of four other black expats took the city to celebrate. The streets were crowded but as we walking some Aussies caught a glance at us and that’s when the domino effect occurred, seemed rehearsed almost, neck turning after one another we instantly clammed up and continued walking. Their facial expressions were priceless, if I could describe the look, I would say it closely resembled seeing a unicorn because that’s what we are here in Australia.
I can count on my fingers how many Black Americans I’ve seen during my stay here so far, it’s so bad I remember almost getting hit by a car running across the street like a springbok antelope to greet a fellow Black American but it turned out they were from London. There are times that I get a bit homesick, besides creature comforts, nothing beats being amongst people who share your values and culture.
Australia may not be a perfect utopia but it comes closer than the U.S in providing a higher level of quality of life for Black Americans. The thought of getting pulled over by a cop worrying about if I’m going to make it home or become hashtag isn’t a concern here, nor being harassed while enjoying basic activities such barbecuing or just simply sitting in the park. I will continue to thrive here changing the narrative and providing insight about Black culture to as many Australians as possible.
Words and Photos: Barrington Scott
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