Identity is not a skin colour
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 126 No 4, 28 May 2021, page no.23
Like many other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people, I have been faced with the comment: “But you’re not black?” when in conversation about my identity as an Aboriginal person.
I would like to say that these comments have not been made within professional settings, but they have. It is important to remember that identity is a belief not a skin colour. It is not for others to make commentary on when they feel the need to.
People’s identity is a deep belief in who they are and what they stand for as a person. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people, it is a connection to culture, to land, to sea, to air and a strong connection to one’s spiritual being.
Identity is not something that you wake up one morning connecting with and believing. Identity is a lifetime of belief and connection through relationships with not only yourself, but with family and others connected to your culture. Lifelong understanding that can at times be difficult due to the Stolen Generation history bubbling under the surface of the modern history of Australia.
It is no one’s place to make comments on another’s identity. As a profession, we strive for complete understanding and inclusion of the students we educate. As professionals, it is also to our benefit to understand and include those that we work alongside.
Better understanding leads to better outcomes, no matter what the context in life. If you need a better understanding of what identity means to someone; sit and listen to their story and don’t be afraid to ask a question to find out more. But always be respectful of them and the fact they may not be willing to share more than they already have.