4 Sept – Racism

Why do you think it is so difficult for people to talk about race?

The discussion of race is something that is taboo. Unless you’re talking about your own race, and I still don’t quite understand that. For example, if I make a comment about a person of race, regardless of whether it’s positive or negative, I’m labelled as a racist. But if an African-American is talking about other African-Americans, that’s completely acceptable. Why!?

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Daily Prompt: West End Girls

Every city and town contains people of different classes: rich, poor, and somewhere in between. What’s it like where you live? If it’s difficult for you to discern and describe the different types of classes in your locale, describe what it was like where you grew up — was it swimming pools and movie stars, industrial and working class, somewhere in between or something completely different?

I live in the Western Suburbs. Generally speaking, the West is usually where different ethnicities migrate to. Lots of low-socioeconomic status; high unemployment; regular social disturbances with authority because it’s a breeding ground for all types of violence, bashings, stabbings, robberies etc. Some of the people there are nice, but at the same time, far too many tend to depict a generalisation / stereotype of those who live in the west, which makes it unappealing to the rest of society.

Prior to living here, I used to live just south of the city, it was still considered inner-city because it was so close, but where we were was in a really interesting part of town, so we had a vast mix of different people, ranging from homeless people all the way up to the upper-class. But because housing is so dense now, even just one apartment building can have quite a broad range of people living within it.

Moving to the west, for me, was a bit of a shock. As somebody who has only ever lived south of the city, and primarily in one particular area, moving out to an area where I’d never even ventured before, let alone even remotely considered living, was quite the struggle. All the things I was used to about being south side, was gone. Everything was literally on my doorstep, or was, at most, a 15 minute walk away, and that’s only if the trams were delayed or not running. Now, I find that that I have to get a bus, a train and a tram just to get to work. That in itself can be quite frustrating and exhausting, because if one of the train lines goes down, we get no trains at all and everybody ends up stranded, or scrambling to try and get on the one bus that goes into the city.

That’s the one thing I miss the most about living south-side – the transport. If I missed a tram, it was maybe 5 mins before the next one. Now, if I miss a bus, I can be waiting up to 40mins before the next bus, so I try not to miss the bus if I can help it.

Even catching the bus is an experience in itself. It’s a great representation of the different walks of life out that way. There’s the obligatory crazy person on their way to Centrelink to sort out their welfare payments; there’s all the Asian students from the university accommodation down the road from where I live; there’s the Indian people in their suits heading off to work; there’s the old people with their walkers and market trolleys blocking the aisles; there’s usually some kind of African / Somali / Senegalese woman pushing around some babies in a stroller… it’s a really interesting area. I think for me the biggest culture shock was seeing so many black Africans (truth be told, I’m not sure which nationality they are, whether they are from Somalia, Senegal etc, so I just refer to them as African). But even amongst just that particular group of people, there’s such a variety. I see the older ladies all dressed up in their finery like they’re going to church; I’ve seen the younger girls poppin’ gum doing all kinds of weird shit to their hair – reminiscent of their African-American counterparts in the U.S.; I’ve seen the young males (who are ridiculously tall) all walking around in groups. There’s usually at least one of them holding a basketball. It’s actually quite intimidating to see them all in a group at a train station, moreso at night, especially if they’re watching you. You can never tell if they are friend or foe, but I’d err on the side of caution and say I’d rather not stick around long enough to find out.

Yes, I know that that’s me being prejudiced, but it’s hard not to be when you read about fellow members of the community being bashed, stabbed and / or killed in the area, or actually at the train station. It’s hard not to be prejudiced when the police announce they’re looking for black guy who’s tall and thin and about 6’4″. It only takes one person to create a generalisation. It’s even harder when shit like this is being featured on the news a little too regularly for my liking.

I was also quite surprised to discover that even within a suburb, there are particular pockets of different nationalities. For example, in one of the suburbs near me, there’s a couple of blocks at the back of the train station which are primarily where the Africans reside; then in the centre of the suburb, is all the Asians; further west is where you find a small pocket of Egyptians, and just next to them there’s a pocket of Indians… who are also quite a majority of taxi drivers out west. and of course there’s the council flats which are full of those from the lowest socioeconomic bracket – generally speaking, the junkies, the thieves, the drug dealers, the scammers and the scumbags.

It’s been interesting for me being able to get a bit more of an insight into those who live in the west. For a period of 2 – 3 months there was extensive rail works out west, which meant either no trains at all, or extremely delayed trains, and so more often than not, I’d catch a cab home. Perfect opportunity to have a chat to the driver and find out about them and their life. I would say that the majority of the taxi drivers I encountered were Indian. And a majority of them were all here studying or working two jobs. Those who were studying all said they were studying I.T., and those who worked, worked in call centres. They all lived out west, some even further west than I do, and it was an interesting to discover that most of them lived with 3 or 4 other people in a house. Again, another generalisation I’d previously heard about.

I think it’s good for people to be out amongst the cultural melting pot of the western suburbs, rather than just living their lives surround by the caucasian middle and upper classes. It just opens itself up to prejudice, negativity and misconceptions.