How I first discovered racism and found a path to healing
Written: | Published: September 14, 2020
It started with a kiss
The first boy I kissed was Aboriginal. Or rather, the first boy who kissed me was a warm, funny, playful, strong-willed, deep souled human. I liked him a lot.
I remember that moment vividly. We were playing in one of the local trees. I’m sure that tree could tell many stories. It was big and full, with strong low-lying limbs that made it easy for kids to find their way into its magic. It was like our own tree-house – with broad, dense foliage walls and a wide inner domain, open to the skies above. We could climb up into it and sit on any number of its branches, lean back, stare at the clouds or just… have a first kiss.
That moment lives strongly into my memory. Not just because it was my first kiss, but because it touched something in me that needed to be touched. I felt re-united with a long-lost part of me. I felt belonging, kinship, familiarity. And yet it’s what followed that added even greater weight to that beautiful innocent moment.
When other children found out I had kissed an Aboriginal boy I was spat on and kicked. The bullying I was already experiencing was ramped up.
I was shocked and confused. Firstly, I didn’t understand the disgust. Why was the fact I had kissed THAT boy so wrong? “Oh, he’s a boong... a dirty black… an abo… how could you?!”
This led to even more pain and confusion. Firstly, I didn’t define him as a colour, a race, a different person. Although I did see he had beautiful brown skin – the colour of chocolate. Secondly it led to even greater pain and uncertainty about my own ‘identity’.
Over the following weeks I looked at my family members, recognising similar Aboriginal features in my brother, Uncles, cousins… in myself. I had already noticed these characteristics, but following this event, it was glaring at me. It was metaphorically and literally staring me in the face.
And as children do… I spoke my mind. I asked questions.
Yet when I made any comments such as ‘we’re Aboriginal’ or I tried to ask questions, my curiosity was left hanging in an air of hostility. Any suggestion we were Aboriginal was met with a swift rebuff. I was shut down. Silenced. It very quickly became obvious the topic was a ‘no go’ zone.
And so, there I was… having had a beautiful part of me touched, woken up, met and recognised, only to discover it was unacceptable… something that had to be rejected, a dirty secret to be hidden. Of course, every time I looked at my brother or my uncle, I would think to myself – how can you not see we’re Aboriginal?
Perhaps because our family is very ‘white’. Well, that’s how it mostly looks on the surface. We grew up in a relatively normal ‘privileged white family’ kind of way. Mind you, my father worked very hard to give us that life. He made many sacrifices to make sure we had a secure upbringing.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to conceal the buried wounds. Wounds that only made themselves more and more evident as the emotional well-being of the family fell apart. It had an enormous toll on me. The conflict wasn’t confined just to home. I was abused and bullied daily. That bullying grew to extreme levels – to sexual abuse and violence.
So many questions
And it led me to search deeply. I had questions I wanted to understand. Why do we reject others or suffer rejection ourselves? Why do we judge? Why is my family so angry, so disconnected and in pain? Why are so many people unhappy?
My own pain drove me to discover deeper answers. I wanted to understand the underlying causes of suffering. It took many years of experience – having been homeless, almost murdered and finally finding deep healing in myself and with my family, to recognise the same plight throughout humanity.
There are so many buried layers of wounding in society, that most people do not know the source of their discontent, their angst, their grief. Nor do they understand why they themselves abuse, judge and mistreat others.
The grace for me in all this is that despite extreme abuse and traumas … I am whole, I am at peace, I am free. I am grateful. I love all.
Awakening and awareness leads to peace and understanding
You may wonder, how did I get through all of these experiences only to know deep peace and freedom?
In juxtaposition to these brutal experiences, I had a profound connection with spirit – within myself, and with life, nature, the cosmos. I learned to see things in other ways. I felt the invisible threads between all things – between mind and body, between all people and living things – between the ‘seen and unseen’ realms. I began to experience all of life as one and through this deep awareness, I found an all-encompassing love, strength, understanding and therefore, peace.
Deep communication with my Ancestors developed. With their guidance I was led to our ancestral song lines; to reconnect with my relatives and to piece together the stories of our hidden heritage.
Following these events our family ‘secret’ was revealed. My Uncle finally decided to tell the family what our Nanna had told him not long before she passed – that indeed we do have Aboriginal blood. Yet despite this significant evidence, it is still something that is met with some hesitation.
Racism runs deep
This is just one example of how deeply racism runs in our families, communities and society. Even the best efforts of ‘white-washing’, don’t work. Buried wounds fester. The truth cannot remain hidden. For me, the voice of my ancestral spirit could not be silenced.
I have often mused on the strange paradox that I contain the blood of racists and the blood of those who have been persecuted. Not that I am racist to any degree. But I saw it firsthand. In my own family. And it's not just one-way. I have encountered opposition from Aboriginal people too. Many people refuse to accept my Aboriginality.
Nonetheless, it makes my human experience rich and deep. I see a part of myself in all people. And a part of all people in myself. I recognise, as my ancestors do, that we are all of the same spirit – we are all the same life. And more importantly we all live and breathe of the same earth.
Our needs, hopes and dreams are relatively the same: to be safe, to be nurtured, to be loved and respected for who we are and to be fulfilled. And we all have our shadow - our dark side that pushes us to grow. Through our spiritual relationship with life, our aspirations are strengthened and our darkness healed.
It is because we have eroded our spiritual relationship with ourselves, each other and life that we have fallen prey to the illusion of separation and ‘other’. We perceive ourselves to be truly separate (and even superior). We are fearful and feel threatened.
Enough is enough
Right now we are experiencing a great awakening. Around the world people are saying: enough is enough. We are standing tall and strong. We are striving to honour the sacred life of those who have been persecuted. We truly want to mend our broken threads. We want to rebuild the shared bond of our humanity. And we want to reawaken to the truth that we are after all, the same infinite being - manifesting itself in an exquisite array of unique expressions. This is the beauty of humanity - the gift of life.
I believe our well-being is nurtured by our connection to our roots, to all the parts of us… to the blood that flows through our ancient human lines. And equally by connection to our eternal essence – our spirit, the source of all creation – from which all things are created and to which all return.
Indigenous wisdom shows the way
Knowing and holding these threads as sacred was and still is, a deep source of wisdom, power and responsibility for our Indigenous people. Through these core beliefs ancient cultures maintained harmonious relationships between all people, living creatures and earth.
Now we are called to awaken again. Now is our time, a time for great hope and possibility. It is an equal opportunity for us all to restore our spirit, to reunite, to reconnect - to build a bridge between our spiritual nature and our earthly experience. Now is our time to build a new world, rooted in the ancient wisdom that lies in our shared humanity and diversity – a world of sacred respect, loving kindness and cooperation.
Isira is a wisdom keeper, spiritual leader and author of Australian Indigenous heritage. She brings penetrating insight on consciousness with unconditional love, clarity, and the ability to see into, and behind the challenges we face. She offers a way to respond, realign ourselves and move forward to a new more empowered life.