A recent assignment given to me by my English tutor was to write an essay about whether we really felt Australia was truly as free and equal as it is said to be. Now this got me thinking. I love Australia because, to be honest, it is one of the most multicultural societies I know. I walk through the city with this stupid grin on my face because it astounds me! That we have such a diverse range of individuals living in a single society blows my mind. But the thing that saddens me is that this is as good at it gets. Though we live in such a multicultural society, it is a misconception that a country is free and equal purely because it has a signifcatly lower rate of violence and racism and a label that states it. I don't get bashed.on the streets. I'm hardely ever called a "curry fob". But I can say that I feel the distinct difference between myself and "white" Australians. In fact I'm made to feel the difference with things that many people believe are insignificant. Can it really be as free and equall as they say it is when I and several other migrants and those of ethnic backrounds feel trapped, held back and utterly lost when it comes to placing ourselves within the Australian definition of Australian?
That is what I struggle with, and I know that several others struggle with this thing called a "definition". I am a migrant myself and I have this perception of who I am and what I define myself as. But the thing is I find that many Australians don't know who we are. Many of us have our own ideas as to who we are. I consider myself A Sri Lankan brought up in an Aussie way. To make it understandable think of it as a fraction if you must. I think of myself as 2/3rds Sri Lankan and 1/3 Australian. But that ratio varies from one person to another. I find that Australian society loves to group us together in one single category, a label that isn't big enough to streatch over the things that we really are. These two different definitions, our own and the one that the rest of Australia places on us, creates this on going fight. A sibling rivalry. And as you all may know ( if you are an only child, be glad that you have been spared this experiencd) in order to prevent a horrible and violent situation, the most reasonable solution is a compromise. But the thing with compromises is that you are never truely satisfied. And when it comes to our own identity, this little compromise doesn't allow those of us from multicultural backrounds to stay true to themselves.
I often hear people say "India, Sri Lanka same thing!" and then they wonder why we get so wound up about it. For gods sake! It's like saying "Germany, France same thing". Its not! For one thing their languages are completely different so no! They are not the same!
Think of the Australian society as a chicken pen. There are so many different sorts of chickens in there that the farmers feel that the only way to make sense of such a mess is to categorise the chickens. But it's such a shame that these chickens need loose a few of their really pretty feathers to look like the rest of those in their group. Its a shame that this categorisation comes at the cost of a persons identity.
Many people think that we of ethnic backrounds group ourselves automatically. "Birds of same feather flock together" they say. But if we step back and take a look at these groups from a different perspective, we'll be surprised to find that they are formed by the actions of the rest of the Australian society. Society refuses to understand our ways. It laughs at me when I eat rice with my hands ( the traditional way) rather than with a spoon, it leers at me when I wear traditional clothing in public and screws its face up when they smell my perfectly delicious potatoe curry and puddu. It turns down the radio when our music comes, on and refuses to sell make up for our skin tone! And do u know what happens when I type in Sivanesan Kumarevelu into ancestry.com? I do. I find nothing about my ancestry on there database. Nope not me. Sorry, apparently my great great great grandpa wasn't a convict of the First Fleet.
So when Australian society refuses to learn our language and play our music isn't it reasonable for us to force ourselves into groups where we are free to do our own thing? But even if we feel at home in our own groups, what happenes when we venture forth into the Anglo Australian society? We feel lost and astray. We haven't been exposed to their ways and they havn't been expose to ours.
Our very own anthem states "with courage let us all combine". I hate to admit it but I smirk each time I'm made to sing it. So society let me give you a piece of my mind! Stop trying to define us! Try naming each individual star in the sky and it will be just as impossible. Just allow us to combine and learn from each others cultures, lifestyles, music, cusines beliefs. Only then will I feel comfortable enough to be free and feel equal.