This week I have been really bothered by the article I read (”Muwi muwi-nyhin, binung goonji: boastful talk and broken ears” by Melissa Lucashenko, in Writing Queensland, Vol 186, Jul 2009) about writing about cultures that are not your own. I was born in Sydney, Australia, which is very multicultural. When I was three my mother took in a boarder, Christian, who, I’m told, very quickly became my best friend. He loved my red hair and I just loved him. I never knew that he was very dark skinned or Hindu because it wasn’t relevant and I had no idea there was a difference. My memory of him was only of a soft and loving individual who took me in his arms and made me his mate. I then spent my school years up until grade 11 in New Zealand living in a neighbourhood that was predominately Maori and Polynesian. I had no idea there was anything “wrong” with this until I met someone from a predominately white suburb. And then I felt sorry for her rather than myself. My first real best friend was Theresa, a Maori girl who was in my class. My neighbours were Ben and Jarman both Maori and Fiona, from a Fijian family. My first “boyfriend” – as much as a seven year old can have a boyfriend – Demitrius was German and Jason was the first boy I kissed, he was Samoan. None of that mattered to me, even when my own father told me that if I ever bring a “sambo” home he’d disown me. I laughed in his face at his ignorance, but I cried later that night in the privacy of my own room because I couldn’t believe I was related to this man. I have many stories about cross-cultural experiences and I want to be able to tell them without offending someone because I’m white, because my perspective and understanding is supposedly white.
Can I mention that my favourite cousin and very good friend, Anna is of Chinese decent, or will that throw a spanner in the works, or will you tell me that this is not the same thing as being Chinese? I agree, but mine is the only perspective I can provide. Can I say that one of the most amazing faces I’ve ever seen is that of Tenzin Choegyal, who happens to be a Tibetan musician. Can I say that I love traditional music and stories from all over the world and that my reading has taken me from Arnhem Land to the Kalahari desert, Afghanistan, Greenland, the mountains of China and that I plan to continue on to Siberia, and beyond, or will you tell me I’m tresspassing?
I cannot claim to understand your culture, I can’t even understand my own, but I do have an understanding of humanity, for I am human first. I have eyes and I have my own thoughts. I support the UN’s human rights treaties and the elimination of all racial discrimination. My voice, my story is significant, regardless of my colour or creed. Will you listen to me? Will you hear my stories? Will you let me be a storyteller for humanity?
I want to ask you, would my stories mean more if I wasn’t white?