Where do you belong?

Welcome to the first guest blog on the site that has been kindly shared by Nikki Squelch (@squelchisms), thank you. As always please feel welcome to join the discussion using the comments box below.

I am a white immigrant. I know I am privileged. I have never had to escape a country because of my political or religious beliefs, my sexual orientation or even for economic reasons. But nonetheless I am an immigrant. 

At 28, I became an accidental immigrant. I have spent more time in the UK in my adult life then anywhere else, yet I often feel like my legitimacy for being here is questioned. I know that I am loved by many here, yet there are times when I feel like a visitor, or worse a trespasser.

Who doesn’t want to live on a big Island reputed for sunshine and surf? Who doesn’t want to live in the land of plenty? Why would anyone leave Australia, when so many want to live there?

Well, me.

Actually, I am torn. I miss family and friends. I don’t miss the heat or humidity. My heart sometimes aches to see folks back in Oz and to breathe in the vast horizons. To smell the sea and eucalyptus that is so uniquely ‘home’. But I come from a long line of migrants. The great grandparents travelled from Ireland, Scotland and England to the shores of the US and Australia.

I grew up believing that where I was, was the best country in the world. I had nothing to compare it to. And it is the best country for some. But it is not the best country for all people. I know what lays beneath the sun, sea and shine of the great sunburnt country. I have witnessed the ugliest forms of racism. All forms are ugly and unjust, but when informed by policy and law and acted upon by people, it is wrong and causes a pain that runs deep through the country.

As a person who loves to travel and enjoys meeting new people and has witnessed the beauty and richness that diverse cultures can bring to community life, I find racism perplexing, bewildering, confusing, on top of it all being plain wrong. It has an impact on how I feel about living in both Australia and the UK. I have the appetite to learn and try to understand more and what I can do about it.

But cultural difference and racism runs deep and is complex. That doesn’t mean we should do nothing. In fact, it is because it is uncomfortable and perplexing there is even more reason to act.

In the UK, I am often asked when am I going back to Australia. Why do I live here? Or even, how could I live here. I’ve experienced people mocking my colonial past. Correcting my pronunciation of certain words and joking about my written English. It has impacted on my sense of belonging. Feeling like an outsider.

It’s an odd space to occupy. A desire to be here, to have the life I choose. To know that I am privileged to have this choice. To know that many would choose differently. To have to explain why here and not there. To have it assumed that I must surely have a plan to go back.

It’s an odd space to occupy and it impacts on how much I feel I truly belong.

Now, I imagine what it would be like if my skin colour or my hair was different. My spine shivers and I also worry about my past behaviour and the unintended negative impact it may have had on colleagues and friends. I have experienced cultural micro-aggressions that have made me feel I don’t belong. I know that I have probably delivered micro-aggressions too. Sorry!

I know that having the desire to be anti-racist and an ally is not enough. I know that reading about it, is not enough. I got to a point where I have moved from asking ‘is it racist’ to the operating reality of asking ‘to what extent is racism at play here’.

I will take my personal experience to improve and avoid making assumptions about any culture.

My personal actions to show that #ImNotTired are:

  • To stay curious. Continue to read, learn and listen.
  • To be both humble and brave. If I witness something that seems wrong, then it probably is and I will speak up. If I am told that I got something wrong (and I will) I will say sorry and seek further understanding.

What else can I do to be a good ally?

What else can we all do to make sure that everyone feels like they belong?

If you want to read more from Nikki head over to nomadnikandson.wordpress.com

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