I’ve just become Australia. Now let’s hold the applause and excitement until after I’m finished. This new identity in my life is a great honour, but also comes with an unsettling feeling that sinks in my stomach. Becoming Australian means that there was a before, a before when I wasn’t Australian. My before was British and for me this has led to very little discrimination. Although my other before is immigrant, or the kinder less loaded word, migrant. You might not consider me an immigrant, especially with a first language of English, white skin and any other ideals that make me ‘acceptable’ to the general public.
Keeping this in mind I still always feel like the ‘fuck off we’re full” bumper stickers must have a percentage aimed at me, especially as I’m part of the 25% of Australians who are born overseas.
I’ve definitely found over the years I’m mostly immune to the hatred that comes with immigrants though. People will sometimes comment about me being a Pom. A term I deplore by the way, yet no one has ever told me to go home or made me feel like I don’t belong in Australia. I’m sure my other fellow immigrants have received this more than once or twice for the colour of their skin or the nature of their religion.
This displaced sense of xenophobia is rarely seen as someone screaming in the street. It’s at the moment fairly subtle, in stickers in cars, Facebook posts and in jokes at the expense of those who are already marginalised.
My main exposure to the xenophobia building in Australia has always been that people speak casually about their grievances. I saw this first working as a pizza delivery driver. I would often take or deliver orders, this would be met with customers expressing how glad they were I could speak English as a first language, or that I wasn’t this nationality or that nationality. This put me in an awkward position, the light hearted nature of the conversation makes it hard to speak against. I’d also been put on their side from the get go, even though I was an immigrant. In the customers eyes, I stood against the immigrants with them, maybe this was to do with my whiteness, or English being my first language, I don’t really know.
This tide of Xenophobia worries me more so now than it did before, mostly because I’ve seen it before. In the United Kingdom where I am a citizen also, the people are very anti everyone. Not only Muslims, but anyone from other countries are attacked in the media and by the general voice of the masses as the enemy. This fear of the other really created a horrible idea that being British is best, and that there is a pride to be taken in being better than other human beings. This unpleasantness probably stems from people believing that things like the National Health Service and welfare only belong to those who are born lucky, and not those who flee persecution or life saving treatment. This is another topic I feel strongly about, but not really the point of this overall commentary.
This overall sentiment may be coming to Australia soon, and I hope I’m wrong about that, because the state of things in the United Kingdom have definitely made me less than proud to be British, I’d like the chance to be proud to be Australian.
Just as a little sign off note, if I haven’t yet convinced you, or if as I expect I’m preaching to the choir. If you want to consider who is really committed to Australia, remember that a lot of countries don’t offer dual nationality. While I made my commitment to Australia, I got to remain a British citizen. Other migrants, immigrants or whatever don’t get the choice. They commit fully to Australia, knowing that they just might not be able to ever return to their country of origin.