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'Racism is alive in Australia. Just ask my two-year-old.'

If there was ever any doubt in your mind about whether or not racism exists in Australia, I’m here to tell you that it does. It’s here, it’s ugly and it was directed at my two-year-old. That’s right, a toddler.

We are a proud adoptive family, my youngest son Hendry is originally from Vanuatu and we were enjoying our first family camping trip on the Central Coast since moving back to Australia.

Watch: Marlee Silva discusses why the date of Australia doesn’t encompass all Australians. Post continues below.

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My 10-year-old daughter, Caja, was minding her own business walking hand in hand with her little brother as an older chap came out of the bathrooms.

He took one look at little Hendry and shouted across to some other campers, “Hey, I just went to the toilet and look what came out,” pointing right at him.

Taken aback, Caja told us what happened. She was more confused than anything. At 10, she didn’t really understand the underlying racism of his words, but she knew she didn’t like it.

I was absolutely furious. As the mother of a black child, I expected that day to come. I had prepared, researched, talked to black parents, and even had a calm thought-out response planned.

But when confronted with it in broad daylight at a family-friendly campsite with my little man still in nappies – I realised I was anything but ready.

I was shaking with rage while simultaneously crying my eyes out, but the one thing I knew was that it was not ok, it is never ok and that silence was consent. I had to fight for him, to teach him that no matter what or with who, he is worth fighting for.

You see, there are a lot of people out there that don’t think white people should adopt black kids. And I understand why. I get it, I do. I’m never going to know what it’s like to be judged by my colour, to miss opportunities because of it, to be followed around the shops in case I steal or to be watched a little closer by security on a night out.

It’s true. I won’t.

 

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I knew the day would come. I just didn’t expect it so soon and I didn’t expect it to turn out this way. ???? For mixed race families like ours there comes a time that the kids notice they don’t look the same as everyone else and often they can be upset or confused. It was Jonty who started the conversation. He was rubbing Hendry’s arm “Henny is black.” He said. “When will I be black too?” He questioned. “I want to be black like Henny” Grinning from ear the ear his little black brother looked so proud. We talked some more about Henny being black and I am so so grateful that our first conversation about it was positive. At home I call Hendry my Black Diamond. I tell him all the time he is a handsome black man and our black beauty. People say they don’t see their colours. Black or white it doesn’t matter. But it does matter. I wish it didn’t of course. But it matters. We live in a world where people are still judged on the colour of their skin. Watched extra closely by security as teens wandering around the mall. Foreign sounding names often overlooked for flat mate or job ads and “casual” racist jokes still the norm. I can’t stop any of that. All I can do is prepare him for that world which I truely believe is getting better. But for now. At age three when my white son, who lives in a mostly white world wishes he was black too – My heart is happy ! . . . . . . . . . #adoptionjourney #adoptionislove #adoptionrocks #adoptionchangeslives #twiblings #virtualtwins #brothersforlife #transracialadoption #blendedfamily #mumofboys #motherhoodunplugged #coronahappytime #covidkindness #adoptionadvocate #openadoption #pacificislander #nivanuatu #nivan

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So clutching Hendry tightly on my hip, I confronted the guy. I called him out for what he was. A racist. In hindsight, maybe I should have taken a deep breath and calmed down a little, but I am a mother and he heard me roar.

He denied it. He defended it. He apologised and said it was a joke. He was certainly embarrassed.

Look, I’m sure some people may even be reading this and think I overreacted. But ‘casual racism’ is no excuse in my book, lighthearted jokes are not funny when you are compared to poop because of the colour of your skin.

And if other kids hear that, and no one says anything then where does it stop?

A year on, as I watch America protest after George Floyd’s death in police custody, I realise it was my white privilege that allowed me to fight that day.

I didn’t really understand that then, but I know it now. If I behaved that way as a black mother I don’t think the reaction would have been the same. I couldn’t have stood up for him without fear.

I would have been worried I was seen as a troublemaker. I would have held back so as not to continue to promote the negative perception. More often than not black mothers remain silent for their children. That breaks my heart.

There is no doubt we all seem united for America and shocked by the police brutality. I have even heard people say that are thankful that they live here.

But that’s white privilege speaking again because Australia’s First Nations people are suffering the same injustice here and attacks on the Asian community spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I know it’s not easy to get involved in someone else’s problem, but we have to remember that all have a duty to stand up to it. To call it out for what it is. Especially us, who won’t be judged by our colour. We can’t let this get passed down to the next generation.

Jonica is a proud adoptive mother – you can follow her family on Instagram @The.wandertwins

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