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By Zhoujing, Neha, Ruth and Upani (Year 11, Nossal High School, OutLoud Eco!Slam 2019)

I have a question. 
When you say, ‘go back to your country’, what do you mean?
Because I was born here but my parents weren’t and I wasn’t born in Ethiopia, so- 
Where is my country?
Would you have me box myself away? Send it with a letter sealed with my blood, my pain, saying ‘you don’t belong here, go home, would you just leave’
With Australia’s bruising grip holding me down, and
Africa aching in my bones  
How can I go back to a home I have never known
 
I have a question. 
If you want to box me up, what goes and what remains? My heritage stripped away
And my white, fairy bread-eating, Andy Griffiths-reading, ABC3-watching ass stays
 
I have a question, 
When you say ‘speak proper English’, what do you mean?
I’m five years old, and it’s my first day at school
My uniform is too big, and my skin is too brown 
the teacher can’t say my name properly because there are too many twists and turns in it that she can’t fit her tongue around 
So she cuts it down to a size that she can swallow. 
It’s funny because whenever my mother cannot fit her own tongue around English words
You are allowed to point your finger at her and build a wall with the way you speak
And each time you stack another brick, 
She has to break her tongue all over again just so you will listen to her
They call it broken English 
 
I have a question
When you say ‘you don’t belong here’, what do you mean?
Because if you mean, ‘nativity is a necessity I don’t possess”, 
Then doesn’t that mean you don’t belong here either?
Because it looks like you’ve blindly written those history books, eyes shut and turned away from what’s true
This land was built on the graves of those who don’t look like me or you, 
The streets we walk have Indigenous blood seeping through every crevice and crack
Looking back, those colonisers were the instigators of an extinction ­– But now you’re just writing history into fiction. Wait–
 
I have a question
Did they never teach you what the price of white Australia was? Mate?

I have a question
When you call it ‘whitewashing’ what do you mean?
Because it sounds like you’re cleansing my skin 
Of its melanin, of its culture, of its history
Because it sounds like you decided to bleach away my representation 
Like you wanted to purge an entire nation 
of its forced diversity
Because it sounds like a purification,
Like there’s no difference between the darkness of skin 
And the darkness of sin
 
I have a question
Why do you say one thing when you mean another?
I can hear you picking apart your words and rearranging them like a puzzle so that you don’t sound racist.
I can feel you cushioning your intention with the way you speak in white riddles. 
I can see you wrapping up your words like roses, 
Only so that when my skin is torn from the thorns 
They can’t see that underneath, I bleed red too

 

 

This poem was created and performed by students as part of OutLoud Eco!Slam 2019.

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