Hello everyone, I know I’m posting this late in the day so without further ado, here you go.
When I was still very young my parents uprooted our family from New Zealand and we moved all the way to Australia. With a Maori mother and a Pakeha (white) father, I have the best of both worlds, but it was not the easiest experience growing up in Australia. It wasn’t a harrowing experience, more of a personal journey.
As a child I was often seen as Aboriginal (native Australian). My last name is the same as an Aboriginal family that went to my school and my olive skin must have added to that assumption. This was very confusing for me because I thought my race was quite obvious.
As I grew up, Mum always told us where we came from and that we should be proud of it. But, everywhere I turned many things were whitewashed. There were white people in the schools and in the shopping centre. On the TV and in books the default was white. As a child when all you see are white faces you start to think that you are completely white or that’s what you’re supposed to be. I’d catch my reflection in the mirror and be confused about who I was seeing. I would often wonder why I was so confused and now I know why: I was not seeing a white girl. I was seeing myself. Part black and part white, which is completely fine.
If I had had more diversity around me, if being of my decent, my colour, was normal, than I probably wouldn’t have had this problem. Diversity normalises everyone. Everyone becomes normal and everything becomes acceptable. A gay main character in a story? Totally fine. A book about a girl with a disease, in which the book isn’t about her disease, totally normal. A black scientist and superhero the main character in a story? Normal. No one has to try to be anything other than who they are.
Diversity in any story is very important. It tells people that they exist. They are not erased, they are there and we see them as they are, not as what others may want them to be. The most frustrating thing is not being heard, seen, or noticed. It tells people that they don’t belong or are deficient in some way.
Maybe one day diversity won’t be the word for it. Maybe it will just be the way things are done and I think many people would very much appreciate that.
Anjulie Te Pohe
Founder of Koru Mag | Mookychick contributor | Avid reader and writer of YA | Takatapui (Maori & bi/queer) | She/Them | Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org