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  • Writer's pictureKaren Caswell

Searching for the Right Words

I fell of the blogging wagon. In January, as part of my #OneWord2020, Create, I committed to writing a blog post every month. I haven’t written a blog post since the start of May.

I’m a little disappointed in myself for failing to keep this commitment, and I’ve been trying to find something to write about for the last two months. What I have since discovered about myself is that I can’t just ‘find something to write about’ – I can’t write simply for the sake of writing. I need to feel in order to write. I need to feel passionate; I need to feel curious, I need to feel inspired, I need to feel reflective; I need to feel empowered. Which is partly why I’ve struggled to write a new post. I’ve felt passionate, I’ve felt curious, I’ve felt reflective, I've felt challenged, but I haven’t felt relevant. With everything that is currently happening in the world, I’ve felt that I’m not qualified to comment, or that writing something unrelated to these issues would seem frivolous or irrelevant in the current climate. So I didn’t write anything.

I still don’t feel qualified, but I do feel inspired by a recent conversation to share. By doing so, I also hope to encourage others to share their journey as well.

My culturally inclusive practices journey began in earnest at the start of 2019, when I became the Indigenous Champion for my school. A major part of this role is to ensure our school provides a welcoming and culturally safe environment for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, as well as supporting staff to embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives, histories and culture within all learning experiences. In order to do this however, I’ve had to unlearn, relearn and even learn for the first time, the very perspectives, histories and culture I’m entrusted with assisting staff to embed. I’ve read books, watched documentaries (I wrote this blog post after viewing ‘In My Blood It Runs), asked many questions, engaged in difficult conversations, and examined my own perceptions, beliefs and privilege. This process of introspection, of analysing implicit prejudice and biases that are a result of the education I received (or didn’t receive) and the societal opinions I was exposed to growing up, of admitting my flaws and failings, has been challenging, to say the least. Despite the discomfort and shame, I am committed to the process.

"What's the problem with being 'not racist'? It is a claim that signifies neutrality: 'I am not a racist, neither am I aggressively against racism.' But there is no neutrality in the racism struggle. ...One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an anti-racist. There is no in-between safe space of 'not racist.' The claim of 'not racist' neutrality is a mask for racism." Ibram X. Kendi: How to be an Anitracist

My anti-racist journey only truly began forty-three days ago, on May 25th, the day George Floyd was killed while in police custody. I know I am utterly and totally unqualified to comment on any experience of racism, and this is where I flounder. Even now, I’ve sat here for ten minutes, trying to process my thoughts and put them onto the page. I’ve never experienced racism as a white woman, and I've always believed I wasn't racist, yet I know now I have demonstrated racism in the past. When I’ve held my bag a little tighter while walking past Indigenous or Black people. When I’ve remained silent while others made denigrating and racist comments, or told racist jokes. When I’ve bought into the stereotypes about Aboriginal and Black people. When I’ve failed to consider the struggle and heartbreak of having to smother your culture in order to conform to the expectations of another. When I've failed to examine and call out the systemic racism that exists in our country. And I am ashamed of all of it. It is that shame that now drives me to acknowledge my failings, to know better and to do better. To listen. To learn. To act. This journey will be long and arduous, but is nothing in comparison to the journey those who've been oppressed for hundreds of years have had to endure. It is journey that must be made.

I could write about what I've learned, the actions I've taken, the resources available, and I might in a future post. For now though, I want to share something more important.

A recent movement has been to amplify BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) voices with the #ShareTheMicNow campaign around the world. Over the coming months, Australian teachers and education related businesses will be handing their Instagram accounts over to Indigenous educators. There are many voices coming your way and I hope you will join us as we listen, learn and act together. I am honoured to be a part of #ShareTheMicNowAussieTeachers. Make sure you follow the hashtag to hear proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander educators share their valuable knowledge, experiences and stories. Also follow Empowered Pedagogy on Instagram to ensure you don’t miss a takeover!

Please join me on this journey - whether as a much needed guide or my travelling companion. Let’s learn and grow together.


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