Skin

When I read Bhaswati Ghosh’s beautiful poem this morning, I was reminded that the immigrant experience, in all its complexity, diversity and richness can still be reductive on some days. It was a while ago that I wrote this poem and sent it out into the (immigrant) world, and here it is below as well as in this anthology.

Every time
A check-out chick denies me
My right to be spoken to courteously
And the waitress at a cafe
In an upmarket suburb forgets to serve me

Every time
A bank teller speaks to me
Slowly and loudly
And my name is considered
Too much trouble to be pronounced correctly

Every time
An old man tells me
To go back to where I came from
And a woman at the supermarket curls her lip
At the green-eyed man who holds my hand

Every time
An academic questions the authenticity
Of my qualifications
And a writer says gently
I’m alright because I speak English properly

Every time
I teach a class on diversity
And a student wants to know
If I believe
In white australian christian values

Every time
I walk into a room
Where people talk about bloody muslim refugee terrorists
And someone says loudly
I don’t have a racist bone in my body but –

I wonder
If home is length of residency
Or accident of birth
Choosing to speak
Or silencing my

Skin

 

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12 responses to “Skin

  1. Thank you Rashida. I love your powerful poem. It’s an honour to have the international anthology in which it is published on my library shelves. Thank you also for the Bhaswati Ghosh poem. Our world grows larger with these works.

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  2. Oh – both poems – yours and Bhaswati’s make our world larger.

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  3. Thank you for sharing your poem, Rashida. I, too, thought it was a powerful poem. This especially spoke to me as I am currently trying to find the words to write the story of an asylum seeker friend – to bear witness to his journey. So far my words seem inadequate, so thank you for yours.

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  4. Says so much, Rashida. I’m sorry you’ve had these experiences.

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  5. Beautifully expressed Rashida and I, too, am so sorry you have had these experiences…you teach us all…

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  6. marlish glorie

    My thoughts echo all of the above comments, Rashida. I just don’t get racism. I don’t get it at all. I ask myself, what do people see when they look at you, to treat you so horribly. For myself I see a beautiful, sensitive, warm and intelligent woman. A wonderful friend is what I feel I have.

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    • Thank you Marlish, you are a wonderful friend to me too and there will always be people who see the world differently. The difference is that I now choose to speak up … it has taken a while.

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