This was a really hard article to write. The issues in the world today affect all of us. It’s easy to ignore it or act like it doesn’t affect us. But it does. This isn’t comfortable to talk about. It wasn’t easy for me to articulate my thoughts and feelings. It wasn’t easy to find the courage to write this and release it into the world. I’m sure it’s not perfect. I know I am not. But I am trying to make a difference. I have stayed on the sidelines for too long. Today, I am getting back in the fight. I am proud of everyone in the NBA and WNBA who have continued to help inspire me. I am proud of everyone around the world who is standing against injustice. Not just against racism. But against sexism. Homophobia. Police brutality. Ignorance. Hypocrisy. We all need to stand together.
Lately, I have written a lot about the NBA Bubble. George Hill is just one of many players to express frustration at the situation. How can you fight for social justice from within a bubble? At first, I didn’t understand his point. The NBA has a national audience, a platform to speak to the whole world. Messages written on their shoes, jerseys and the court. A chance to speak to the whole world about injustice. The more I thought on it though, the more I could understand his frustration. Basketball is a distraction. I’m as guilty as anyone to paying more attention to the action on the court, rather than the very important words written on it. Today, the Milwaukee Bucks, the NBA, WNBA, MLB and MLS took another step in the movement. As players from all leagues suspend play and to address some very serious issues, I thought I should do the same myself. I really do understand George Hill. I too, am trapped in a bubble and I can’t fight from here. Luckily for me, my bubble is of my own design. I put myself in a bubble and I can burst it. So I will, right now.
Mulatto. That’s one of many words that have been used to describe me, ever since I was a child. Nigga. Terrorist. Thief. Immigrant. Monkey. I could go on for a while. I was born in Australia. I obviously am not a monkey. I’m not a terrorist. I’m not a thief. Whilst they still hurt me, it was easier to ignore those words, because it was obvious that they were not true. Mulatto and Nigga hurt me more than anything, because I couldn’t deny it. Both of my parents were born in Australia. My dad is very light. My mum is very dark. She was born here, but her parents were not. They moved to Australia when they were pregnant with my mum. None of that really matters, the point is my skin is brown. I am of mixed race. And I was ashamed of that for a very long time. I was treated differently because of it. I still am. I still always get stopped to have my bag checked at the stores. My white partner doesn’t. I get asked if I paid for the packet of gum in my pocket, when I’m about to pay for $200-$300 worth of food. I’m sure my partner has never had that problem. Complete strangers I meet at parties always want to know where I come from or what country I was born in. That doesn’t happen to my friends. Customers at my old jobs would refer to me as “the dark one” or “someone new to the country” or some other racist term as if it’s completely fine and acceptable. It didn’t happen to my colleagues, unless they weren’t white either. Some particularly nasty people will shout out at me from their cars as they drive by. Others have physically attacked me for no reason at all. I’m always seen by the colour of my skin first and as a person second.
I’m not really a religious person. I believe there is something more to this life, call it a God if you will. As a child though, I was more religious. I prayed every night. For the same thing. I just wanted the whole world to be safe and happy. So I asked God every night to help everybody out. Look after all of them. After the September 11 attacks, when I was about 11, I stopped praying. I don’t think the events were necessarily connected, but my beliefs had gradually been fading. They just weren’t as strong anymore. The events of September 11 signified something to me. The world was bad and I couldn’t do anything about it. So I started to put my bubble up.
About a year later, I started praying once more. There was something I wanted more than anything. I wanted to be white. I was so tired and so sad of being teased for the colour of my skin. So I asked God to change it. Obviously, my skin colour did not alter. I remember pleading with God, night after night, to just make me white. I remember the disappointment every morning when I would wake up, check the skin on my arms and realise I was still brown. I remember the heavy feeling in my heart, knowing I would once again have to go to school and be called Nigga. Monkey. Terrorist. Osama. Slave. I can’t remember when I gave up and stopped praying. I haven’t prayed ever since.
Eventually, after a very long time, I reluctantly accepted that part of me. I wasn’t happy about it but I didn’t have a choice either. Much later still, I finally came to truly embrace the colour of my skin. I was black and I was proud of it. I felt like nothing could hurt me anymore. But, as they always do, the labels came back. “You’re not really black” or “you just have a permanent tan”. I was on the point of madness! I spent years denying this part of myself, out of shame. I was longing to be treated as if all their was of me, was my white heritage. It was never going to happen, so I embraced my black heritage, only to be denied again. I wish I could say I quickly realised the world was the problem and not me. I didn’t though. Not for a very long time.
Why can’t people look at me and see me? Not the darkness of my skin, not my straight hair, not any other racially defining part of me and just see me? Look at me the way my daughter does, or my partner does or my friends do? Just look at me and see Aaron McGregor, not a black person, not a white person, just a damn person.
Black people everywhere still suffer the same way I have and the same way I still do. Many of them have it far worse than I ever have. They aren’t the only ones. Men and women constantly struggle for true gender equality. Homophobia still runs rampant. Racism is everywhere. It doesn’t matter what we are labeled or how we identify ourselves. We are all human and the labels have to stop. The violence and hatred has to stop. We are all in the same fight and we all need to do better.
I know some great people. And that’s just how I see them. As people. Not as white. Not as gay. Not black. Not male. Not straight. Not female. Not anything. Just people. Friends. Family. We all struggle and we are all in this fight together. We can all take a stand and make this world better. Hold people accountable for their actions and wrongdoings. Demand justice. Vote. Stand up. Be heard. But wherever possible, do it with love and peace. Don’t criticise others who are trying to make a positive difference. I don’t know what to do but I’m trying. If I can reach just one person, then I have started to make a difference. Stand with one another. Talk with one another. Educate one another. Love one another. Help one another. Help me. Please. I don’t want my daughter to struggle and suffer the way I have. I don’t want anybody to ever have to feel like they are worthless over something as stupid as the colour of their skin.