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Identity

Updated: Sep 15, 2020

I've written many articles in the past about identity and my struggle in identifying as a Palestinian, Australian Muslim. Growing up in predominantly white country, having darker features makes you stand out and always brings on the question, 'where are you from?' Do I say I'm Palestinian even though I've never been to Palestine, and watch their expression change from shock to awkwardness as they realise that Palestine is an occupied land by Israeli Zionists to which the West supports? Or do I say I'm Australian even though they'll say I don't look Australian?


The dilemma has always been there, so now I just resort to saying that my family is Palestinian but I've lived here my whole life. And then it's a whole other issue when they ask where I was born and I don't say Australia. 'Then are you really Australian?' they ponder.

Anyway, it's the daily bullshit that every ethnic person in the West has to deal with. But I didn't realise the identity dilemma will follow me to the Bahamas; a country of predominantly black people of Indian, African, Latin and indigenous descent, asking me where I'm from. What do I say?


At first, I would say I'm from Australia, then patiently wait for them to say the next line of the script; "but you don't look Australian", to which I would make clear that my family are ethnic. But that line never came, so I stand there speechless and uncomfortable, wondering if I just claimed the right identity or the wrong one. Should I have said something else? Am I really Australian? Why did they believe me so easily when I said I'm from Australia? Then I find myself subconsciously adding that I'm originally Palestinian.


Their reactions would be "cool" and "wow"... "but what's Australia like?" I don't know, like America? I look at them confused. How do you not know what Australia is like? I've come to learn that many Bahamians don't actually know that Australia is a predominantly white country. And then I came to learn that to Bahamians, I'm considered 'white'.


Me? White?


Since learning this, I've become conscious of how I feel in certain situations with certain people. I really do feel like a foreigner, and I admit that I am still caught by surprise when I see a grocery store full of just black people. In fact, I find myself looking for a white person just to feel a sense of familiarity. To my own shock, I even crave contact with Westerners.


It's a very different experience living in a predominantly black country. People think differently, speak differently and behave differently. It's a unique mix of culture I've never experienced before. And to have thought that I'd be more 'accepted' in the Bahamas than I am in Australia, given the racism and scrutiny that black people experience...


Now, instead of feeling at a loss about who I am and who I claim to be, I just embrace my exoticness and where a smug little smile when I see people's reactions when I tell them where I'm from.

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