I’m a racist.

I was in Forest Chase - right in the heart of the city just as the sun was rising when I heard it. Music. A guitar and a tune that reached out and ran it’s fingers through my soul.

What was this?

I stopped. I literally stood still right in the middle of the cobble stone “square” and just listened.

A voice began to sing.

A man’s voice. A voice with a timbre and depths I had never heard before. Whoever was singing - was singing from the deep valleys of his soul.

I’ve never heard anything like it before or since.

My body moved of it’s own accord - following the notes; the warmth and complex layers of that voice down the stairs and into a below-ground store.

The store owner was behind the counter and greeted me with a warm smile: “It’s wonderful, isn’t it?”

In awe, I could only nod.

I swallowed and gathered my courage. I asked “Who is this?” and the owner seemed to know instantly what I meant. She said something like “An incredibly talented Aboriginal musician…he’s amazing, right?”

And in that moment, I mentally recoiled.

An Aboriginal…made this?

Images came to mind of Aboriginal people I regularly encounter on the gritty, grimy streets of Perth…covered in a layer of thick human-ness on their skin; sweat, dirt, human juices and body odor which stunk and made my eyes water.

Surely someone like that couldn’t make music like this?

I write about it now with the heavy weight of shame. I can’t believe those were my thoughts. I judged someone I’d never even met based on perceptions I’d formed about a people I knew nothing about. Wow.



So very wrong.

My eyes darted around the room, seemingly wanting to flee in my discomfort.

They landed again on the shop keeper’s face and in that moment she knew. I think she sensed it.
Felt it.

Instinctively I lowered my eyes. At least physically I knew I should be ashamed even if mentally I was a racist.

I mumbled something like “Oh. Ah. I have to go to work. Thanks” and raced up the stairs, breathless in my newfound racism and struggling with my thoughts. Somehow knowing an Aboriginal had made the music that drew me in that day turned me off it. Made me aware of the disgusting beliefs I held and hadn’t even been aware of until that moment. Had it been a white person, I would have left that day with his cd tucked into my purse…but because he was Indigenous, I fled.

I can’t believe it.

I’m a racist.

I had never come face to face with that ugly part of myself before. It was a deeply unpleasant experience.

It’s hard to admit this to the blogging community because I want to be seen in a good light by you all, but here and I now I admit it: I was wrong.

I wish I could go back, but Covid hit and the topography of the city changed dramatically. Stores closed one by one - almost as if covid had a sad, slow domino effect on the city. One store closing, then it’s neighbour…and on and on until the entire city felt like a ghost town.


So the store disappeared.

There would be no chance of a do-over.

I didn’t stay that day in the store. Oh, I wish I had. I wish I hadn’t listened to my ugly parts and had instead asked for the Indigenous artist’s name.

What was his name?

If I ever hear that voice again, I won’t hesitate to follow it, to ask about it, to buy the album, play it on repeat at home and to tell others about it with pride.

That’s the takeaway from this disgraceful, shameful confession…racists can change. I reflected on that fateful pre-work morning for months. Years, even.

And I changed my mind.

I researched Indigenous people and what I found about them was truly remarkable.

Aboriginals/Indigenous Australians are incredibly creative. They’re smart. They’re sweet, clever, funny, warm, shy, cheeky, brash, inspirational…they’re an incredible race that date back to the days of the dinosaurs. They are part of the land as much as Australia’s unique flora and fauna are. They are an extension of the land, not set apart but as guardians of all the red grains of Aussie soil, all the clear cool waters of our magnificent beaches and our bright blue skies. Their bones are probably created from the same sand and dust in rocks and cliff faces tens of thousands of years old.

Indigenous people are Australia in human form.

I was wrong. I am so very, very sorry.

…and I hope I get a second chance to hear that special voice again, because I’m not the person I was before…and the change started…with a song.

4 responses to “I’m a racist.”

  1. Awareness is everything. Be proud that you were aware of something off within you and then you had the courage to share it and change it.
    Bravo to you my friend. ❤️
    There are many horrible snap judgements I make in a day and I might not even be aware of them. This was for you a moment in time where you learned something about you…and you sought the power within to remedy it.
    Be proud, you experienced something profound ❤️❤️❤️

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you sooo much for leaving such a beautiful comment, Danielle. I appreciate your compassion and the way you are so understanding to everyone around you ❤️

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Janet, I saw this post days ago and let it sit on purpose. I know that you sent a follow up fearing that you over shared. I needed to read it a couple of times and then take my time with a thoughtful response. This is going to be long but I feel that this what I would say to you if we were face to face or on the phone.
    My first impression is still my impression though and that is that this incident does not to me make you a racist. Prejudice for sure, and you know that, but not racist. We all have prejudices and many of them are from experiences, family, frame of reference, and bias. I was part of a school system that was all white at the time. Not really on purpose. It was in farm country. We were not rich by any means but my folks managed. My first semester in college I was roomed with a black kid my own age. I was way out of my comfort zone and having been around racists in my family for years, and family stories of working in the ghettos, I had my own hesitations. I had a set of biases, a frame of reference that was part of my culture and circumstance. If I was a racist, I would have screamed to the school to move me. I would have made horrible comments. I did neither of those but that does not take away from the thoughts I had that I was unsure of. Like you, I took the time to learn, talk, and embrace this new experience. If I could go back and talk to him, I would imagine that my being white was uncomfortable too. We each had an opportunity to learn. What separates you is that you immediately recognized your “ugly” thoughts and have worked to recognize and adjust when they happen. We all have biases and frames of reference. The key it to recognize what they are and take control of them. To take a moment and say, “oh there you are and I do not like you so back to the depths of my brain you go”.
    I do not want to try to minimize the thoughts you had or the feelings you had of being a “racist”. It is what you thought and that is what you have used to learn from. I do not know you except through the words we have shared here for more than a year. But going by that, you are a good person at heart with some faults like the rest of us. I also see that you are WAY to hard on yourself and take mistakes and errors in judgment to a whole new level. For you and I those reactions are unhealthy. You are a better person because you recognized the thoughts and knew enough to re-evaluate your biases. You are a better person because you were brave enough to share them here and set an example. This is turn will help you when you face a different bias that perhaps you were not aware of.
    I do not apologize for the long answer. This is something I really wanted to sit with and ensure that my words back to you were based on the facts of what I know. It is through conversation, curiosity, and a willingness to be honest with ourselves that I am hopeful for generations to come that some of the ugliness that is part of our world is rendered extinct. Give yourself a hug as I am sending you one too. You are a good person, who has faults but takes the time to be present and recognize when a change in direction is needed. This is a great example of that to all who read. Thank you Janet

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tears in my eyes as I read your measured, thoughtful response, Tommy. THANK YOU SO MUCH for taking the time to see me, hear me and respond with so much kindness. Thank you for your understanding. How did it go with your surprise room mate? Did you end up being friends? I can’t imagine anyone could meet you and NOT want to mates. You seem a ‘friend collector’ to me – just like Alun. He will walk into any bar in the whole world and come out with 3 new friends for life. He also knows how to say “1 beer, please” in EVERY language that exists. I’m not sure whether I’m impressed or worried about my hubby’s special talent, there.

      It is so odd to learn new (awful in my case) things about ourselves in our ‘older’ state. If I’d had the same thoughts/response as a 20-something or even in my 30’s…I feel like I could clock that up to ‘learning’ but to be 45 and not realise I held a prejudice against Indigenous people was so life altering that I felt I had to share it. Realising I was wrong and doing some research into Indigenous cultures has helped me see them in a new light. One I used to see them in long ago – which makes me feel even worse about the situation! hahahaha! I grew up in the Northern Territory – in the small town that much of “Croc Dundee” was filmed in – did you watch that? It’s a ripper of a great film. Anyway…in Nhulunbuy, there was an Aboriginal community and the people there WERE LOVELY. Gabby and Lena taught me how to track animals, collect berries and other bush foods and when the right time was to go for a swim in our creeks – you couldn’t just jump in, you had to be given permission from Aboriginal elders who knew when there were crocs about and when it was safe to swim. I can’t believe I forgot all about that and only recalled the worrying case of homeless, overly drunk Indigenous people dotted about through the city.

      From the bottom of my heart, I am SO GRATEFUL for your long answer, Tommy. You’ve put so much thought and care into responding to a difficult post and you’ve made me feel seen and heard. I can’t thank you enough. Sending you big hugs xxxx


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