The thoughts behind “Get Mine” by L-FRESH The LION
It starts at the top. I’m talking about our politicians: those who claim the privilege of leadership and guide this country’s direction. Direction that is communicated by language and narrative. It is the language of our leaders that feed our national thought and our culture which have a real impact on the people. This is particularly evident in the conversations about the current global refugee crisis, and the racism and prejudice directed at people of ethnic and religious minority groups.
We’ve witnessed violent hate crimes against Sikhs, who are being mistaken for Muslims, in countries like the United States, most recently in Chicago, the UK, and also in Australia. We’ve also seen a restaurant owned by a Muslim targeted and damaged in Newtown, Sydney and protests against the building of a mosque in Bendigo, Victoria, alongside the constant noise being made by extreme right Islamaphobic groups. Sure, there are individuals behind these extreme actions who need to be held responsible. However, I’m not blind to the language that trickles down from the top. The language that generally condemns violence and discrimination, but betwixt when it comes to denouncing racism and hatred towards ethnic and religious minorities.
Generally speaking, I look at recent leadership in the West and begin to understand why I’m not surprised that the kind of aforementioned behaviour is becoming more common. The language used by our leaders, the messaging and frames around these particular issues breed a negative and toxic culture that pits people against each other. They emphasize our differences and that we can never get along because of those differences. When in fact, harmony and equality lie in the acceptance that we are different and that makes us unique, colorful and rich.
I made this song (Get Mine featuring Parvyn Kaur Singh) about my lifelong experiences with racism in Australia. The lyrics in the song speak my story loudly and clearly. My words ponder over what the title “Australian” means and who gets to determine its definition. My “Australian-ness” has been and still is questioned regularly. I was born in South-West Sydney but my experiences even have me questioning my place in Australia.
I feel intuitively that there is a clear divide between what is considered standard and acceptable “Australian” and the “Others”. This is reflected in the faces we see in politics, mainstream entertainment and media. Let me remind you that it’s predominantly white, almost exclusively white. Then there are the “Others”, the rest of us, who are made to feel less valuable.
When I wrote the song, I wanted to make it clear to the listener that I am just as valuable as anybody else. While I am different to what is reflected in the dominant culture in many ways, my inherent value as the human being is just as great; that I, just like everybody else, have something of great worth to give to the world.
I then made the music video because I wanted to put my experiences into a broader context. I wanted to highlight that the language used by our politicians have very real impacts on every day people.
Just last week, our new Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, was speaking about the inhumane conditions on Australia’s offshore detention centres in Manus and Nauru. He spoke about how the conditions need to be improved while at the same time expressing the need for us to encourage people seeking asylum to return home. Now this totally disregards the reasons why people seek safety and refuge in a country that is not their home, but it also highlights a conflict. Our asylum seeker and refugee policies are purposely very harsh in order to discourage people from coming here.
I have spent a year working as the Youth Empowerment Coordinator at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Melbourne. In fact, I have spent over 8 years working in the community sector, on the ground with people from all walks of life. Every day I witness and overhear real conversations about the harm these types of policies are causing people. Just the other day, my colleague spoke to a man who self-harmed over 400 times during an 18 month period while in immigration enforced detention.
Our politicians, like our Prime Minister, are immune to experiencing these difficult human conversations on a daily basis. They don’t have to say “no” directly to the faces of the people who are in desperate need of help. They don’t have to calm or counsel the people that have to navigate through these harsh policies every day.
The long standing impact of political messaging and framing around the issues of multiculturalism and migration are felt by us all whether we are conscious of it or not. Within each of us, I included, we have our own prejudices which have been shaped by the language used by politicians. We constantly have to check ourselves in order to acknowledge, understand and silence the prejudices that do exist within us.
It’s important to be aware of this. We cannot ask for change if we are not conscious of the fact that we must first make change within ourselves. It’s important for us to be self-aware first so that we can readily recognise the racist and prejudiced messaging that exists behind the political messaging and framing present in the language used by our leaders. It all starts with awareness.
Now with all of that said, what can we do as individuals? Firstly, we can be aware and hold our politicians accountable for what they say. Secondly, for us to build the society and the communities that we want we have to be active participants in it. We cannot always just be responding to politicians and the negativity because if we’re always responding then we’re not on the front foot. Let’s start to build and create the communities that we want to see by being the types of people that we wish our leaders would be. We can be active change makers in the spaces that we occupy.
An idea of what we can all do to unite in the face of racism and prejudice is to get to know the people in our communities. In a positive, healthy community there is no “other”. There is just us. We’re in it together. We acknowledge, recognise and accept differences. We are different but that’s okay. What unites us, regardless of cultural or religious backgrounds, is our desire to build safe and healthy lives for our children; for the next generation and the generations to come.
So as a healthy community, we have to do that together and we can start by getting to know each other. Know the Sikh, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Jew, Asian, Middle-Eastern, African, First Nations/Indigenous, Anglo, Eastern European etc. The list is endless. Know the person seeking asylum, the refugee, your next door neighbour who you never have spoken to before.
Get to know us. All of us in the community. Because we are a community and we are in it together. In this way, we can create a more positive culture that encourages us to come together despite our differences.
- L-FRESH The LION
L-FRESH The LION will be touring nationally in October, November and December on the “Get Mine” tour supported by Philly.