Culture //

I, Too, Am Sydney

By Bridget Harilaou.

i too am sydney

I, Too, Am Sydney was a campaign run by the Autonomous Collective Against Racism to expose the daily lived experiences of racism experienced by students at the University of Sydney.

 From micro-aggressions to overt insults and active exclusion on the basis of race and ethnicity, racism in Australia is both institutionalised and underhanded, to the point where it goes unnoticed as the norm.

This is why the I, Too, Am Sydney campaign is so important. It gives non-white people a visual way to express themselves. Elizabeth Mora described the campaign in a text submission to the tumblr; “I, Too, Am Sydney… When inaudible voices – now heard – roar against the denial of silence.”

This campaign gives people a clear outlet to convey their message, and reach thousands of people through the tumblr website and their profile pictures on facebook. With thousands of reblogs, hundreds of followers to the website and hundreds of comments, these pictures have generated much-needed discussion around racism.

The messages that have flooded through the campaign are both inspiring, comedic and insightful. They reveal stereotyping, common racist comments and descriptions of oppressive behaviour experienced by students. This plays a vital role in showing that the University of Sydney is not merely populated by white, affluent, private-school educated, North Shore students.

I, Too, Am Sydney educates people about racism so that ignorance and white privilege no longer perpetuate a racist culture in which non-white students are invisibilised.

As Indigenous student Emily Johnson wrote, “I’m not an anomaly, my mother and sister went here too.” People of diverse cultural, linguistic and ethnic backgrounds, who do not conform to the white majority, are Sydney University students too and they are not something new.

The submissions by Indigenous students are an essential part of the I, Too, Am Sydney campaign, as they illustrate the affects of Australia’s racist colonisation that affect how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are treated today.

The prevalence of comments displaying a lack of knowledge of Indigenous culture shows the embarrassing need for education and progress in our racist society. Stephanie Bloxsome’s message read,

“I’m not 1/2

I’m not 38%

I’m not part

I’m not mix

I AM ABORIGINAL!”

It may seem straightforward to understand that a person’s Aboriginal identity cannot be measured and that each individual defines themselves, however these comments come up again and again.

As people deny that they are racist, or complain about their exclusion from the campaign, they erase the fact that everyone must play their part in rectifying this culture. Even you. Without the recognition of White privilege, and acknowledging the oppression and struggle of people affected by racism, our culture will never change. Take responsibility for your privilege and think critically about race, instead of deflecting or derailing the issue.

I, Too, Am Sydney has given a voice to students who have been sidelined. We declare openly and without shame, “We want to reclaim our individual and collective identity, stand up against institutionalized racism, and speak up to say: ‘this is our university, too,” (I, Too, Am Sydney manifesto).

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