I’m writing as a Person of Colour (PoC), which unfortunately appears to be racist, as it is a way in which society has labelled me, and is not an indication of my true identity in any sense. Many argue the importance of self-identification and self-determination, but perhaps unknowingly, deprive others of such rights. Being non-white, female, a member of the Liberal Party, and on the executive of my Young Liberal Branch and the Sydney University Conservative Club, I have experienced racism from those who, to a large extent, define my Party as racist.
Those of the political Left call me “Tory Scum” and “a member of the Taliban” (a unique way in which the Right are defined in NSW). These are an insulting and misleading label of who I am. The fact is, though, I’m a dual citizen. My parents moved to Australia from Egypt with my brother and me in 1995, when I was one year old. I’m not White. I’m female, bilingual and I have strong religious beliefs. I also attended a Coptic Orthodox School, so never really saw the apparent negativity which some attributes of my identity may impose.
When I started my degree at the University of Sydney in 2012, I was labelled as a minority by many. To me, I self-identified as an Egyptian-born Australian who loves and belongs to Australia and could not possibly live in any other country. Yet, alongside the Australian within me, I embrace the Egyptian culture of my upbringing. People on Eastern Avenue have bombarded me with the importance of embracing different cultures and allowing people to have their own identity; they claim to be people who fight for ‘the minority’ and I have been identified to be part of this minority. At that time, I was not affiliated with any political party (nor a member of any club or society which advocated any political beliefs), and little did I know that once I signed up to the Liberals, I would be identified to be “identity confused” and “a contradiction.”
Upon running for Undergraduate Fellow of Senate in my second semester of first year, people started knowing who I was and understanding my beliefs. Screenshots of my Facebook posts were sent off to Honi, only for me to receive phone calls on Sunday afternoons with questions about my posts. None of those posts were ever published in Honi, and I still question why. I continued to express my beliefs, and in turn, I experienced further racism. Walking down Eastern Avenue and being approached by members of the Socialist Alternative (SAlt) became some of the most insulting confrontations. SAlt members, who I did not know, would speak to me, and when I pointed out that I was a Liberal and refused to continue listening to them, they would say, “but we stand up for people like you!” Implying that the Liberals don’t stand up for people like me, also implying that I’m different and that I’m not like everyone else.
People started confronting me with the idea that I’m contradicting myself. Apparently, as a member of the Liberal party, I am affiliating myself with people who are nothing but “a racist bunch.” I have never experienced racism around people of the Liberal Party, and rarely ever do around anyone of the Australian population. But it seems to be different around politically active members of the Left who oppose the Liberal Party. On a side note, one person who I worked with in my Local Council (who holds opposing views to mine) once answered a question of mine with, “Mariam, are you even Australian?!” Talk about racism!
I get all sorts of comments about my apparent contradiction, but the one which stood out to me most is something from only a week ago. “Are you the token Black female Liberal who can argue that you Liberals aren’t racist? Especially because you’re Middle Eastern, and White people consider all Middle Easterners, Arab.” I will not name the person who offered this highly insulting remark. Having said that, I will point out that this person does not share any of my personal beliefs. This statement insults many Middle Easterners and Arabs as it classifies them as one and eliminates their own self-defined identity (not all Middle Easterners are Arab, Egyptians – also known as Copts, Persians, Kurds, Turks, Assyrians and – are some of the many distinct ethnicities in the Middle-East). This person also insults all ‘White people’ through a generalisation which implies ignorance and a lack of knowledge.
I’m not the token non-White female. I chose to join the Liberal Party of my own accord, and do not advocate any beliefs other than those which are wholly mine. Finally, I would like to state one important thing to all those who take the initiative to classify all members of the Liberal Party as racist. The Liberal Party does not need a “token Black female Liberal” to “argue that Liberals aren’t racist,” because the Party’s values, beliefs and members have proven it long ago. The Liberal Party is the party of the individual and accepts people of all ethnic identities as individuals; it does not distinguish between its members based on any factor apart from merit and values. Nonetheless, it appears as though this is the sole reason we’re classified as racists. I say this because I’m a member and have self lived experiences.
Society should stop defining people and groups according to their own labels. It is ridiculous that those who say they advocate for equality, self-identification, and self-determination, are the very people who create inequality and attempt to deprive others of their right to self-identify and self-determine. People with such actions, are hypocrites.
So as a female ‘PoC’ who has personal experiences of racism due to her political affiliation, I ask that people think before they speak, think about the consequences of their words. If you advocate for something, you need to recognise that a person who shares different views, is not an exception. I’m proud of who I am, as a human with melanin, as a successful woman, and as a Liberal who people call “Tory.”