'They'd Touch My Hair': Anisa Faced Micro-Ignorance From People Who Didn't Realise

Here are two thoughts for you. Are you guilty of micro-ignorance? Don’t know what it is?

It’s those everyday verbal, non-verbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults -- intentional or unintentional. The ones that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to people based solely upon their marginalised group membership.

We’re talking about their backgrounds, upbringings, disabilities, gender and sexuality.

In T2’s Verse of Tea video series, four amazing Slam Poets with dynamic, diverse voices tackle the issue of micro-ignorance, with the aim to make us understand their experiences and compel us to take action.

One such poet is Anisa Nandaula.

She was born in Uganda and emigrated to Australia at the age of six. Her experiences around her identity turned into fuel for her work.

Anisa Nandaula is tackling diversity issues head on. Image: Supplied

“When I came out (to Australia) I was quite young so I didn’t have an understanding of identity,” she told 10 daily.

I wouldn’t say ‘I’m black’ and ‘I’m Ugandan’, those concepts of colour and race were non-existent. I didn’t feel like I was African, even though when I came here that it was very clear to me, and then the older I got the more I was like ‘I’ve grown up here… I’m Australian’.

“It’s like having two feet in both worlds and not having the language to understand it as a young person and being hyper aware of culture and race and all these different relations. Poetry was my way to understand and to dissect all of these notions.”

Anisa’s experiences of micro-ignorance began as soon as she arrived in her new home.

“As a person of colour who came to Australia in a country town, micro-aggression was a norm. You just learn to cope with it," she continued.

“I think the most important thing and the starting point is realising that even though people might have racist tendencies or may say things that are aggressive, it doesn’t mean that they are bad people. They’re beautiful people, they just don’t realise.”

T2 is a Brewing Force For Good and has set out to change people’s attitudes one cup at a time. You can watch their video series below. 

For Anisa, the micro-aggression included people asking to touch her hair, something they would never do to a white woman.

“People don’t do this intentionally but they don’t understand the history behind it,” she said.

“Women who looked like me used to be put in zoos and in museums. People used to pay to come and see us and touch us and view us as animals. So even though to you this is just a moment -- to me this is a decade of things like happening to me and all the people who look like me.”

Anista said most people don't even realise when they're displaying a micro-aggression. Image: Supplied

Anisa recalls vividly the first time she put pen to paper, as she began to notice the obvious distinctions between the first world country she was growing up in and the third world country she was born into. These distinctions sparked a passion for social change.

“We were asked to write a story -- the story of our lives… and I remember sitting down and looking around at all these books and there’s a paper and pen in front of me and all I could think about was my family and my cousins back home who were the same age as me but who couldn’t be in school and who couldn’t afford to get an education," she told 10 daily.

“I was thirteen at the time and all I could think was ‘How is this fair? This is not right.’"

Putting her own experiences of all these things in her poetry, Anisa said, are part of the path to a better future where we all celebrate diversity and acknowledge the need to change.

Honesty and vulnerability is the path to empathy, it’s the path to a kinder world. There is no way you can see me as a human being if I don’t allow you to see all the painful parts of me that are just like you.

And as for how to move further along that path towards ridding the world of micro-ignorance once and for all?

“I think the first thing would probably be learning the power of listening, listening a lot more… and recognising the different levels of privilege and where you sit,” Anisa said.

“For example, I’m a black woman so when I come to Australia I’m a migrant and everything I do is done on stolen land so if I’m sitting in a room with Indigenous people I’m going to be quiet and I’m going to listen and I’m going to learn."

"I’m straight and if I’m in a room with people who are recognised as part of the LGBTTQ community I’m going to sit and I’m going to listen.” Image: Supplied

On an institutional level, Anisa says it’s about creating spaces where people from different backgrounds can authentically be themselves.

“Usually when different companies get POC to speak it’s like ‘alright, I need you to do this traditional dancing, put on that hat, do this, do that’ but we can never just be ourselves,” she said.

“And also, most importantly, investing money… people always talk about ‘diversity this, and diversity that’ and you need to put the money into the community.”

Featured image: Supplied