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Entertainment The enduring love of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in pictures

21:17  22 february  2021
21:17  22 february  2021 Source:   starsinsider.com

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a close up of a person: Jumess Dinanga moved to Australia when she was 12. (ABC Heywire: Marc Eiden) © Provided by ABC News Jumess Dinanga moved to Australia when she was 12. (ABC Heywire: Marc Eiden)

Before she left the house with her natural afro, Jumess Dinanga used to practise what she would say to the bullies.

"I would feel so much anxiety, so before I stepped outside I would be running through the reactions that would be given to me for having my natural hair out," she said.

"I would rehearse the words I would say back to protect myself."

Growing up in Melbourne's outer-western suburbs during a time of media-fanned moral panic around African gangs, Jumess did everything she could to suppress her heritage.

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"I used to get bullied about my nose, my lips, and my hair, so they were huge insecurities for me," she said.

"There are a lot of things that you start hating about yourself."

After being subjected to recurring racist acts, Jumess' feelings of shame intensified.

"We were walking after school and there was this truck of workers who pulled down the windows and were screaming: 'thugs, gang members'," she said.

Another time, she and her friends were refused entry to a retailer without being given a reason why.

"When we finished our exams, we thought: 'Let's go to the shopping centre'," she said.

"[The retailer] told us we couldn't come in.

"We saw another group of Caucasian girls, and we asked them, 'Can you try and go in?'

"They went in with no-one being questioned. That's when we realised there was a huge problem."

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She started straightening her hair and even changed her last name on job applications to see if that would improve her luck.

"Every time I changed my last name to something else, I would get the job interview," she said.

"The scariest part was being in a group interview. When I got there and saw there were other people that don't look like me — who were Caucasian — I just knew I wasn’t going to get the job.

"I felt like I had to work ten times harder to prove myself."

The encounter that sparked a change

It took an encounter with a young girl at her church to change her mindset.

"I'm a Sunday school teacher, and there was this little girl that came to me with her natural hair in an afro," she said.

"I said: 'You look so beautiful with your natural hair, that’s a beautiful afro, if I had an afro I'd go everywhere like that'.

"And the girl said: 'No, I want to braid it or do something with it, because I don't want to go to school like this, I'm going to get bullied'."

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In that moment, Jumess said she saw her "own shame reflected back".

"That reminded me of myself," she said. "If I told her to keep her afro, I would be a hypocrite.

"That's when I realised enough was enough. I wasn't going to let my shame be passed to the next generation."

It was later that Jumess realised her self-hatred about her appearance was internalised racism.

"For a lot of us, African people shrink ourselves," she said. "We don't want to be the centre of attention.

"We try to fit in with everybody, when we can't fit in with everybody anyway."

Internalised racism can be a 'self-fulfilling prophecy'

Internalised racism is a person's tacit acceptance of common understandings or stereotypes about themselves, says University of Melbourne researcher Adam Seet.

Dr Seet authored a recent study into how internalised racism manifests in Australia, interviewing teenagers and adults about their experiences.

"Dominant circulating ideas about certain racialised groups can be compounded over time, and can become a deeply seated belief that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy," he said.

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He said research had identified several possible causes of internalised racism, including the prevalence of racism in the wider community, an individual themselves experiencing acts of implicit or explicit racism, and media coverage spreading stereotypes and beliefs about a certain group.

"Internalised racism manifests in a myriad of ways," he said. "There are immediately observable negative impacts on a racialised person's self-esteem.

"Shame is an emotion that is most commonly associated with this phenomenon.

"Hair shame, in particular, is a manifestation that tends to occur with ethnically sub-Saharan African individuals born or primarily raised in white Western countries.

"Racialised individuals might start to valorise aspects of the dominant group — in Australia, we'll be talking about Anglo-Celticness, often referred to as whiteness — and certain white features would be more sought after."

Compliments drawing on implicitly racist ideas can be damaging

Dr Seet said white Australians as the dominant group could fuel feelings of internalised racism without realising.

"A commonly understood response here is about implicitly referring to an aspect of a non-white Western cultural trait as weird or deficient in some way," he said.

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He said Australia as a country required a "multiplicity of ethno-cultural groups for its existence" and the fact a particular trait was not held by the majority should not assign it negative value.

"It's better to be respectful and not to assume your own cultural primacy or superiority," he said.

He said intended compliments could be damaging if they drew on racist ideas.

"A lesser-known one is complimenting a racialised individual for performing a particular cultural trait that tends to be associated with whiteness, such as speaking English well," he said.

"It may not matter in isolation, but built up over time, in a predominantly English-speaking country, it may create the impression for the racialised individual that languages associated with their ethnic group are somehow deficient.

"It's hard, because there may not be an overt intention to insult another person, but that can reinforce those feelings for a person who's already being subjugated to collective racism in our society."

'It's a societal thing we need to work on together'

He said the racialised group could then perpetuate these stereotypes onto themselves.

"It's not only white people who perpetuate it," he said.

"You can certainly say that — based on what racism does — white folks tend to benefit from it, but internalised racism actually tells us that ethnic communities or racialised communities can certainly perpetuate this upon themselves.

"And so it's self-sustaining in a way. No-one's to blame here — it's a societal thing we need to work on together.

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"It's an important way to see how internalised racism — or racism in general — has survived for so long, because there's so many things that contribute to it."

From shame to proudly showcasing African culture

Jumess decided to organise a series of events at school celebrating African dancing, art, food and the spoken word, which she and a friend later formed into a community group called Afro Fever.

"I wanted African youth to relate back to their roots," she said.

"As you grow into another country, you get detached from your principles and your roots and the beauty of where you come from, because you're trying to adapt to the standards of the country that you're being brought into.

"I wanted to showcase what African youth can do, and showcase to people the beauty of Africa through art and dancing."

Now 20, Jumess works as a hairdresser and encourages her clients every day to embrace their hair — whether curly, braided, or straight.

"I'm getting them out of their comfort zone to not just try hairstyles that are flat and down, but to try out the afro and big braid," she said.

"Hair is within every African woman, it's something that's very precious to us.

"When African women get their hair done they feel more confident, feel more empowered, feel like they can conquer the whole world.

"That's something I love to see."

When she meets young girls with natural afros, Jumess tells them to be proud.

"I'll talk to them about their heritage, and how beautiful it is, and how they shouldn't shrink themselves to fit into society, especially a society that clearly doesn't want them like that," she said.

"African people should be able to have that space and liberty to embrace who they are.

"We need to love ourselves and be proud of our heritage, not hide parts of our identity in order to meet racist expectations."

The  program gives a voice to young people across Greater Melbourne. If you would like to find out more about the next Takeover Melbourne intake, which will open in late March, go to the .

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