So I need to vent,
Yesterday I was transiting from Kuala Lumpur (KL) Airport to Sydney. After having a fantastic trip in Bali, Indonesia, I didn’t think anything could spoil that. Well… let me tell you how one little moment at the airport ignited the human rights fire in me. Before I begin, I have to provide a brief background. Although I was born and raised in Zimbabwe for about a decade, my nationality is Australian seeing as I am a citizen in that country. Therefore my passport is Australian. Simple as that. Right? I have had and used this passport several times in various countries with no issues what so ever, even in the toughest of all airports, England.
So my holiday in Bali was brief but very enjoyable. Nothing like what the Australian media negatively portrays. Bali is a beautiful place filled with friendly and hospitable people. Although there were subtle incidences of discrimination, it was not enough to spoil anything for me. Of course those people were put in their place to either correct their misconceptions and out-dated stereotypes otherwise no drama.
Fast forward to KL airport, where I was waiting to have my boarding pass and passport checked. When I reached the security guard, I was greeted pleasantly and answered the questions I was asked in a calm and friendly manner. Halfway through the conversation, I started to become suspicious of the guard’s intentions because not only was he asking me really detailed questions about my personal details, he began to use a torch to thoroughly scrutinise my passport and ensure that it wasn’t fake. By this point I was getting nervous mainly because no one else was being treated like this. So this process alone happened for about 5 minutes and another security guard was beckoned to inspect the passport.
This time I became baffled that this was actually happening and that these incompetent bigoted fools are questioning the authenticity of my passport evidently due to the colour of my skin. Since they couldn’t comprehend how a dark skinned person could have actually obtained an Australian passport. A Caucasian guy behind me chirped in and loudly questioned what the problem was seeing that it is was an Australian passport. And rightly so. Anyway, once they had an epiphany that this woman has travelled quite a few times using this passport, they decide to let me through. Perplexed at what just happened, I took my seat close by, waiting to start boarding and began to observe the interactions between the security guards and other passengers. Surprise surprise, the people that were being interrogated were either people with prominent ethnic features or people who had an Australian passport but were not Caucasian. Mmm so what does this tell us?
Look, I am aware of this type of coverted racist behaviour exists given that the majority of my dark skinned friends have informed me of their experiences. I was not actively seeking out faults or anticipating a negative experience but this type of discriminatory behaviour really surprised, offended and upset me given my previous pleasant travelling experiences. There is no doubt that this was driven by negative stereotyping but also an element of authoritarianism gone wrong. That being said, if this was ever to repeat, I will definitely handle this situation much differently. The initial perplexity and naivety I had will be overriden by some sass and an outright racial equality advocerial manner.
Lastly, I am deeply saddened that this behaviour is still prevalent and accepted at airports. That abuse of power and in my opinion, explicit racist behaviour is frankly insane and primitive. I use the term racist cautiously but in this instance it was definitely warranted. There was an overt abuse of authoritarian power to belittle and single out people based on their race and the colour of their skin. In saying that, this one incident did not dampen my vacation but I have a responsibility as a human being to expose such historical malpractices in a contemporary society.