Day 119. Layered identity

In December 2012 on December 9, 2012 at 2:55 pm


I recall an episode of The Cosby Show in which Bill Cosby introduces a young doctor to his family, a lady of African-Native American-European heritage. Bill makes a specific point of mentioning that this woman has ancestors representative of North America’s mixed cultural history.

The episode came to me in a flash as I heard scientist/journalist Natasha Mitchell’s interview with Chris Sarra this past week: Chris is an educator and leader born to an indigenous Australian mother and a migrant Italian father in the later 1960s in Queensland, Australia.  In his own words, he has a ‘layered identity’.

Over a career in teaching Chris developed a passionate drive to instil self-belief and high expectations in indigenous Australians, and in 2005 established the Stronger, Smarter Institute at the Queensland University of Technology.

Natasha’s interview was so wonderful that I rushed out and bought Chris’ book; wrapped in a red ribbon, it became a Christmas and thank-you gift for a teacher who has supported my two oldest children in their education thus far.

Yesterday I discovered Stephen Crittenden published an article focused on Chris this week as well. I was drawn to this paragraph in particular:

Sarra is at his most interesting talking about “horizontal anger” within Aboriginal communities, and a tendency he sees for some Aboriginal people to drag each other down.

It’s like the horizontal loyalty that Robert Krulwich has referred to; but this time working against rather than for personal development.

Chris is determined to fight the “collusion of low expectations” in indigenous Australian communities with all his might. It’s something I’m going to keep in mind as a I wrangle my kids too: with the right balance of patience and understanding, sometimes assuming they can’t meet a challenge is actually not doing them any favours in the long run.


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