When you’re young, you’re oblivious to discrimination and other negative behaviours. You react to them but you don’t know why they make you feel so bad and why people act like that. Slowly, you begin to observe the attitudes of the people around you, interpret media messages, learn about cultures, attend history class and ask questions. As you get older, you begin to realise that not all is equal in the world and you may seek the answer to this inequality or choose to accept it, thus, graduating in the school of ignorance.
Discrimination is a topic that affects me personally, but it already has or probably will affect anyone who has ever lived on this planet we call home. Some forms of discrimination will go unnoticed in people’s lives and some will be more penetrating. It depends on the experiences we live.
Exactly one week ago, a friend of mine contacted me to ask if I would accept being interviewed on my lived experience as a Coloured Maltese Citizen (let’s refer to this term as CMC) growing up on the Maltese Islands, as part of her dissertation. I promptly accepted her request and met up with her today afternoon. The reason I mention this is a no-brainer. Whether you wanted to or not, the words “racial discrimination” or racism as it is usually called, have probably sprung to mind after reading the title of this dissertation. I don’t blame you. It is natural to perceive that a foreigner or “not-fully Maltese” person living on the Maltese Islands may experience difficulties of a social or political nature. Of course, the same can be true for a Maltese in a foreign setting. In this case, I will be referring to the coloured individual refusing to use terms such as multiethnic and multiracial, as really, we all have such diverse ancestral backgrounds that putting ourselves in one particular race is slightly ridiculous.
The CMC is a rare breed both as a Maltese population and worldwide population statistic. I don’t actually have proof of this but I just know it because I grew up on this small island where nothing can really escape you. When I was young my Mum would tell me that she and Dad where the third African-Maltese couple to settle down in Malta. I don’t know if that’s true but I believe that there were only a few at the time. This was around 1980 – “When Dom Mintoff was Prime Minister” as my mum likes to put it. Nowadays, there are many coloured children being born to African-Maltese parents. Those days my mum felt very welcome in Malta although she thought everyone was arguing when they talked and that the country’s Prime Minister was the most unique fellow she ever saw! Most Africans living on the islands were Nigerians who came to play football. The Maltese quickly took a liking to these foreigners who excelled in the Maltese football teams. However, as the years passed by, circumstances changed. The racial tension has increased dramatically rather than decreased, in my humble opinion.
During the interview today, I tried to look back at my childhood days. Some questions posed involved my upbringing and how it affected me. How did people treat me seeing that I was a coloured child? Not much different than the regular Maltese child. However, I often believe it was because of the environment of the times. It may have been harder for the ones who were born 10 years later than me but I can’t really say. In fact, I experienced more racial discrimination in my teens than as a child. Hopefully, my friend’s dissertation will shed more light on this. I am taking her word on this (although I did a quick Google search just in case) that there are no articles, dissertations or publications on the matter in Malta. She is the first one who is researching the topic. I found this very interesting as it is something I always thought of but never really pondered upon long enough.
And what about statistics? This is something I never bothered to check. I know that sometimes there are articles or news features on TV on the number of Australian-Maltese in the world, or Canadian-Maltese, but what about African-Maltese or any other type of coloured person who was raised in Malta, whether born here through mixed or African parents or adopted by a Maltese couple. (According to the Maltese Citizenship Act, if you were adopted at less than 10 years old after 1st August 1989, then you are eligible for Maltese citizenship – then again, I’m not a lawyer so correct me if I’m wrong!). So do these statistics exist or not? I’ve never heard of them till now. And how come in a nation where racial-phobia seems high, is there nobody compiling such information? And I’m not talking solely about illegal immigrants here because those are not only coloured, but may come from different races. And anyway, we hear about the numbers of illegal immigrants coming in all the time, so nothing new to record statistic-wise there. If anyone could guide me on the matter, I would be forever grateful.
I think the whole interview opened my eyes to my ethnicity more than ever now, as no one has ever sat me down and asked me to open up about it before. And based on my friend’s reactions when interviewing me, I think I have added a brand new dimension to this topic for others to discover.
Although I have mentioned that not much has been done regarding this topic, I shall not elaborate much on the matter for now. I feel I need to do more research and help out all those who want to look further in this field. In fact, just half an hour after the interview today, I came up with a great idea and hopefully I can implement it some time next year. I hope more CMCs come out with their lived experiences on the Maltese Islands, and if you know anyone who fits this category do tell me so that I can refer them to my friend who I feel is exploring such an important area in Maltese society. Studies like this will not only help us understand the psychology of such individuals but also the way they see Maltese and Gozitan people through their eyes, the social behaviour traits of Maltese with foreigners, the effectiveness of legislation involving such people and much more.
And on a final note, I do not feel Maltese and I do not feel African – I belong to the Universe. I interact with humans. I interact with animals. I interact with nature. But I don’t interact with races. Race is a marketing tool. So quit worrying and rely on your character, not what your birth certificate says.