Goat's blood and racism: Adam and David share their story of belonging
More from our series of stories shared at our Big Day of Belonging in June 2016. Adam and David are two friends who discuss how drinking goat’s blood in Tanzania, racism and how Aboriginal culture triggered a sense belonging.
Adam: I’m a white Australian male and it’s very easy to forget about the privilege that gives me in society. It’s very easy to forget that I can walk down the street and no one is going to look at me. It’s rare to feel any kind of confrontation, any kind of difficulty and often many people don't realize how much privilege they have.
I’ve done a fair bit of traveling and have had the fortune to travel to countries where I don’t look like everyone around there. One of the opportunities where I felt The Other in the most possible way was in a Maasai camp in northern Tanzania. I was the greatest fish out of water. I had no practical skills to look after myself. Everyone else looked after me. There was only one person in our group who spoke English so I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t know the cultural norms. I didn’t know how to communicate with everyone else. Everyone was constantly looking at me like I was crazy or silly or doing things in the stupidest way possible. And many times I was laughed at because of what I thought was normal or how I behaved in situations.
For example, one day the men took me out and they slaughtered a goat and wanted me to drink the blood from the goat, which was completely out of my comfort zone but I was thinking I’m with these people, it’s a great privilege…
David: Or maybe they were just having fun with you?
Adam: That’s exactly it. I really didn’t know. Maybe they thought: let’s just see if this stupid white man is going to drink the goat’s blood.
And so, they asked me to help them kill the goat, which was pretty confrontational thing. I had to hold it down and that was something I’d never done before but I was with all the men and they were all warriors and I wanted them to accept me so I was trying to stay tough whereas inside I wanted to cry a little bit. This poor goat was shaking under my hands.
Then they started to slaughter it: they cut it open, they took the organs out, they were cooking the organs over an open fire and they’d done it with the goat lying on its side so the blood was still inside the rest of the carcass. They eventually put the organs back into the body, mixed it up with the blood and then they looked at me. And the guy who spoke a bit of English said, You have to drink now.
So I’m looking around at these guys looking at me expectantly thinking Ok, I have to do this. I have to be a man amongst the warriors. I reached in took a handful of this blood and I had a little drink. I took the tiniest amount and I looked up thinking Ok they’re going to really respect me now and the guy said No no you need to drink. You need to get in there and drink a full mouthful.
This time I was basically pushed. Someone pushed my head down into this handful of blood and I got a mouthful of it and a little bit of some kind of organ got caught in the back of my throat and I just started dry retching.
I swear that was probably the thing that made everyone in that community laugh for the next couple of weeks. They thought it was the most hilarious thing possible. That this little white man couldn’t drink the blood.
They still accepted you for all your flaws?
Adam: They did. They still accepted me for all of my flaws and they were very respectful of me and looked after me.
Because you were fragile and delicate?
Adam: Exactly. This little white flower that they needed to take care of, who had no idea how to take care of himself.
So that was a real eye opener and something I think about a lot because everywhere I went people were looking at me. My experience with the Maasai made me very aware of my privilege of being able to walk around and feel like I belong. People don’t look at me like I’m different or that I’m out of place. And it made me realize what kind of privilege I have being a white Australian man in Australia.
David: I’ve copped racism because I’m half Filipino, half caucasian. On the same street, within the space of five minutes, I copped racism from lots of different people who had nothing to do with each other. It was just a streak of racism in one evening and I couldn’t understand what was going on.
I was walking along Brunswick Street into the Valley one night, just by myself and two or three drunk girls walked past. One said Hi, How’s it going? and the other pulled her along and said Don’t talk to him. He’s just an Asian.
And I was like, Excuse me? What? I was a bit stunned and kept walking along.
Then I got to the next block and someone not related to the first group, kicked a split drink all over my shoes just randomly in the street but deliberately kicked it on me.
And then I got to the next lights and there was a different group of people behind me, and one of them was muttering Chinese sort of words right behind my back at me.
I got really angry and I went into a bar and thought I just need to have a drink, I just need to calm down. And it was a funky kind of cool bar with an old-fashioned film on the screen and the film was "Breakfast at Tiffany’s" and there was the scene with Mickey Rooney doing the Asian impersonation. I just finished the drink and went home. I thought I can’t be out. This is awful. Why is this all happening in one street?
How did that make you feel?
David: Well, not so much The Other. It makes me think they just have the wrong end of it. They’re in the wrong. I’m not The Other, I’m just a guy. And they’ve got it wrong. They’re thinking of me as The Other. I don’t feel like The Other in this situation.
This is your country.
David: Exactly. I’m from here. We’re all different. We’re pretty multicultural. Everyone looks different.
That reminds me of another time, a better time, at the Brunswick Hotel. There was karaoke and there was an Aboriginal bloke. He was a tradie, he had a council workers’ uniform and he was having some beers. He got up to sing a song. And he sang "Treaty" and he was signing it really well. Then he started doing Aboriginal dancing.
And I remember having this moment of great pride and thinking Yes, this is Australia. And this is what makes us different from the rest of the world and I felt like I belonged. I felt this connection with that guy. We’re all Australians. Because what makes us different, if you went to a Karaoke bar in the UK or in Japan, you’d never see an Aboriginal guy singing Treaty and dancing. That’s an Australian thing. It made me feel like I belonged when I saw that. I felt so proud to be Australian.
Writer Out Of Residence & Pop Up Story Catcher