Earliest political memory of the day #35

epm-35While I could say seeing on TV the shooting of JFK in 1963 (when I was 9years old) was the first time I became aware of politics, the first time I remember a deeply visceral sense of shock and outrage as a child was when I saw TV footage of aboriginal demonstrations campaigning for a referendum to change the Australian constitution to recognise Aboriginal peoples. Being a city dweller, as a child I had never met an aboriginal person. However, I was deeply shock and outraged to discover they were not recognized in Australia as having equal rights to white Australians. When I remember this I can still feel this outrage in my body! I think this was the first time I realised how unjustice society and institutions could be, and it raised a lot of doubts and mistrust of social institutions, even as a child. This was about 1965 and I was 11 years old.

I think I was sensitive to this because it somehow linked in to one of my own experiences of injustice as a young child. My family was large and poor (my mum had 5 kids one or two years apart). My 2 younger sisters and myself had just started at a new school (this was in 1962 and I was 7 years old). My mum could not afford to buy us school uniforms so we attended in ordinary clothes.The Principal held an assembly, and up on the platform in front of all the other children, he paraded us before the whole school and made an example of us as bad children for not wearing a school uniform. I remember feeling deeply ashamed and wanting to disappear. I went home and told my mum, and she went to the school and complained. Nothing happened. I remember feeling angry at the school and hating it. I also felt ashamed of our poverty (my mum could never afford proper school shoes for 5 kids, so we wore cheap open plastics sandals all year while other kids had closed leather shores). I always remember having dirty white socks because of the holes in the sandles. This made me feel dirty. I never felt acceptable at school and always hated going to school.
I think that this made me sympathetic to other outsiders and to injustice as a social institution.