Maya Lucia: Humour can provide a platform for discussion on racism

Maltin Bħalek | Maya Lucia | The Malta under-19 women’s national football team captain says some people have the wrong idea on what patriotism means

Maya Lucia
Maya Lucia

Maya do you feel different?

I do not normally feel different, but there are situations which remind me that I am different. For example, every time I tell someone I’m Maltese, and he does not believe me, or he can’t understand, I obviously remember that I’m different, but normally no I do not feel different.

So sometimes you have experiences which make you doubt whether you are Maltese…

Yes, without a doubt, especially when I was younger, I used to be very confused on who I was, but now I have confidence in myself, and I know who I am, and I am proud of who I am, even if I look different.

So, who are you?

I am Maya Lucia, and I’m Maltese, but I have Nigerian genetics as well, and I do not want to change anything.

Among the groups you socialise with, like football, school and work, did you ever feel the need to carry out that extra effort, to be included?

Yes, I do feel the need to carry out that extra effort, I remember when I was younger, I used to tell jokes which weren’t really funny, just so I can say them before my friends do, so they can’t hurt me. Even, when I tell people I’m Maltese, I say “but”, and I end up explaining my whole family tree, when I do not even know the person. So, it’s a lot of these things, where I nip them in the bud, so that I hurt less.

So, there’s that need where you have to say why and how you’re Maltese…

Exactly, because I would already know that they are going to ask me, and so I have come control over the situation.

And did you ever experience racism?

Yes, both on the football pitch and sometimes in school. Sometimes it comes in the form of a joke, because an individual does not have the guts to say it to your face, and it still bothers you.

It’s insulting…

Exactly, and it’s difficult to explain to someone the difference between a joke and an insult, but you have to be careful on what you say, because you do not know how that person is affected.

There is this perception that the Maltese are racist, how do you feel about this?

I don’t think that the Maltese are racist, but I feel that we have the wrong idea on what constitutes patriotism – that Malta belongs to the Maltese, and you have to look a certain way to be Maltese. It is the wrong way to look at it. To be Maltese means to be a mix of cultures, So, I do not think we’re racist.

We see this sense of patriotism on Facebook and other social media portals. When you read these racist comments, how do you feel?

I feel sad, and frustrated, because you know this person’s views stem from a certain background, where the person’s opinion is based on what he hears, and cannot substantiate his claims with facts.

In fact, I once met with a leader of one of these organisations, and he had explained to me how he is not racist because he likes Paul Pogba, or because he had a black girlfriend 20 years ago.

And you realise that there is the wrong idea of what racism truly means, and what it means to not be racist.

But social media is not always negative. For example, you use social media for positive things…

Yes, I like to joke on issues such as race, and other serious issues, but there is a line which shouldn’t be crossed… I have the privilege of being able to joke on certain things and I like to joke around because through that we can start a conversation, and it is important to have that conversation where you can say listen, we can joke about these things, but there are certain boundaries…

And at the same time, you’re educating people…

Exactly, without a doubt, and people understand better when you’re joking, and if you’re joking around with someone, they will be more open to listening to what you have to say, if you’re too serious, the more defensive people get.