Maali Boukadi: Lack of education leading to racist sentiment among the Maltese

Frontline nurse Maali Boukadi says lack of educational programmes and unwillingness to learn on the issue is making the Maltese racist

Maali Boukadi
Maali Boukadi
Maltin Bħalek | Maali Boukadi

Maali do you feel different?

Yes, I did feel different in my life, but in different aspects of my life, it wasn’t always the same.

Like what…?

For example, you’re born, that’s ok I don’t remember that. Then you start growing up and you start attending school, there’s the Holy Communion, I felt different. Because my father is Muslim, I didn’t do my Holy Communion. Any you start asking: Why am I not like my friends? Then you grow up some more, and there’s the Confirmation. And you start asking, why didn’t I do my Confirmation? Then you continue growing up, and then you grow up some more and you are in adolescence. You start going out, you start meeting people and there are a lot of questions. That’s when I felt different. Then when you grow up, the differences increase. For example, I graduated, and worked, you start feeling different. Even at the Junior College or University. For example, they look at my surname, and they don’t know I’m Maltese.

They assume you’re not Maltese…

They assume I’m not Maltese, for example, or they send you the bill to pay for education… by mistake. Or they ask you: “Do you live in Malta?” or “Do you like Malta?”. They don’t know. You can’t blame them, because they don’t know me.

Sometimes you hear people say that the Maltese are racist. What do you think?

Unfortunately, yes, and I’ll tell you why, because, yes, it is a sweeping statement, and I don’t want to put everyone in the same category, but the lack of education and ignorance makes people racist, because certain people cannot differentiate between one nation and the other. There are people who are surprised, and ask you: “How are you Maltese?” Like, I can’t understand how it doesn’t cross their mind that a foreigner can marry a Maltese woman, or vice-versa, or that I can marry a foreigner and vice-versa.

It’s like they have this ideal of what a Maltese person is, and anything beyond that, you’re not Maltese…

Exactly, for them, the colour and the look, maybe the hair, does not make you Maltese. Then you start speaking in Maltese, and they say ok. But not even that, there are people who are not Maltese who can speak Maltese, because you them. So, it’s the same thing. It’s ignorance that made the people racist.

Did you ever feel the need to be more included in work and friend circles?

With friends no, because my friends obviously know me well. On the workplace, and school, meaning post-secondary school not primary, there were moments where you have to justify yourself, it’s like you have to explain you’re Maltese, and that you were born in Malta. You have to explain the story of your whole life. And in work, in my current job, there were moments where you tell a person to pay attention to you, because there are people who speak to everyone, when they need something that only I can handle, and they think I can’t understand them in Maltese.

Because of the way you look?

I think, I ask them if they need anything, because they have to speak to me, or I have to approve that, and they are shocked, and then they either smile, they forget their question, or they ask me their question, and in the end, they tell me: “Well done, you speak good Maltese”, and I tell them, “I’m Maltese”, and they look in disbelief. But other than that, I never felt the need to justify myself, because for me, if I don’t know you, I don’t need to justify myself.