The Race: Asian Australian, Part 10

Mabel Kwong:

Normally I don’t do reblogs, but today I want to share A Holistic’s Journey’s ‘RACE Around The World’. Check out all the submissions about race and identity, worth reading!

Originally posted on A Holistic Journey:

1) How do you define yourself racially or ethnically and why is it important to you? Please tell us about the racial makeup of your family if you were adopted or come from a colorful family.

I was born in Australia to very traditional Chinese-Malaysian parents. The word “Malaysian” refers to a nationality. There are predominantly three races living in Malaysia – Chinese, Malay and Indian. A very long time ago, the Chinese came and settled in Malaysia. My grandparents – and many generations before them – were born in Malaysia. My relatives and extended family don’t know where our ancestors originated. We don’t talk about Chinese history but the history of Malaysia. We’ve always considered ourselves Chinese people living in Malaysia. We don’t identify with China the country but with Chinese culture. Chinese Malaysian is similar to the term, say, Korean American.

Melbourne

Melbourne

When I was growing up in Melbourne…

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Going, Or Staying, “Home”

Every year when December rolls around, I get on a plane and fly to Malaysia with my parents for a couple of weeks. They insist. This trip has sort of become an annual pilgrimage to my parents’ homeland, an occasion where we spend time with one another and rush around making the most of the time we have here visiting relatives, shopping and eating.

Shot of the skies and clouds stretching over Melbourne, taken on a plane ride back from Malaysia earlier this year. Photo: Mabel Kwong

Shot of the skies and clouds stretching over Melbourne, taken on a plane ride back from Malaysia earlier this year. Photo: Mabel Kwong

I always feel agitated a few weeks before each trip because going overseas during this time of the year means missing out on a number of things in Melbourne for me: New Year festivities with my friends, turning down that hard-to-come-by office summer job I was offered, quietly reading the book I want to finish and so on.

This year, for a number of reasons work and health related, I won’t be making the yearly trip back to Malaysia. And you know what? I feel sad.

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How To Answer “Where Are You From?”

As an Asian Australian who speaks with a slightly tinged Singaporean-Malaysian accent, quite often here in Melbourne people ask me when we’re mid-conversation, “Where are you from?”.

This question is an ambiguous one. As Melissa Loh has discussed, it can mean: Which city I live in? Which country I was born in? Where I grew up? Which planet? Where my ancestors come from? Which languages I speak?

Each pair of shoes travels far and wide. Where are you from? Photo: Mabel Kwong

Each pair of shoes travels far and wide. Where are you from? Photo: Mabel Kwong

Pretty sure a lot of the time, many who ask me this question want to know where I call home and expect a simple, straightforward answer. Also, they are those whom I’ve met not too long ago and perceive as strangers.

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