Like many other people, I was aghast by two recent disgusting, intoxicatingly negative episodes that happened in Australia.
Earlier this month, commuters on a packed suburban Melbourne bus ride hurled racist and violent threats at a fellow passenger, a French woman who was singing in her native tongue. Video footage of this incident shows a middle-aged man yelling at her to speak English and all the worst obscenities possible. A man pushing a pram chimed in to the xenophobic chorus, shouting vulgar phrases at her.
People of all backgrounds going about their own business in Melbourne’s CBD. No fuss, no drama. It’s like this almost everyday. Photo by Mabel Kwong.
At the beginning of the month, Channel 9’s A Current Affair broadcasted a report titled “All-Asian Mall” that investigated the apparent “Asian invasion” of a shopping mall in NSW suburb Castle Hill. This television segment emphatically stated the mall was receiving an “Asian makeover” with four Asian food shops moving in and (white) Aussie shopkeepers were unfairly forced to move out as a result. This was later refuted.
I used to be one of those people who honestly thought and held the perception that white-skinned Caucasians were the ultimate epitome of beauty.
That is, when I was living in South East Asia, I genuinely regarded Caucasians and people with fair skin and blue eyes as physically attractive, thinking “whiteness” was what you needed in order to be beautiful inside out.
Whenever it was blazingly hot and sunny outside in Malaysia or Singapore and I wanted to go out, my mum would incessantly nag at me to stay in the shade or else I would “get all black” and ugly. I always naively obliged thinking she was Mrs. Know It All.
People in East Asia are known to use every means to shield themselves from the sun so as to not get tanned while outdoors. Photo by Replacing Ink.
I would also always gawk in admiration at Caucasians who strolled around here as the thought “oh wow, they are so beautiful” whirled around in my head.
In an age where so many of us are geographically on the move, what does the word ‘home’ mean today?
What exactly is ‘home’?
Traditionally, (the) ‘home’ is regarded as a physical place, the place you return to after a hard day at school or work. The place that you call your sanctuary.
Home is sort of like a lost ship at sea – drifting, drifting. Where it goes and where it docks, no one knows. Photo by Mabel Kwong (Port Melbourne Beach)
In such a mobile world, ‘home’ really isn’t just about a fixed location or the house you live in. The assumption that people live in one place and abide by one set of cultures and norms no longer holds; home today often means more than one country.
My answer to this question is an emphatic YES. And I am not being sarcastic.
A couple of years ago, I was on a tram in Melbourne and overheard a very intriguing conversation about being white and non-white.
Sitting in front of and facing me on this particular tram ride were two Caucasian blue-eyed, blonde haired girls who I wagered were friends, Australian and undergraduate students not much older than twenty. Eavesdropping on their banter, I was highly amused to hear how full of themselves both ladies sounded as they chatted about being fair-skinned bodies.
I don’t exactly remember the conversation word-for-word, but I do remember parts of it vividly ‘til this day:
Girl 1: I’m heading to China during the holidays after this semester. When I finish uni, someday I want to work in China as a game-show host. You know, like on their wacky variety shows where they play games for outrageous prizes. And you know what? The people in China absolutely love white people! They think we’re so pretty. They look up to us because you are white! It’s so great!
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to check out the Malaysia Street Festival at Queen Victoria Market. I was expecting this event to showcase only Malaysian street food, but lo and behold, I discovered non-Malaysian food was on offer as well.
I ambled up to the festival just after 1p.m. on an exquisite blue sky Sunday, and it was packed. People stood shoulder to shoulder akin to sardines in a tin can at the Market’s carpark area where food stalls were set up in a neat row. Some people stood in enormously long queues for food, while others simply crowded around stalls gawking at the colourful, mouth-watering dishes on display.
The Malaysian flag flying high at the Malaysia Street Festival.
I also spied with my little myopic eyes a Malaysian flag stuck high and mighty on top of one of the stalls, flying majestically in the slight breeze. A small yet significant mark of Malaysian pride in a city that is home to many Malaysian immigrants and international students.