How And Why I Was A Victim of “Racism Towards One’s Own Race”

As a person of Chinese descent who has lived in different places and acquaints myself with various cultures, I am always discriminated by people of the same race as I am.

To put it more simply, I am a Chinese-Australian who often see other Chinese people, especially those from East Asia, constantly distancing themselves from me.

Distancing themselves from me because at times I do not fulfil the conventional Chinese/Asian persona as a result of having resided in many countries and having several cultures rub off my personality.

Sometimes all of us of who are of the same race, e.g. Asians, seem to get along well. But sometimes not all is well underneath a peaceful facade.

A lot of times, it seems that all of us of the same race, e.g. Asians, seem to get along well. But sometimes underneath a peaceful facade, racism towards one another can be rife. Photo by Mabel Kwong.

There is no one universal definition of racism and it is known to exist in varied forms. The phrase “racial discrimination” has come to mean any exclusion or preference based on race, ethnicity and colour, nullifying the exercise of equal footing as one group asserts superiority over another.

Racism towards your own race” manifests when an individual expresses loathing or hatred towards people of the same race for particular reasons be it knowingly or unknowingly. It also manifests when a person is embarrassed and ashamed of his/her own race.

More often than not, such behaviour emphatically rears its head when one of us does not conform to cultural stereotypical ideals. This somehow irks another of the same race, interpolating them to hold prejudices against the former who is “different” and does not fit the “proper” mould.

In hindsight, many third-culture kids like me and those of us who have mixed-race parents tend to have racist behaviour thrown our way and told that we do not belong by people of the same ethnicity. Sometimes we are even called a “racist of your own people”.

And it is usually inconspicuous yet unique differences in terms of appearance and personality which “different” people possess that continually drive such ‘racism against own race’ behaviour within those who reckon everyone has to fit cookie-cutter façades.

Today there is the expectation and assumption that we are all fluent in our mother tongue. But fact is, some of us just are not.

I was brought up speaking English. At university, international students from China or Malaysia always spoke without hesitation to me in either Mandarin or Cantonese, both of which I have a basic understanding of. But I usually never understood what they said to me and uttered, “I don’t speak Chinese”.

From that point onwards, knowing perfectly that I am a Chinese person who doesn’t speak Mandarin, most of the time these fellow classmates of mine never welcomed me into their conversations when I was around. When I did understood strands of what they said, I added my two cents worth in simple English. One of them would always curtly say a few things in broken but comprehensible English to me and go back to chatting with his/her friend in Mandarin, leaving me all lonely.

This situation – and many other situations alike – perpetuates the ridiculous idea that if one doesn’t speak, say, Mandarin, one is not really part of Chinese culture.

Similarly, having a particular trait or being good at something that your race is not usually known to be good at can be rather off-putting to those of the same ethnicity.

Asians typically tend to excel in science-focused subjects and not so much the humanities ones. I aced everything calculus and was also very good at English, always proudly mentioning to my friends and relatives back in East Asia that I study Arts at university.

Upon hearing this, many of them frequently muttered, “Oh”, and attempt to detract talk about what I do. And I have seen with my very own eyes how these acquaintances of mine literally jump all over those who boast about studying medicine or working as a lawyer.

It is definitely unjust and racist for one to insist or imply “you’re Asian, you can’t do this” when each and everyone of us – no matter our background – has every right to be good at any abilities or skills that we desire, abilities and skills relevant and needed in society.

There is nothing wrong with not being able to speak a certain language or being good at something one does not expect you to shine at just because of your racial background. It is not a crime. And it is understandable how one can feel belittled and demoralised.

Skin colour can be a frequent factor in stimulating “racism against one’s own race”. In many Asian countries, alabaster white skin is considered beautiful and ferociously sought after.

I am very fair-skinned for an Asian person and my family in East Asia never fail to haughtily point this out along with my funny non-Malaysian/Singaporean accent when I visit – and that I have become a “gwei-mui” in Cantonese. In a sense, I’m looked-down upon as an Asian girl who has become rich and forgotten her roots, which is really not the case.

And that is racist, bigoted behaviour on their part: generally most of us are not inclined to change our natural features we are born with and genuinely think we are beautiful the way we are.

There are apparent reasons as to why some people consciously or subconsciously discriminate against those of the same race as them who are “different”. For starters, some of us, Asians especially, are inclined to stick to long-held beliefs or customs which perhaps, just perhaps, have brought good fortune. It is apt these traditional beliefs can influence our perception of what is admirable and not admirable, what is beautiful and not beautiful.

It is most likely because of this that some consider looking a certain way is attractive. Or have grown so comfortable speaking and expressing their opinions in a particular language and have deemed it esteemed in their cultures.

And so being “different” can be inevitably seen as a threat to their traditions and recoiling from such differences seems the most natural thing to do for some. The idea that stereotypes are the “best” moral standards to aspire to thus perpetuates.

Ignorance is also another possible reason behind this “racism against own race” phenomenon. In this modern era, tons of contemporary lifestyles and ways of thought – think yoga and organic eating – have cropped up.

Anything is possible and it does not hurt to be a little bit more open-minded towards them.

It does not hurt to respect the fact that not all of us speak our mother tongue and some of us are unexpectedly good at certain activities. It does not hurt to toy with the idea that all skin colours are beautiful.

In addition, seeing one of the same race who does not fit their ethnicity’s narrow-minded stereotypical moulds can harbour insecurities and hence prejudicial behaviour in an individual.

That is, one can instinctively feel jealous of individuals of the same race who are “different” and possess traits or characteristics that the former lacks (case point me having pale skin). As the phrase goes, “jealousy is the root of all evil” and it is not surprising that the emotion envy is capable of fostering hostilities and even racism between one another.

Asians may look the same. But all of them definitely don't possess the same mindset. Photo by Mabel Kwong.

At times, Asians may look the same. But all of them definitely don’t possess the same mindset and feelings towards one another. Photo by Mabel Kwong.

To be completely frank, on a few occasions I caught myself with racist thoughts swirling around my head about those who arguably exhibit racist attitudes towards me, and it is during these moments that you can call me a racist of my own people.

Every now and then, I irritably question why some Chinese people have to stubbornly conform to stereotypical norms, thinking less favourably of a culture that is part and parcel of who I am.

However, in reality I have never looked down upon my fellow Asian friends and acquaintances who adamantly think negatively of me in terms of them as people. Never thought less of their personal strengths and capabilities.

But it does throw up the idea that perhaps some of us are not just victims of “racism towards one’s own race”. Maybe we are also judgmental of other cultures, and this is somehow reflected in our attitudes.

Perhaps we purposely distance ourselves from those of the same race who are racist towards us just because we want to avoid people who do not like us very much, up until the point we forget about their perspectives and positions?

Perhaps at the end of the day we are all racists in some way?

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39 thoughts on “How And Why I Was A Victim of “Racism Towards One’s Own Race”

  1. You address a very important issue! Asian is definitely not a unified race. We need more people like you study art , examing as well as expressing these issues.

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    • Thank you for your nice words! I think you hit the nail on the head when you say ‘Asian is definitely not a unified race’. Although Koreans, Japanese, Chinese etc. have similar Asian values (e.g. filial piety), each Asian ethnicity has their differences in terms of the way they think about other cultures – and usually their upbringing has something to do with this.

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  2. Wow Mabel, great in depth post. Do you experience similar “racism” with Caucasians? The reason I ask because that would then give you a total feeling of isolation.
    I don’t understand why people let their traditional mentalities affect how they treat each individual they meet. We are all human and we should treat each other as equals no matter what our background is.
    Sorry you have to suffer other people’s ignorance.

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    • Thank you for reading and hoped you liked the post! Yes, I do experience some sort of racism with Caucasians. And I will probably write about this in a future post.

      I don’t feel isolated at all actually. I’ve met quite a number of very nice people, both Asians and Caucasians, here in Australia and abroad and quite a few of them are my good friends. We make the effort to stay in touch wherever we are 🙂

      I agree with you and really don’t understand why some people let their traditional mentalities influence the way they think about others. Perhaps they are afraid of being open to new ideas and anything that is ‘foreign’? We can only speculate. And speculating is always fun 😀

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  3. Opening yourself up like this to the world is very brave of you.

    I felt that and I recall being isolated from my classmates in university because they prefer people who could speak Chinese frequently or whatever language it may be. Especially in my postgrad degree. In the end, I think communication is just a very important aspect of any relationship. It’s really not fair to judge people based on one or two aspects of their life because they might have so much in common but are cut off. I felt people from both cultures treated me differently based on my race and exterior. I think it goes deeper than racism as well.

    Why are there so many people milling about that travel agency in your photo? The name ‘extra green’ made me think it was a grocery store.

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    • In a sense, I don’t feel like I am opening up. I’ve experienced this form of discrimination for quite a while now, so much so that I’m not afraid to hide it.

      I symphatise with your experiences at university. Yes, and I totally agree that communication is a must for any relationship to even exist. Without talking, there is no way to find out if the other person has anything in common with you. Even if you do find out the other person has nothing in common with you, their differences can turn out very interesting. And different customs/race is always intriguing. At least for me.

      I think the travel agency has organised a tour for all those people milling outside on the street, so that’s why they are there – waiting for a bus to come to take them to some scenic place in Melbourne 🙂

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  4. I know some people look down on people from their own ethnic group. I think it’s got to do with inferior complex, they are ashamed why their motherland is ‘weak’ and they envy the ‘strong’. During high school and university, I never hung around with any Asian friendship groups because I was different and I didn’t fit into the stereotypical ‘Australian-Born Asian’ traits. I am not an anime fan, I am shit at maths and I don’t listen a lot of contemporary Asian music and I was good at sports. The Asian friendship groups who I had usually seen had little or no knowledge of their motherland’s culture and history. And I did try to engage with them about Asian history and unfortunately the conversations normally ended in about 3 sentences. Sometimes it’s got to do with common interests as well.

    When I go to China people generally automatically spot me as ‘foreign’; maybe it’s my attire, hair and skin colour. When I go to China (and even people here) they think I am from Xinjiang or Central Asia. But when I open my mouth and speak Mandarin to them, they are very impressed and continue the conversation with me.

    However, I still think that those who cannot speak their mother tongue SHOULD NOT be excluded by people from the same ethnic group. I think it’s a privilege for everyone to belong to a unique and wonderful cultural group, and everyone shows interest in their own culture and motherland in different ways.

    But then again, Asians are not the only people who discriminate against themselves. As an Australian-Born Chinese, I’ve made some observations in this predominantly Anglo-influenced society and I can;t help but to note in order to be ‘accepted’, one needs to love alcohol and drink until they pass out. Furthermore, extroverts are more preferred than introverts.

    All in all, I think everyone judges and I don’t believe it when someone tells me they don’t judge. I think it’s a very human characteristic; we try to formulate thoughts and opinions about something that is unfamiliar. However, the level of our wisdom is defined whether we are able to be open-minded and look at things in a more profound way and to understand that some things are not that simple

    Another great post Mabel 🙂 so coherent and honest 🙂

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    • I think I’m quite similar to you, but I’m not too sure what you mean by ‘Australian-Born Asian’ traits. I have this hazy notion that it means having the Asian-Australian accent, having Asian and Oz friends, liking typical Asian things such as anime…? Perhaps I am confusing that with typical East-Asian traits. I think the two sets of traits are very different.

      It’s not really surprising that a number of Australian-born Asians don’t have much knowledge about their culture’s histories. For one, Chinese or Japanese or Korean histories are rarely taught in Australian schools, and I figure most of the time migrant parents are focused on getting their children to assimilate into local culture so that they have a good circle of friends and build up a ‘white-Australian’ life (because ‘whiteness’ is so highly regarded by older generations especially), and as such there’s no time to reflect on the past. I guess you are, well, special. I bet your parents made you learn Chinese history!

      It’s funny how you are able to get along with people in China. Although they see you as a foreigner because of your looks, they are willing to talk to you. And yes, perhaps it’s really because you speak Chinese really, really well and have the accent down pat.

      Great quote from you: “I think it’s a privilege for everyone to belong to a unique and wonderful cultural group, and everyone shows interest in their own culture and motherland in different ways.”

      I also agree that in order to be accepted or seen as normal in a Western society, or at the very least in the eyes of many Caucasians in Western cities, one has to be extroverted and drink until they pass out. I do think Western cultures see some pleasure or importance in these activities (e.g extroverted = share opinions, drink = social) and perhaps it’s something that we will never understand. As it has always been, different cultures have different ways of thinking. And not understanding another culture’s customs or perspectives is perfectly ok as long as we don’t discriminate and let them be 🙂

      Thank you so much for your comment – it is like a blog post in itself 😀

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      • I guess I should’ve made clear, the ‘stereotypical’ Australian-Born Asian (should’ve made clearer that it’s mostly East Asians and Indochinese) are the following: anime fans, shopped at Morning Glory, drink bubble tea, and that strange ‘Australian-Asian’ accent (this accent is very distinctive, I notice it too…I wonder from where it developed? Something worth researching) and some other things.

        I agree, some parents are too busy trying to teach their children to assimilate into the
        dominant culture and they forget to also teach them something about their traditional culture. It’s a pity that some parents think they should just follow the ‘superior’ race and abandon their own because they’re ashamed of it.

        No one should be ashamed of their own culture or ethnicity, because everyone, and every culture is special. It’s just unfortunate some people don’t see it that way.

        My parents taught me Chinese when I was a kid, and I went to Chinese school. I didn’t learn anything from Chinese school, 3 hours a week isn’t enough to be honest. I learned pinyin myself. And I was introduced to Chinese history and culture when I was a kid, my parents got me to watch Chinese TV series like Journey to the West (1986 CCTV version), talked to me about Chinese history, historical figures etc. Then when I grew older, my parents encouraged me to watch historical drama films like The Warring States and Eastern Zhou Dynasty: Spring & Autumn Period 🙂

        I appreciate my Chinese heritage, and also my Australian side. I don’t mind that some people like to go out and have a drink but it gets sort of annoying when people ask me why I don’t like alcohol and when I tell them they just can’t seem to understand. And even if they don’t understand, they should at least try to learn to respect and understand other people’s culture, and that not everything is the same. I do get a long with white-Australians here, and I try to tell them a little more about Chinese culture 🙂

        Going to China is a good opportunity to practise my Mandarin, and there are always lots of things to see in China 🙂

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        • I often wonder where this distinctive ‘Australian-Asian’ accent developed too. Generally speaking, most kids who have this accent tend to have migrant parents who speak English with a foreign accent, so it’s not really learned from their parents. I suppose many Asians in Australian blend their parents’ foreign accents and the Anglo-Australian accent they hear while growing up…and turn it into the ‘Oz-Asian’ accent. But yes, it does warrant research as you suggested.

          I think your parents are really great parents, not to mention cool and amazing. It’s so great that they encouraged and exposed you to Chinese culture through various means – something that I didn’t have in my childhood. It doesn’t sound like they were shoving the culture down your throat; I guess they just made it seem that Chinese culture was – IS – very much prevalent in everyday life and hoped that you would see it like that. And you did 😀

          I think that being ‘Australian’ means different to white Australians and non-white Australians. For the latter, I think personal conservative cultural values play a significant part in deciding what ‘Australian’ means, especially for Asians. For the former, it’s more about being relaxed and having a nice barbie with drinks. We’re all brought up with different mindset and upbringing, so the definition of ‘Australian’ shouldn’t be fixed to just one idea. And this is also definitely something worth researching and/or writing about 😀

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    • Thanks for reading Jackie! Racism and diversity are issues that at times are swept under the rug, but they are two very important and interesting issues when you take the time to think about them 🙂

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  6. Thanks for a very interesting post. Despite having spent my first 8 years in China, I was never really in tune with Chinese culture again once I had lived in Australia for a few years, and that subjected me to a bit of what may be termed racism from some of my relatives on my first couple of trips back to China.

    I don’t think all of this has to do with race though. When it comes to professions, for example, my relatives were just as appalled by my non-Chinese friends who have ended up in less “respected” professions as they were at my cousin’s unorthordox choice of university studies. I have seen the same attitude towards people’s lifestyle choices, with the same judgments made irrespective of the person’s race. Perhaps it’s merely a cultural preference that places value on things in a different manner to what we’re used to in Australia.

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    • That’s a very valid point, and I agree that quite a few times being judgemental against someone of the same race has got a lot to do with cultural preferences. Sometimes, when we live in a different or foreign country, our cultural preferences change and we might feel rather hostile towards our traditional cultural values. There is nothing wrong with this. But it’s really sad to see that sometimes, some people just don’t accept others of the same race for who they are.

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  7. I think you can find racism everywhere! I live in the Philippines but I grew up speaking English as my first language and Tagalog as my second. I remember my classmates would laugh at me for not knowing some Tagalog terms that grade schoolers would know. Then when some Filipino-Americans come to visit they think they’re better cause they live in the States. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that all Fil-Ams are the same, cause I’ve met some who are really awesome. 🙂

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    • Oooh, I would’ve thought you spoke Tagalog as your first language! I’m sure you’re fluent in both. We’re not all geniuses and have different learning curves. It’s impossible for all of us to know the all the words of any language. Yes, I think you can find racism almost everywhere. Laughing at someone’s accent is a casual form of racism, it’s racism, and calling a person a racist name is also racist. Of course, as you said, there are some really awesome people out there 🙂

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      • Nope! In our home, we speak english most of the time so my english vocabulary developed faster than my Tagalog vocabulary. Actually, I don’t even know why.. we’re a full on Filipino family living in the Philippines. haha! Oh well. 🙂 It became pretty helpful since I got to College and speaking in English was a requirement. 🙂

        Yep! I agree, racism comes in different forms and it’s more subtle than before.

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        • That is strange. You would’ve expected your parents to teach you Tagalog first since everyone around in your country and neighbourhood spoke it. At least being in fluent in English helped you at College and I’m sure you had no problem with your studies there 🙂

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  8. Pingback: Racism towards Asian people lives |

  9. Keep your head up. It pretty normal to feel irritated when your people think a certain way, especially when it is stubbornly rooted in culture rather than common sense. I’ve nearly obsessively read up on Korean’s obsession with looks. After being introduced to K-dramas, Korean culture in general, I found the obsession to be white, with certain facial features quite disturbing and strangely fascinating. Not that I can’t relate to it, here in Pakistan it is the same with regards to colour, white and fair is appreciated as beauty. But not letting it create a rift is important, and by not discounting those people, you are doing a great job Mabel. 🙂

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    • I too find Koreans obsession with being white and plastic surgery, especially going to great lengths to looking more Western or like a famous Korean pop star, fascinating. We’re all different with different features, I don’t know why so many of us are embarrassed about this – we’re racists to our own selves in that sense.

      When people of your own culture criticise the way you look or the way you act, it hurts a lot since it feels like they’re looking at you as an outsider. Which is not the case…

      Thank you for the nice words, Momina 🙂

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  10. I’m from Malaysia and a Chinese who doesn’t speak Chinese. I’m currently working part-time in a hotel at the front office and more times than I can count, the Chinese customers will try to speak to me in Chinese first. I would reply I don’t understand Chinese of course, and from that point, all of them (so far) will speak to the other person (not a Chinese) and completely ignore me. Some of them will also ask what race I am or where I’m from. The first two times I replied “I’m from Malaysia” and “I’m a Chinese” and you know what? The second one actually called me an idiot. He had no idea that the only thing stopping him from getting a coma at that moment is that I would go to prison for giving him a coma and the monitor was screwed to the table. I eventually got fed up with these racism nonsense and when the next Chinese people who asked where am I from, I said I’m from Australia and my name is Hal Jordan. As long as they are stupid enough to believe I’m Australian and that Hal Jordan is not a fictional character, I’m fine with that.

    It’s not just this hotel situation though, in university, I noticed that most of the China students are racist towards us Malaysian Chinese. Some of them are even kinda racist towards one of my friends who can speak Chinese well. This could be because some of us Malaysian Chinese can’t understand their version of Chinese (as they would speak it as their primary and I mean, primary) or they believe us inferior to them.

    I really hate this “racism towards our own race”. It doesn’t even make sense.

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    • I am very sorry to hear that customers do not speak to you just because you are Chinese and you don’t speak Chinese. That is discrimination right there. But if the customers or travelers do not want to speak in English…what can you do? Sometimes they might think that a Chinese who doesn’t speak Chinese is ignorant (or spiteful) of their culture, which isn’t true all the time. Props to you for keeping your cool and staying calm. I hope they treat you better when you introduced yourself as Hal from Australia, it sounds like they do.

      On a bit of a tangent, I’ve heard that in Hong Kong and you don’t speak Chinese or Cantonese and you are Chinese, the waiters ignore you in restaurants or outright laugh at you.

      In university in Melbourne, I did notice that the Chinese from China didn’t really mix with the Chinese from Malaysia and Singapore. But as you mentioned, it could be because of the language barrier, Chinese is spoken differently. And certain people feel more comfortable around their own community who speak the same language and hold the same values.

      “I really hate this “racism towards our own race”. It doesn’t even make sense.” Well said. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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  11. I don’t usually come out of lurker mode when reading a lot of posts but this article truly intrigued me. It intrigued me so much that I thought I’d like to share a story from my past.

    Years ago I was a Marine serving with the US and I was stationed in Okinawa. Okinawa was an amazing place with a peaceful and open-minded culture filled with amazingly people. But being a Marine we were treated differently because of incidents in the past and there was a lot of restrictions for Marines who first came to the island. Our Pride and Image was even more strongly enforced because of this.

    But my story isn’t about being a Marine, its about being a Chinese American Marine. After some time living there I decide to take some leave and visit my family from Hong Kong……Wow, I didn’t even realize there was discrimination. Granted I was a Marine so I did get a lot of compliments for my upright stature and stance, (and of course our Uniforms) but I was definitely thought of as an American. There was some general teasing (about me being an ABC) that really didn’t bother me and I did find their way of life odd (like the way they said goodbye) but I don’t think I tried to talk down to them. What really bothered me was when some of them treated me differently because I was from America. Yet there was two incidents that came to my mind that really ticked me off.

    While I was there I truly tried very hard to write my name in Chinese using traditional ink and brush. Being the conservative family they were they had me wearing an old full blown black body-cloth in case I didn’t spill any ink on myself. Yet I was thinking “Wow this is humiliating, I’m trained to fight and kill using lethal weapons with live ammunition and now my Aunt is giving me this cloth thinking I might spill the ink. Seriously?” In any case I went about trying my best to get the characters right but it wasn’t apparently “right”. (Even though my cousin was sloppily getting my name right *somehow*) My grandmother walked by saying “He isn’t really Chinese”. Argh! I was really fired up! Calmly I asked my Aunt what she meant by that and she just replied “oh its nothing don’t worry about it” Although I let it go that still really pissed me off and annoyed me and I really did everything I could to not let my Marine training take over.

    The second time was a little bit more subtle and didn’t bother me as much but looking back I realized it was a form of discrimination. I was visiting during Chinese New Year so they were exchanging greetings and red envelops saying the usual “Gung Ye Fa Choy” to commemorate the occasion. Once a family member handed me an envelope and wished me a Happy New Year and before I could respond my Uncle said “Oh, he’s not one of us”. I thought it was odd he would say that and just shrugged my shoulders thinking “whatever”.

    I guess the reason why the first incident bothered me was cause I truly did try very hard to get my name right and to hear my grandmother put me down like that really got my blood flowing. At the time I never really thought of myself as some kind of representative of an American race, but I really felt like I was put in that position.

    I really did find this post very interesting though and can really open the eyes of anyone who isn’t Asian because I never even thought about how racist our own people or family can be. I do wish that these racist borders will eventually dissipate with time and that more people can understand why they are being racist even if its on an unconscious level.

    Maybe then they can understand that racism does have bad consequences and maybe then we can try to break that cycle it has and try to talk to each other as human beings instead of trying to see each other as pure Chinese(or any other race).

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    • Thanks for sharing, Jkong. Those two stories you shared of how you were brushed aside by your Chinese relatives in Hong Kong was interesting to hear. Growing up, I too was called an ABC, Australian Born Chinese. That bothered me when I lived in Malaysia because my Malaysian classmates always said, “I want to hang out with Mabel because she is Australian!” It was as if I held “white privilege” in the palms of my yellow hands.

      I gather from your Chinese name story that it was one of your first times doing so. To some, especially those from the older generation, perceive our heritage or culture as something that is learnt from the day we are born. Then again, there is no reason why we can’t learn to understand our roots over time. I suppose some can’t grasp the latter because of this mentality: the older we grow and the more experiences we have, the more a certain mentality becomes engrained within our mindset…and ironically this applies to all of us whether we are racist or not.

      “how racist our own people or family can be” Love how you state it so plainly. Though I think each culture and race has their own significances in this world, I do agree with you that we shouldn’t put each other down because of where we were brought up.

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      • Yea, honestly the whole “He’s an ABC! He’s an ABC!” (American Born Chinese) thing never bothered me. I just found that the Chinese were repeating it in a very “kiddy-ish” way. My friend said I should have answered “DEF! DEF!” lol

        But yea, I knew how to write my name before (kinda), but I really wanted to do it properly just out of respect for the culture cause I’m really Americanized.

        I mean even in America sometimes people only talk to me to ask me the usual questions like “can you write in Chinese?” or “do you know Karate?” (which technically isn’t Chinese per se) and I do joke about Asian stereotypes sometimes, but not many people usually talked down to me just cause I was Chinese so I didn’t even realize my family was being racist at the time.

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        • Being called an ABC is one thing. That is simply name calling (though it can be hurtful). But assuming that one is a certain way based on the labeling – and talking down – is another thing entirely.

          Sometimes it is hard to see that family are being racist because we generally thing they have the best of intentions, or are looking out for us.

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  12. This post really resonated with me Mabel. Your articulated very well and thoroughly a tricky phenomenon. Discrimination within one’s own race is a complicated issue and you’ve touched upon almost every possibility there is to this behaviour. I think there’s perhaps an element of fear and distrust too behind acting this way – it’s easy to single out those who are different from the pack, mark them as a ‘deflector’ so as to say, feel a collective sense of unity. Because those in the ‘pack’ conform to a certain standard or likeness, it’s easy to feel as if there’s protection from the outside world. I think this speaks to the insecurity within too – those that can’t tolerate difference are often insecure about their own identity – grasping at what is familiar and creating a safe cultural bubble helps confirm their own worth. A different story from yours – but with my city’s colonial past there arguably exists much self-hatred and inward discrimination too – this comes from complicated historical events of systemically promoting those who were white, and suppressing those who were Chinese; economical incentives of rewarding those who spoke English well, and penalising those who spoke only their own tongue. These elements along with the relatively recent handover back to Mainland China, I believe created an interesting cultural identity (or lack of) in today’s Hong Kong – and internal discrimination.

    Thanks for sharing your experience – it gives a voice to those who go through similar feelings but perhaps have never given time to digest what goes on behind such unkind acts towards one of their own.

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    • “it’s easy to single out those who are different from the pack, mark them as a ‘deflector’ so as to say, feel a collective sense of unity.” I think you hit the nail on the head there. There is always comfort in sharing similar values and a similar outlook on life. It is interesting to hear you bring up Hong Kong’s colonial past. I haven’t been to the city yet, but my dad has been many, many times for work. According to him, if you are Chinese and don’t speak either Chinese or Cantonese, may in Hong Kong will outright laugh at you and see you as not one of them. I don’t know how true this is. But judging from what you’ve mentioned, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is still true today.

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  13. I’m Chinese-Australian and yes I totally understand this post. But for me I stopped caring a long time ago. I have just given in to being whitewashed. Most of my friends of Asian descent were born here but their parents were immigrants. Out of all my friends of Chinese descent I am the only one who has travelled to China extensively and can speak good Cantonese. I enjoyed myself in China but I understand why my parents jumped at the chance to leave. Boy, am I glad they did. I think it’s true that the Chinese who have lots of rude comments about other Chinese who are different are just jealous. The grass is always greener. And you know what? It’s okay, they can be jealous. I’m glad I got to grow up in two peaceful countries where the people have not ruined their environment.

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    • Good on you to have traveled around China and have seen firsthand why your parents decide to migrate to Australia. Moving to a new country and raising a family there is a big thing, and I think your parents and my parents certainly thought that through before they made the move.

      Words are words, and I like your stance on Chinese talking bad about other Chinese. Each of us has our own perspectives, and some of us have only been able to see certain parts of the world. At the end of the day, each to their own and if we are proud of our culture, then we are. Nothing to be ashamed of.

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  14. Just like how Swedish don’t like Norweigns, New Yorkers don’t like Texans, Welsh don’t like English… this is our humanity _(:3_l <)_

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  15. Stumbled upon this post and it was quite interesting. I feel that currently I’m struggling with a lot of thoughts lately that tend to dislike my own ethnicity. Being Chinese, born in Canada, I only grew up learning English. I always felt a disconnect from China since I had never been there nor did I care about their culture – I consider myself a Canadian. However with so many Chinese immigrants coming in to the country, many people are blaming the Chinese for all sorts of things and calling us rude and uncivilized, based on the actions of a few mainlanders who refuse to conform to Western culture.

    What made me dislike being Chinese is that I am a part of an ethnicity that gets a LOT of criticism and hate around the world and within my own city. Not only that, but negative portrayal in media and pop culture. For example, the world-wide stereotype of Chinese is that they are very rude, have no decency (urinate in public), budge in line and only care about themselves. Being a minority is not easy, especially when you hear so many people claim all these bad stereotypes about the Chinese. I hear these stereotypes all the time being thrown around in my own country. Therefore I tended to dislike being associated with Chinese culture. I’d rather be seen as Canadian than to have people judge me for being Chinese and assuming I speak Chinese and that I’m from China. Because I’m not, I’m incredibly Westernized in every way. A lot of people have called this Internalized Racism and it’s kind of worrying me – what if I am racist to my own ethnicity? I don’t want to think of myself as racist, but perhaps I’m just annoyed of all the Chinese stereotypes and I don’t want to be a part of it.

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    • I don’t fault you for feeling distanced from being Chinese. Home and where feel comfortable is often influenced by what we are exposed to – and most importantly, what our individual personalities feel a connection with. True that some have a negative perception of Chinese but sometimes this is the way things are. As you said, some Chinese in China feel it is okay to unrinate in public and spit everywhere. It’s the norm to them. At the same time, it is the way they are as people, as individuals.

      “Being a minority is not easy”. Agree with you and not all of us fit the stereotype. And we can’t control how others think a lot of the time. Like you, I live in a predominantly Western environment and don’t feel an affinity with a number of Chinese stereotypes. Racist is a strong word, and I don’t see myself as hating on other Chinese people that don’t share the same view with me. I respect the way they choose to live their lives. Perhaps dislike would be a more appropriate word. Then again, no matter how nice we may be, there can be an underlying racist beneath us…maybe that is all of us, depending on how we interpret the phrase “discrimination against another race”.

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