I’m no stranger to racism in Melbourne. As an Asian Australian, racist encounters have been a part of my life here for as long as I can remember. But I don’t remember doing much about this.
Over the years, I learned there are different types of racism. I’ve had insults about my non-Aussie accent and yellow skin thrown verbally in my face by non-Asians. There have been times where I met new people who immediately assumed I wasn’t Australian and asked, “Where are you from?” That is, there is direct racism and casual/everyday racism, one of them more subtle than the other.
It’s not hard to spot either kind of racism. But it’s not always easy speaking up about either one, at least in Australia.
We find it hard to speak up about racism because we’re afraid. When someone racially insults us face-to-face, we’re afraid of making them angry – we never know what they’ll say or do if we say something that rubs them the wrong way. In Australia, some of them don’t hesitate to get physically aggressive with us. A few Saturday afternoons ago as I was wandering around the city, a Caucasian guy around twenty came up to me and yelled, “Hey chinky! Chink!”. I didn’t stop. Kept on walking after giving him the once-over. He was two heads taller than me. Thrice my size. Don’t want to spend the weekend in hospital.
We hesitate to speak up about racism because we think it’s none of our business. Whether we’re the victim or onlooker, maybe we’re embarrassed of associating ourselves with such negative vibes – that’s not who we are. There’s a “laid back, almost-ignorant” sentiment in Australia: we’re encouraged to say and do what we like minus taking things too seriously – anything goes. Walking away from the guy who called me an unattractive name, it occurred to me that he was free to call me what he liked, at least silently in his head. Besides, I didn’t want anyone ruining my mood that weekend.
Sometimes others hold stubborn assumptions about us and our culture. So perhaps we think: what’s the point of standing up to racism? It can be hard to change their minds. Some of us in Australia think Asians “don’t fit in in Australia“. The other day at work a Caucasian female client asked me over the phone, “Did you listen? Are you from Australia?”. Not all Australians speak with the broad Aussie accent. But perhaps you don’t know any non-Caucasian Aussies. “Yes…we’re based in Melbourne.”
Maybe we don’t speak up against racism because we think that if we do, we’ll attract more hate towards one another. Fighting fire with fire never solves anything. Every now and then I receive opinionated comments on this blog, comments such as “Mabel is racist” and I’m “not multicultural” for pointing out just one small part of Asian culture (cyber-racism?). These comments usually go on to attract equally opinionated views until I remove them. Why let friendly, thoughtful discussions on everyday cultural differences on this blog turn into arguments filled with hate?
Then again, if we don’t speak up about these incidents, chances are they’ll be forgotten sooner or later. And the more we don’t say anything about them, the more some of us might not realise we’re offending other cultures.
It takes time to accept each other’s differences, just as it takes time to get to know a person and their story. And this starts with education. Learning. Through face-to-face multicultural events. Recently I went to Righteous at the Roundtable and at this event it was great seeing so many young people from Asian, Caucasian, Indigenous backgrounds talk about racism between and within cultural groups. Last year I spoke to a high school class – of many Asian students – about challenging stereotypes in the face of racism, and the students hardly stopped asking questions about this topic. Understanding other cultures, each of our cultures, begins in the classroom. Begins when we’re ready to learn.
Then there’s social media and blogs where we ourselves can start conversations about fighting racism in Australia, anytime. I hesitated writing about this topic for a long time. Not because I’m afraid of offending others writing this sensitive topic. But because for a long time I thought it was normal to be teased in Melbourne for my Singapore-Malaysian accent. Normal to get called names because of the way I looked. Other Asian Australians faced the same thing. Until I asked myself: why am I making excuses for the person I am?
Racism is a big deal. Being insulted because of our background is a big deal – we all have the right to be proud of our heritage and who we are. We’re all different, so there’s every chance someone will racially offend us sometime – or we might offend others without knowing it.
Standing up against racism. It’s about realising it can happen to any of us. And being confident about our culture and who we are in the first place.
Have you stood up for yourself when someone picked a fight with you?
Mabel, a great post with a very serious topic that has to be addressed. I am so sorry you have to experience this – it is not right!!
This is a topic that is covered on by many bloggers who are in a interracial relationship. It is so sad to read some of the experiences they have written about and what is even sadder that it is still happening today.
Fortunately, my husband (who is Taiwanese) has never experienced anything like this. We have been to France, and have traveled extensively in Canada and also have been to Vegas, Florida, and New York, and it seems like people were friendly and welcoming. But then again, our time in North America (and outside of Asia) is usually limited to a one month vacation every year or two.
That being said, I am from a small town in Canada (comprising of 100% Caucasian population) and I had concerns the first time my husband came back with me, but actually, he was greeted with open arms and everyone was so nice to him that I felt guilty for ever thinking otherwise.
I wrote a positive post about how my husband out stood out in Canada. Feel free to have a look: http://foreignsanctuary.wordpress.com/2014/04/25/standing-out-like-a-sore-thumb-are-foreigners-only-noticed-in-taiwan/ This post received a lot of attention publicly but mostly privately. I received so many direct messages on my Foreign Sanctuary facebook page of people sharing how they or their Asian significant other was subjected to racism – some of the experiences were so sad to read.
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No one really should experience racism. It’s humiliating and degrading to be on the end of racial insults especially when you don’t see it coming. I feel very happy for you to have not experienced such negativity. I do think most of us don’t wish ill will on one another and see each other as just another person.
Perhaps racism has something to do with us, us in the first place. If we come across as judgemental or coldly backing away from a person of a certain race (whether intentionally or unintentionally), then they might get the impression we have something against their culture – and might react unpleasantly towards us.
You are right. Many other bloggers especially the interracial ones do touch on this topic. Not all of us have the opportunity to meet let alone learn about the beauty of other cultures, it really is sad.
It’s great to see you have addressed part of this issue in a positive light (checked out the post! Loved it!). A lot of articles on racism in mainstream media tend to have complicated language and heated viewpoints. No offense to anyone, but I think many of us relate to posts written in everyday language. Saying it like it is. We need more articles like yours.
Thanks for reading the article. I wrote the article because of the fact that even though my husband stood out, they were interested in his story, in learning about him – where he came from, what he was doing there, etc. It is the curiosity that I feel when traveling to different countries.
I have another beautiful story about my husband that happened in Canada and it has to do with him sharing a little aspect of his culture – I just need to make sure it is ok with him before I write about it.
I really enjoyed that article. It was interested to read about the positive side of being different – it’s not all bad being the odd one out.
It was great that your husband was a good sport about being the lone Asian guy. If he was even the slightest bit sour about all the attention, his encounters could have very well descended into an unpleasant racial experience. Goes to show that it takes two to tang to avoid a racist situation from heating.
I’m sure your husband will give you the green light to write about this lovely story you speak of. After all, he loves the way you write. How can he say no? 😉
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Reblogged this on XIANSPEAKS.
Thanks for the reblog! 🙂
Mabel I want to stand on a chair and cheer! Bravo for you to standing up in a safe , effective and consistent manner. Being Caucasian and pretty average I have never had to face racism but particularly as I have aged I do not tolerate people being insulted or attacked around me. I will not tolerate injustice and at least i can do my small part whenever I am able.
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I am flattered, Sue. You’d stand on a chair for me! You are very kind and generous in standing up for all cultures. That is good to hear you’ve encountered very nice people all your life and in your travels. Maybe you have a friendly vibe around you and don’t rub people the wrong way. Or maybe Caucasians tend to be friendlier and smile more and so don’t attract racism too often (just a way-out-there theory).
I am sure we’ll get along just fine when we meet someday 🙂
Mabel most of our travels have been to Europe and North and Central America so perhaps my experience will be different as we branch out to other continents. For now you can count on me. I warn you I tend to be like a protective ‘Mother Cat’ around my adult kids and younger friends. 🙂
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Ah, the European and American continents. I’m sure along the way you’ve met many who don’t speak you language or have not met a Canadian in their life. Or never heard of your accent – and you got along with them. So yeah, probably it’s your friend nature and to be respectful of the ways others choose to live their lives 🙂
“Mother Cat”? Ah, you really are one nice person, Sue. Be careful. None of us want you to get hurt when watching out for us 😉
I guess you are right Mabel as I have had tons of people comment on my accent. I’m generally easy to get along with. That is unless one of my ‘kittens’ is under threat. 🙂
There’s a fine line between being intrigued in an accent and getting your accent mocked. Someone saying our accent sounds like it’s from, “…” then I suppose they have an interest in learning about us and the world.
The other day at work I had a caller (inbound info calls, not sales) ask me, “I can’t understand what you are saying because of your accent. Slow down.” So I did and she repeated her words again and again about my accent. Now, that was rude 😦
Hahaha. What a big family you have, Sue. All of us here are your kittens. We feel loved 😉
Totally agree the caller was rude. I havent had anything like that happen thankfully.
Glad you are feeling the Momma Sue love all the way down under. 🙂
I hope you never get a racist encounter. Do not wish that on anyone – it’s very demoralising and hurtful. All of us should be more like you and Dave, smiling while traveling and spreading cheer from one corner of the world to the other.
Looking forward to your next blog post soon 😉
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Mabel, if I knew you in person and if I lived in the same city, I’d buy you a box of chocolates and give you a hug for writing this. You’re post is so balanced, calm, rational, yet it gets the point across: racism matters. Talking about it matters and standing up for oneself matters. And it’s not something to be taken lightly and joked about – it is real and causes very real pain.
I agree with all your points on why we don’t stand up. For me personally, I’d highlight the shame that’s involved. It’s complex and multi-layered: perhaps my parents spoke broken English (or insert whichever language of the country) and I’ve been ridiculed based on that; or my skin colour stood out amid a relatively homogenous community; or my physicality didn’t fit into the prized national sport.
Whatever it was/is, it’s the deep rooted belief that one general culture of said country is better than the rest. Anything that falls outside of this mould undermines that “general culture”. Diversity isn’t celebrated – in fact it might be feared. As the “different” ones, it’s easy to become apologetics simply for being different.
There’s much more to be said, but I won’t clog your post. Bon courage for writing about this touchy topic. Dialogue and awareness are great ways to start bringing this to light.
Spot on: racism “causes very real pain”. I am sorry that you were teased because of who you are when you were younger. Growing up is already a scary enough time, adding racism to it makes it all the more frightening.
Practically all of us go about our day thinking of what we’re going to do and who we’re going to meet – we don’t think about racism happening. We think the best of people and assume they’ll be nice to us, at the very least polite. While at work dealing with clients on the phone, I am always trying to guess what solution will benefit them the most. Racism is no where in my mind. A rude reply from them still always startles me, and last time that happen I didn’t say anything for a few seconds.
Very good points: we fear diversity and the notion that one culture is better than the other. Maybe it’s partly due to the fact that we’re always comparing ourselves to others like we’re in some competition. Or maybe many of us are brought up to take pride in our own cultures, to be proud of our own cultures – maybe the (unjust) act of racism is a means to show how proud one is of their culture, I don’t know, I really need to give this more thought, it’s a random thought.
Thanks for the nice words, Pixie. I don’t know if I’ll be nice to talk to in person – I feel I express myself best in written words 🙂 A lot of articles I’ve read about racism broach the topic with complicated language and incorporate emotional arguments. We need more articles on this subject in everyday language so more people can be aware of this issue. So true. There is so much more to be said. I’m certain I’ll write about this topic from another angle sometime.
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Pixie, it’s a good point you raise about diversity being feared. It’s our fear of the unknown (or fear of something that we don’t know) that can sometimes compel us to discriminate. I know I definitely have my share of fears… and they don’t usually come out until I’m in a brand new situation or in a room full of people who I’ve never met before. Learning to embrace what is different from us is much easier said than done. 🙂
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“Learning to embrace what is different from us is much easier said than done.” Well said. Fear of the unknown or meeting new people from a different culture than us is an instinctual feeling within us, a feeling telling us unconsciously to be wary of others so as to keep our guard up. So maybe sometimes we can’t help being racist, a casual racist.
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I agree…I’m sure I’ve had/I have my racist moments. It’s indeed easier said than done and I think you raise an important point, Chris.
Have you guys seen Avenue Q? Everyone’s a little bit racist – the song goes.
I think as long as we’re open about it, have a discussion about it, and acknowledge these tendencies, we’re a step closer to better acceptance of people who are different from us. Familiarity and understanding helps!
But like the posts suggests, it’s important not to internalise racism and speak up when it does happen to us. Say no to silent suffering.
Haven’t heard much of American Q, and that’s the first I’ve heard of the song ‘Everyone’s a bit racist’. Judging from the lyrics, the song sort of implies that stereotypes doesn’t have their importance in today’s world.
You’re right. We need to be open, non-judgemental when it comes to talking about racism. We have to let everyone say their opinions and be prepared to accept the fact that there are many cultural sides to an argument.
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My husband and I just stayed in Austria for a few months. We encountered a very personal form of racism (with the persons involved probably not realising that they were being racist). For me, it was a very tough situation and I did not know how to handle it. I stood by my husband, but I’m not very good with (spoken) words and did not know how to address the problem properly. Being married to someone from a different culture (and from one that people in more developed countries like to look down upon) has made me experience racism first hand. The kind of racism we experienced was not only directed against him, it was directed against me as well (this is a problem many people in intercultural relationships face, I’ve heard). It’s a bad feeling, especially if it comes from people who you thought should know better.
Thanks for writing this article and speaking up. I think it’s hard to put certain feelings into words (like the feeling of being discriminated against without being able to really put a finger on it).
Thanks for sharing, Ruth. Sorry to hear that you and your husband experienced a very unpleasant experience in Austria. I hope it did not sour your trip too much. Yes, some people don’t know it when they are being racist, and you can’t really blame them for that. For all you know, they just simply don’t know and haven’t had the chance to experience other cultures and get to know different customs.
A lot of the time racism happens when we least expect it, and when it does it may very well come as a shock to us. A shock that leaves us at a loss for words. And every racist situation is different, you really don’t know how to react when you’re feeling like a fish out of water.
Such a situation makes you feel very much alone even if you do know that it happens to others too. You never know if anyone will understand exactly how you feel.
Oh, girlfriend. The stories we could share. I’m glad you wrote about it. Sometimes I don’t want to write about it, too because I don’t want to be misunderstood. I’ve guest-posted about similar things and the comments were surprisingly against what I was saying. Now, you see more Asians on youtube posting/sharing their similar experiences and everyone then “gets it”.
Then again, it’s frustrating to share what we go through because racism is a topic that seems overdone? And yet, as you astutely point out, no one really wants to stand up to it, address it or talk about it and be willing to be wrong. Folks are quick to defend themselves and no one wants to be accused of being “racist”.
Generally, Asians are very quiet about it. We just move along and that’s part of the reason why no one thinks it happens to us and no one seems to be able to say, “Hey, quit it, asshole.” It’s a good thing you weren’t with me, I would have yelled, “F*ck you!” and then we would have been running, screaming and then laughing.
Of course, I say this, but I’m a wimp. Whenever stuff like this happens to me, I’m so shocked that I don’t say anything. I hope you are okay, by the way. Chinky? So 1970s. And at you? Geezus, your a tiny little thing. Does he say this to grandmas, too? I don’t know why people feel threatened by someone who is different.
Racism a topic that is overdone. Racism a topic that is swept under a rug. Oooh. Such an interesting thought. With Youtube racism towards Asians has become more recognised and talked about, but whether that has an effect on decreasing racism in the real world is another matter altogether. It is the same with other articles in the media, and this blog post included. Videos are just videos, words are just words. They can be forgotten in a heartbeat. Action needs to be put into place in real life to stop racism.
Many of us have a lot of pride in our culture, maybe a lot of pride in us to be nice to each other and not accuse each other of names (e.g. Asians are generally reserved). I don’t know, maybe some of us are delusional that we’ll all get along eventually if we don’t give those who racists attention, hoping they’ll see no use in their unfavourable actions (no offense to anyone here, it’s just a random thought).
HOW to address and tackle racism is another topic altogether, one that I hope to address when the time is right. A lot of the time I find that news articles and media on racism in general are saturated with racist acts, or focused on that part of racism. Perhaps a shock tactic into teaching us to be respectful to other cultures.
Thanks, Lani. I’m okay with all of this. In fact, ever since going back to this job a few months ago, I’ve had numerous questions thrown at me about my background and accent. It’s something I’ll probably never get used to.
What’s interesting when I was reading your response was, how much racism (at least towards Asians, cause that’s what we are directly know) is not talked about or shared. It’s a form of bullying, really. You feel attacked, vulnerable and you don’t know why this is happening to you.
We are who we are, and I simply cannot understand why someone would be aggressive towards someone based on their ethnicity. We also have to remember that we’ve come a long way. It’s just sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. Racism has good and bad days…
“You feel attacked”. That is the perfect way to describe when racism hits us. Not only do we feel that our culture is attacked, but us as a person too, physically and emotionally.
It is indeed true Asians don’t really talk much about racism openly. Maybe it’s a pride thing, or a combination of that and the need to keep to ourselves and be conservative.
In Malaysia, many Chinese dislike Malays because of political and socio-economic reasons (think jobs, education). Both groups like talking about the other group behind their backs, calling each other names. Hush-hush racism. I don’t know if this is worse.
Agree with you that we have come along way. A lot of us are smart enough to know that we’re all human and there’s beauty in every culture.
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Especially during my youth I encountered much racism towards me as I am half German and half finnish. I don’t look any different much it was enough for many to have a different background than them to say bad things to me or even harm me.
These days it doesn’t happen much anymore but in any country I visited I had to deal with racism, especially in China. I don’t know why people are fused like this as I just don’t understand what their problem is with people from other countries or other racial background.
What to do about it, I don’t know. Few years I had a neighbour in finland shouting at me that I am a disgusting Nazi, as I used by mistake her parking lot for 5minutes and to scare her off I took a baseball bat out of the trunk…I know, also stupid but it was enough that the never said anything to me again and by the way, every neighbour was scared of her as she shouted at everyone on any occasion -> perhaps people with a mix of bad temper, lower education and whatnot all are more likely to be racist but this would not explain my bad experiences during school time through my (very) racist teachers in the first high school years
Oh Crazy, didn’t know you experienced racism too. I am very sorry to hear that. Very glad to hear you weren’t harmed from any of the incidents, especially by the parking lot in Finland (glad the woman didn’t have a baseball bat of her own) – you would have made the news for all the wrong reasons.
Perhaps some people are very close-knit with their culture having spent most their lives growing up around certain people. And when someone of a different culture crosses their path, they feel threatened. Maybe some culture’s customs or speech rub others the wrong way, it really is bizarre to me too – and this would probably boil down to simply being unaware. So totally agree with you there that those from lower-socio economic backgrounds might be more racist than others.
I hope racist incidents don’t happen to you too much anymore. And not to your wife too. Good luck with finishing up the apartment. Coming along nicely.
Thank you. The apartment is developing pretty well now, just some minor work and furniture needs to arrive (somewhen next month, 12 weeks delivery time, OUCH).
Thus far my wife had no incidents here in Germany but it is just a matter of time. But I doubt that she will take it too hard as she developed over the years working at the Helsinki Airport a rather thick skin.
I just can’t take people serious who are behaving in this kind of racist way. Everytime someone starts with this kind of stuff my mind goes blank, I cannot really explain but for me there is nothing worthy to listen anymore when they start. Ah well, now I am rambling again and if I dont stop myself I will write a short essay about this as it just annoys me so much.
That is good to hear your wife hasn’t had any upsetting racial encounters. I think the more you get them, the less upset you will be and in your wife’s case, develop a thick skin. And I believe this thick skin comes with a stare that makes the offending party look foolish to others.
Mind goes blank when this funny stuff happens? You know, that has happened to me many times. When racism happens in front of you, you can hardly believe it’s happening because it’s 2014, c’mon. That’s probably another reason why some of us don’t say anything – it’s just too silly to comprehend.
Good luck with getting the furniture to your place. Furniture delivery in Australia tends to take a few months to arrive too :O In Malaysia, they tend to get it out to you in the next week on the back of a beat-up truck – and it gets to you in one piece, all good.
I’ve never faced anything racist for my ‘race’ but I have had some strange comments made towards me for being Italian. But that is hardly comparable.
If I see someone posting something racist on the internet (i.e.-YouTube comments), it’s very easy for me to respond to it as I do a better job of expressing myself in written form rather than verbal form. If I see it in public, depending on the kind it is, I am often a bit nervous to say something especially if I see someone who looks like they could physically hurt me if they wanted to. If it’s “casual racism” then I can explain to someone why a comment they said was ignorant, though..
A fine line between a racist remark and a remark that is simply a non-racial remark about our background. I guess it depends on how the person is saying it to us and the tone of their voice.
I too express myself much better in written word. Not that I don’t want to say anything to those who racially attack me verbally – but safety is always my utmost priority. It’s always better to be safe than to be sorry. It’s good to hear that you do respond to racism online. Cyber-racism does need to be stamped out too. With words, we can think through our message first, tweak it into a coherent and impartial message. Responding to a racist face-to-face, often your reaction would be on-the-fly.
Respect is someting you earn my friend, so be the best of you Mabel
so don’t mind wasting your energy for facing racism and stuffs….
fortunately i’ve never seen any racism again nearby my place, it’s damn 2014 actually, no place for racism…
Thank you, Dedy. You are always very sweet.
Indeed. Respect is something that we earn. Yes, it is 2014. However, I do hope to play a part in stamping out racism. I think this post is the first step. That sounds like a very peaceful place you live in. I remember when I visited Jakarta, all the people of different races there were very friendly towards each other. Not much racism there it seems.
Maybe racism happens less in Asian countries and more so in Western countries. In general, Asian cultures tend to be reserved and keep to their own while Western cultures are more outspoken, and so racism stems from there. But maybe Asians might silently have racist thoughts, but just don’t say it out loud.
“Maybe Asians silently have racist thoughts, but just don’t say it out loud.”
Yeah, I think it depends on the country/culture involved. I know in Hong Kong people there look down upon the Filipinos that live there (which I think is partially because there are so many Filipinos that come to work in HK just so they can send money back to their families).
In mainland China, people tend to say what they think, so I think racism takes on a more explicit/direct form. It’s mostly towards the minority peoples here, and maybe Africans.
Interesting to here that in Hong Kong people look down on Filipinos. Not sure if you can call that racism, I don’t think so. It’s a similar situation in Singapore where there are a lot of Indian and Bangladeshi temporary migrants working in construction who get looked down upon by the locals.
Perhaps people in mainland China say what they think in their own language, and among their friends and family.
Racism is everywhere and sometimes it could be objective, it depends on the person’s value. Perhaps that’s also make some people feel that it is not necessary to stand up and complained. For instance, in Indonesia, for white skin, Caucasian person gets name as “Bule”. I find calling a person as Bule is racism. Bule in my view contains of certain stereotyping created by Indonesians about Caucasians – positive and negative stereotypes. But my partner who is a Caucasian with blue eyes thought it was no harm for being called as Bule by some Indonesians. He was sincerely think it was just a friendly call.
In the Netherlands, last year, a famous Dutch celebrity, Gordon, made a joke on a Chinese contestant, Xiao Wang, using racial stereotyping; “Which number are you singing? Number 39 with rice?” (and oh, later on he pronounced R in L) Horrible and awful! But somehow this thing was not picked up by Dutch news media on the following day. But thankfully some Dutch who watched it complaints about it on twitter saying how racist Gordon was and the news was picked up internationally then the Dutch news were finally picked up the story – jeeezzz..Yep, it took some guts and bravery to stand up immediately but I am glad that nowadays there are many ways to do so, we can use twitter to speak up..so there is a way.
This is one very interesting comment. I didn’t know in Indonesia that Caucasian people are called “Bule”. I guess it’s similar to how Chinese Malaysians refer to Western males as “gweilo”. You are right, this can be a form of racism – it’s stereotyping based on how we look, our ethnicity. Some Westerners get offended by it, some don’t at all.
On the flipside, maybe those who are inclined to take it as a lighthearted name-call are more open to other cultures. We’re all different; each of us tend to have (some) typical features of a culture. That’s a fact.
That racist TV incident was horrible. Not all Chinese people speak the same way. Social media is definitely one way to speak up about racism. Writing about racism on blogs and even on facebook posts, it’s listed down in writing and if it’s made public, hopefully what’s written will help those interested in learning about the topic 🙂
I know what you mean Mabel!
I was in South Australia for the past few days and I was always given that ‘Asian Escort look’ because I’m with my caucasian boyfriend! I never actually faced any racism growing up in Singapore so getting that ‘look’ made me feel really uncomfortable…
Oh dear, I am so sorry you had to get those lecherous looks. In general, Asians tend to look younger than Caucasians, maybe it also contributed to the reason why you got those looks. But those people really had no right to assume just because of the way you look.
I don’t remember facing any racism in Singapore when I lived there either, though people did want to be my friend because I “was from Australia”. Singapore’s a country where there are many races for the longest time, sub-races within races too. Just like Malaysia. Perhaps Asians aren’t as vocal about racism as others in Western countries – after all, in our culture, we’re generally thought to be quiet and listen to others.
I hope you had a good time in South Australia. The weather must have been good there now that spring is in full swing 😀
South Australia was beautiful. I enjoyed the drive from Melbourne to Adelaide very much.
And yes, Asians are very quiet in general; possibly because of the way we are brought up.
That is good to hear you had a great time in Adelaide. You are right. It’s the way Asians are brought up that we’re quiet – to listen to our elders, to listen to others and to not “talk back”. We are thought to keep opinions to ourselves unless asked directly, all the more reason we don’t speak up about racism.
A great post…to the point, real and so relevant. Most of us educated lot, pride ourselves for being multicultural and open minded. But the truth is, very few of us are actually that. I am an Indian where racism is deeply embedded – class and society divisions do little to alleviate that. Infact, recently New Delhi has been in the news again for racist attacked on students from the north eastern part of the country, who tend to look more Chinese than indian, and are called Chinky in their own country. No surprise that that part of the country wants to break away from India.
Now I live in South Africa, where although apartheid ended in 1992 on paper, it’s still quite prevalent in the minds of people. It’s not surprising to hear comments being made here and there, that shows the deep seated resentment. But the good thing is, the current generation of college goers are not like this. It’s changing…albeit slowly.
Very interesting to hear that racism is embedded in Indian society. There are always different sub-racial groups in Asian cultures that each have their own values and languages, so not surprisingly sometimes each group doesn’t see eye-to-eye with one another. Maybe it’s due to a lack of education.
Didn’t know that there were racist attacks on students in India. I thought that only happened to students in Australia. Now I know better, thank you. This seems to be quite similar in Malaysia. In Malaysia, Malays and Chinese don’t usually see eye to eye due to political and socio-economic reasons. If you are Chinese but look like a Malaysian (like a Chinese person with dark skin) in Malaysia, then you might get more friendly treatment from those around you (e.g. in shops, restaurants). It’s sad.
Very happy to hear that things are slowly changing in South Africa. The more young people there get an education, the more things will change for the better soon. Hopefully.
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I believe that the racism in india has more to do with just education…because even well educated people have shown racist sentiments. I guess it has a lot to do with our caste system, religious beliefs and the huge rich and poor divide..making it very difficult to change the attitude of people. But hopefully the realisation and awareness will help turn the tide.
Terrible to hear, but glad you put it bluntly. It is the truth. Even in Melbourne, well-educated people who have secure white-collar jobs are known to be racists too.
When we’re in a certain comfortable echelon of society mingling with a certain affluent people, it’s hard to get to know people from the other side, people who basically live a different life and culture.
Religion is strongly tied to race. For quite a number of people, their religious beliefs and values defines who they are. Say something insensitive about a certain religion and it’s not surprising it can turn out into a full blown racial argument.
Yes, hopefully the tide will turn soon in India. I just wonder how that will happen. That’s thought for another post.
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Thanks for your post, Mabel! A very thought provoking topic, and because I have never experienced it personally, I really appreciate being able to hear about your own experiences. As Melbourne is a very multicultural city (and most of us wouldn’t have it any other way), it’s aggravating to hear stories about some members of our population treating you (and many others) like this.
I have worked in industries with a broad anti-foreign view (that real White Australia attitude) and have always found it difficult to speak out about people who have narrow-minded views about refugees or immigration. Last year I was at a party and one obnoxious man’s tirade of racist jargon provoked me to the point that I couldn’t hold it in and just blurted out years of pent-up anger at this sort of ignorance. I felt relieved but ashamed to have made such a scene at a friend’s party. Your dot points about why we keep it in, even as a third party, really hit home and I thank you for that!
It is tricky knowing people, and genuinely liking their character, and then finding out that they harbour these views. I do have friends that I feel ambivalent about because they’ve expressed views that really anger me but I don’t think it makes them bad people, I just feel like they haven’t had the exposure to other cultures and education that I have been lucky enough to have.
I find that assimilation is happening at a dramatic rate. I went to school with many friends from China, Vietnam, Malaysia, India – the list goes on! As a child I never saw them any differently to myself, and was amazed at their bilingual/trilingual abilities! I feel that this is happening with today’s Australian kids as they assimilate with Australians from African and Middle Eastern heritage. I sincerely hope and believe that Melbourne will be a very different place in 20 years!
That is good to hear you haven’t directly experienced any racism, just like the third commenter, Sue. Maybe the grass is indeed greener on the other side of the fence. Perhaps it’s your personality, perhaps friendly, cheerful, personality, that encourages people to see you as a very approachable person, regardless of your ethnicity and maybe look beyond your ethnicity.
But it’s unfortunate you’ve come across people who don’t share the same welcoming sentiment as you. No one really wants to make a scene and confront a person who makes derogatory racial remarks, especially in your instance at a friend’s party. You really don’t want to get into a physical fight for common-sense reasons, and you don’t want to bring the mood down. And you don’t want to upset anyone you know around you. Maybe it’s easier to confront a person whose being racist when you’re alone as opposed to be in a roomful of people you know, I don’t know. Just a thought.
You are right. Many of us haven’t had the opportunity to learn about other cultures, let alone have a friendly one-on-one chat with someone of another race. It’s good that Australian schools are encouraging second-language learning in recent years. All the more cultural exposure today’s youth will get. Hopefully they will have more opportunities to go on exchange programs too. Apart from that, I’m sure there are other ways we can encourage cultural tolerance and stamp out racism. That is another story for another day, another post 🙂
Thanks Siobhan for stopping by again. Always good to see you here.
You are right Mabel, we have to speak up, and stand up against racism! Racist people are not mentally well developed in my opinion, they still need to learn a lot about respect and being respected, and to stop being egoists. Im sorry for what happened to you… I never encountered someone that was racist to me, but a lot that didnt respect me, sometimes I stood up and said something, sometimes I just looked at the person and laughed at her/him! Anyways, in Brazil in have a lot of racism problem with black people… and I find this so stupid! The world is so globalized and people in my country still live the ages of colonization and slavery, I hate that! Grow up people!
Great text!! 😀 :*
You are very right. Those who harbour racist sentiments need to learn to respect other cultures. Perhaps they can do so by drawing on how they respect their own culture and own self.
Ah, don’t feel sorry for me. I’ve gotten used to it, but have never gotten used to the idea of racism being okay. It is absolutely not. If we have the time to sit down and talk about life with people of different races, I think we will all learn how to get along a little better.
I didn’t know there was a lot of racism in Brazil towards dark-skinned people. That’s sad to hear. Maybe it’s a political or socio-economic issue that’s causing this, maybe both. I’m sorry to hear there have been people who didn’t respect you. You are a very nice person!
Thanks for the compliment “Great text”. I like that phrase a lot 😀
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Yes, I completely agree with you! Dialogue can change the world, it generates respect and I like that, instead of judging others or being violent. The world could be a better place if we just talked to each other!
I also dont understand why people are racist, this is something old, and it should stay in the past… of course it shouldnt have existed in the first place. I really hope this changes a bit every day!
You’re welcome… when say “great text” I really mean it, and you know that 😉 I wish you a great week ahead!
I’m sorry to hear you’ve been on the receiving end of racism. It’s a good topic to write about so that we can be made more aware of this unceasing issue.
Like I mentioned in my reply to Pixie’s comment, I think a large reason why racism exists is because we fear that which is different from us. I would go as far as to say that we all have discriminatory thoughts in some way or another – but obviously, not all of us go out offending people with our words and actions!
I think one way we can combat racism is to focus on the beauty of our diversity rather than harp on all the differences. Another way is to catch ourselves when we jump to conclusions – or when those around us making hasty assumptions – about other people. It’s so beneficial when we learn to ask more questions rather than assuming we might know the answer.
“…this unceasing issue.” Very aptly said. As I’ve responded in your comment to Pixie, fear can be instinctual. We can’t help it, so maybe some of us can’t help but be discriminatory in some way.
If we do have discriminatory thoughts but choose not to act on them, then I suppose maybe we do try to see the situation from the other person’s perspective. At least that’s what I hope we do. Or we simply respect the other person for who they are and their culture. At the end of the day, we are all proud of our own culture.
Those are excellent suggestions on how to combat racism. Another story altogether, another story for another day, another post 🙂 But spot on – we really should be asking more questions. We look more silly making assumptions and saying the wrong things than asking.
Hatred and discrimination don’t necessarily overlap, but both are ugly to see or experience. If people remain silent, nothing will improve. Attitudes are changing in society. And that is a good thing.
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So true. Hating and discriminating someone can be mutually exclusive. Something about someone’s culture, say speech, can bug us and we might sadly talk down towards them – but that doesn’t mean we hate them individually…just sort of hard to put up with.
If no one speaks up about racism, it’s hard to come up with ways to put a stop to it, let alone get people working together to do so. Slowly but surely, Australia is learning to see the beauty of different cultures.
I applaud you for bringing one of the sensitive topics to the blogosphere. This is one of the very few topics that is almost impossible to address it without mixing with emotion, yet you present it graciously. I admire you, Mabel. Apologize for my lengthy comment.
There are many types for discrimination. Racism is the most unforgiving among all. Because
It gives no hope for the people being discriminated since they can’t change their colors, look, or accent. Most of all, it hurts their dignity deeply. Nothing, absolutely nothing can remedy that.
Racism comes from one’s ignorance and/or superiority, Education is the only way that can help, but won’t work effectively without law enforcement, even that there is no guarantee most of the time. But, it can bring the awareness to the society.
Luckily, I have not had to deal with racism; part is the US is a race melting pot and I work and associate with well-educated people. As the economic is changed in China, the perception about individual Chinese has changed in many ways. For example, companies, businesses, want to hire Chinese, believing they are smart or have potential. Retails welcome Chinese customers, etc. People don’t like to be asked questions, such as where are you from? is because people don’t like to be pre-judged. More often than not, they do.
It really is heartbreaking to hear what you have to go through, Mabel. I had an impression that Australia is open to immigrants. Great writing, Mabel.
Hope you are enjoying your trip 🙂
Stay strong. I know you do. Have a fun trip, Mabel. (((Hugs))) from Amy.
I think a lot of people get the impression Australia is very welcoming of migrants. Our tourism ads usually depict sunny beaches, vivid parts of nature, happy locals having fun outdoors…what could possibly go wrong in such a lucky country? Well, many of our tourism ads feature solely Caucasian Australians, and a lot of other countries don’t find this odd at all. That says something.
You’re right in saying there are many types of discrimination (e.g. gender, age, height), but “racism is the most unforgiving among all”; we can’t change us. Spot on. Many of us are very proud of our heritage, the way we look and the way we speak. It’s very sad when some of us are forced to “change our race” because of the status quo. For example, I’ve had friends from South-East Asia who actively adopt and put a Western name – and drop their Asian name – on their resumes in order to better their chances of finding a job in Australia. I’ve also heard whispers recruitment agencies targeting international students pass around such tips on how to be “Westernised” and make a living in Australia.
I enjoyed my trip a lot. Went to a town with an Asian friend and everywhere we went , we were the only Asians, the locals were Caucasian. However, we did not get stared at but were greeted very warmly when we went into shops and buildings. Very nice. Of course not all Australians are racists. But the racism that goes on here, especially on public transport, well, no doubt it’s shocking and in your face.
No need to apologise for the long comment, Amy. I loved reading it, and it’s one I’ll remember for a while because it was an insightful read. Thanks for the nice words 🙂
I’m still in shock! It hurts me to think of Asians in Australia have live through this day in and day out. It does look like the gov is trying to change that by having education programs, policy, and laws. When they are not trying to change, they are encouraging. That is worrisome.
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I think a lot of racism in Australia goes unreported. But these horror stories have been getting a bit of media coverage of late…what is this world coming too, I don’t know.
“…they are encouraging”. I think you’re right. Australia is encouraging of a multicultural nation but it’s moving ever so slowly in that direction. For instance, although Mandarin is being learned by students in school, other languages such as Indonesian aren’t as popular (perhaps something to do with Australia’s not-exactly-strong relationship with Indonesia).
It is worrisome. No doubt about it.
If they are not willing to put policies in place to prevent and laws to protect, and provide no education programs to support, etc., they are supporting (period). Immigrates do not have a base to fight, most of them or all of them are trying to survive, day by day… Worrisome, say the least.
Thank you, Mabel!
Wish many others are more compassionate like you, Amy. Migrants have every right to have the opportunity to feel comfortable and settle here in Australia – and migrants in other parts of the world too 🙂
This is by far your best blog entry yet. I could actually feel the experiences your were describing and that’s absolutely a shame. I’ve heard similar things from other people of Asian descent that reside in Australia. Part of it might be that in a lot of the East Asian culture you’re taught to “save face”. In America – I’ve been witness to similar incidents. A lot of Asians can be passive and downplay racist comments and attacks.
The interesting thing is that African Americans are opposite. A lot of times they (including me) are hypersensitive to everything and can perceive the subtlest statement as racist. Maybe a middle ground between these two mindsets would be best? I have no idea.
I think your mentality to not fight fire with fire is the best approach. But sometimes, you really have to stand up for yourself – even when there is a degree of risk involved. Better to stand tough and face the consequences than to be trampled on.
Thanks for this post – I hope there are many more like it in the future.
You are right. Many Asians can be passive. Some don’t even speak up to racism, don’t even talk about it in private or in home, simply brushing racial incidents off. It may have something to do with their upbringing: some Asians are brought up to listen to their elders, listen to whomever’s speaking and don’t respond unless asked a question directly.
That is certainly an eye-opening fact about African Americans. Maybe many of them come from a culture(s) who pay more attention into words and actions, and read more into them, I don’t know. When we stand up for ourselves or stand up for racism in a public place, there is always the chance we will draw other people’s attention to this issue, one positive arising from taking that risk.
A middle ground between two mindsets so we can understand each other better? I like that. That would mean approaching each culture with an open mind. However, some of us may harbour strong emotional sentiments towards other races (due to political, socio-economic reasons) and this might not work after all.
Thanks for your nice words. I don’t have all the answers to such a sensitive topic (none of us do since our perceptions are limited by our upbringing and culture. And so we really should all agree to disagree) – that’s where the comments section comes in. Racism is a very broad topic. How to stamp out racism is another topic altogether from this post. Why some people are racist is another topic too. And so is defining racism. I do plan to write about them at some point, hopefully the time will be right sometime.
This terrible social sin boils down to respect. Respect, even in the absence of like/love, equates harmony. If people are more respectful of others, we will have a better world! I admire how you handle such evil with civility and strength. I agree with Amy, education is the key. Great topic, Mabel 🙂
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Respect. If we could all just slow down, be polite and treat others how we would like to be treated, I think we would be on the fast road to stamping out racism.
I see no need to be accusatory in expressing my thoughts on this topic. There are so many races and customs in this world, it really is impossible to learn them all overnight. As such, there’s every chance that I’ll racially offend someone without knowing it. No need to accuse racists of being in the wrong too – they aren’t. None of us knows everything about what offends each other and what doesn’t.
Thanks, Lola. Always great to see your cheering in my corner 🙂
I have never seen or read such a maturely written post on as sensitive, as widely and as wildly discussed as this topic before. A huge round of applause for you Mabel. Although I’ve never been directly a victim of racism but I’ve heard about it enough to know that it is a big deal and huge problem faced by so people all around the world. I can’t say much as most people above me have already said it but I do admire the way you handled the topic. Very well written Mabel, very well ! ❤
That’s great you haven’t faced racism before, it’s definitely not something pleasant at all. It’s hard for anyone to take a neutral stance on this topic. We are all very proud of each of our culture, and some of us will say anything to defend it.
I reckon many of us think that pointing fingers, accusing and shaming racial perpetrators is key to solving racism. It could work, but then again we’d be hurting people’s feelings in the process. And no one likes to get hurt.
Thank you, Zee, for the nice words. Here’s a heart from me to you ❤
Mabel first I think this was a well written article. It would be beneficial for a person of any (all) races to read. Its ridiculous for a world that is so inter-dependent to still have racial tensions rise up. I almost think it comes from people who are looking to pick a fight. So they start by verbal slurs that then (can) escalate.
Second: I had a friend have his arm broken because he was of Nordic background in a geographic area that was not. Those men may have found, if they had talked, that they had common interests.
Third: I have worked with medical teams (working in a particular region) and heard in the middle of a debrief “I forgot – you are white (or American)!” For me it is a great complement to be welcomed into another culture so readily.
We choose to see people either for what they are or what we think they represent. I am glad that there are so many people who enjoy diversity (the spice of life.)
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I never thought of that – some of us rub each other racially the wrong way because we’re looking for a fight. Which could very well be a reason why racism exists in the first place. Maybe we pick a fight because we have nothing better to do. Or maybe we are insecure; we might feel threatened by another racial group, or feel another culture dominating our way of life. Maybe the latter are better at doing something and might rob them of a livelihood.
I’m sorry to hear about your friend and his arm. It must have been a very painful experience, physically and emotionally. That is a good point – maybe we can all bond over common interests instead of picking out each other’s differences. Maybe if we learn to see how similar each of us are and subsequently get to know them, then maybe we will learn to appreciate their differences more.
“It would be beneficial for a person of any (all) races to read”. I don’t know about that, Leslie. I’ve only touched on one small part of racism. But we all have to start learning from somewhere… Thanks for the compliment, it means a lot to me 🙂
I worked with a young Australian Asian who, almost every week, would tell me of some insult he had been subjected to when going about his normal business, such as shopping for groceries, catching a train, or taking his baby son out for a walk. I am appalled at how ubiquitous this insidious spite is in our country. What drives it? Fear? Ignorance Jealousy?
This friend of mine has retaliated once or twice, loudly and publicly, and the perpetrator has slunk away without saying anything further, but he is 6 foot and male, and I can understand you not wanting to retaliate for fear of being physically hurt by these morons. They are total spineless cowards and deserve to be outed – maybe then they will think more critically about their stupidity.
Prejudice is a strange thing – it exists everywhere in various forms – in Japan, we were often greeted by crowds of schoolchildren saying “Hello” to us. we thought that they were being friendly, but I later read an article in the Japan Times that calls this out as a form of what the Japanese refer to as gaijin-bothering, a form of ridicule of foreigners. I have also, as an English-speaking South Africa immigrant to Australia, been asked when I’m going to “lose the accent”.
My sympathies go out to your Asian Australian friend living in Australia. I’m sure he’s always minding his own business as he goes about doing what he has to do, and it’s unfortunate he gets harassed about his culture. Maybe it’s jealously – that reason completely slipped my mind, so glad you brought it up. Maybe a culture gets jealous of another culture in a society where the latter gets socio-economic or political perks, hence the racial tension.
Maybe it’s insecurity. Some of us might feel threatened by another race for these reasons too. I don’t believe in shaming someone into admitting their racists…I just don’t like hurting people’s feelings. However, it might very well encourage them to them look at the other side of their actions and see how their behaviour affects others.
I don’t like the sound of ridiculing foreigners at all. I didn’t know that about Japan. Maybe some of the children didn’t know what they were doing and thought it was a fun thing to say to foreigners, I don’t know. That’s sad. Never lose the accent, BB. You’re fine the way you are, and you know it.
Good on you for speaking up about what matters to you!
Reading some of the comments it’s very sad that this still happens, I agree with one of the commentators that prejudice exists everywhere in various forms, whether direct or indirect. I do think that every generation gets better as we become more global and also more educated though, there is hope for this world 🙂
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Indeed. Racism still happens. Maybe some of us have yet to see the beauty in the different cultures around us. Maybe some of us haven’t had the chance to experience other cultures. Maybe we think our culture is in competition with another (its a ridiculous thought, but it could be true). The reasons are endless.
So true. The more we travel and learn, the more chances we might all get along in this world. Thanks for the encouraging words, Kellie 🙂
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A fantastic post and you’re absolutely rightーracism is everyone’s problem, and everyone should stand up against it.
Living in Australia while I was at uni, I noticed what you experienced aroundーmost of my friends were either Asian (mostly from Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Japan), or Australian with Asian heritage. I felt I could relate to them more easily. It didn’t stop people being rude to them around me. A couple of times when I said something, the offenders got angry at all of usーme for defending these “intruders” and them for, well, being there. Ugh.
It’s interesting though that there are differences in the world. In Sweden, my adopted cousin has never experienced any noticeable racial discrimination, but as soon as she went to work in France and England, she got more than her fill of it. This doesn’t mean Sweden isn’t racist… it’s just targeted differently. Since it’s been common since around the 1960s to adopt children and babies from Asia and Africa, it’s normal to consider people who look different to be Swedes. Having said that, any non-Caucasian from anywhere else in the world will very possibly get a slew of remarks and threats at some pointーor most likely with regularity, as you’ve described. 😦
That’s great that you’ve talked about this at schoolsーit definitely needs talking about, at all levels and at all ages. Or rather, there needs to be more education: we’re all different, we’re all equal. (Wish I could say that quote was mine, but it was a European Union anti-racism campaign many years ago. 😉 )
That’s great you were a part of the international student groups here during your stay in Australia. But what a pity that there were some locals who got upset at all of you. Hats off to you for sticking up for your Asian friends. I wish the “intruders” could have listened to you a bit more.
I always wondered if Western international students felt awkward hanging around Asian international students in Australia. The overseas Asian student group here seems very tight knit – I see them having parties and gatherings everywhere in the city. It might look as if these Asian students are choosing to hang around their own race while avoiding others, in a sense being racist…. but from what you mentioned I don’t this is true. And I do know quite a number of them who like mingling with Westerners.
So sorry for your adopted cousin and the racial remarks she has gotten 😦 No matter how many times you’ve heard them (like people shouting “Chink” at me), it sort of stabs you in the heart just a little – it’s hard to feel comfortable when people are not making you feel welcome in a certain place. Even if you’ve developed a thick skin to all of this.
“We’re all different, we’re all equal.” Perfectly said, couldn’t have said it better myself. Haha, I’ve only spoken once at a school. I don’t think I was all that impressive. Never got asked to since, and public speaking isn’t my forte 😀
I know there were some groups of Asian students that were pretty tightly knit, but I never felt unwelcome. 🙂
Hey, even once is pretty awesome! I’ve only ever done it while I’ve been *in* school, so… 😉 I’m sure you were great!
Phew, good to know international Asian students are welcoming of non-Asians in Australians. It’s so easy to accuse people of sticking with their own race as being racist this way. In reality, people tend to hang out with people of the same race to enjoy certain cultural activities together (e.g. Asians like drinking bubble tea) and share common experiences together overall.
Haha! Thanks for that, but I really am quite bad at public speaking. Must work on it 😉
I love the photo you’ve chosen for your post, and a great post at that. Being half Asian half European, I have to say that I have suffered way more racism when I have lived in Asia (because they considered me European) than living in Europe. So yes, racism goes both ways, not only with non-“whites”. I say this because sometime I think that the world has a prejudiced way of thinking that only “whites” are racist and won’t ever suffer it themselves. Luckily in Europe I’ve only had sporadic bouts of racism against me, usually fast and fleeting by strangers and they run away because they think I can’t answer back to them in their own language – haha, not only can I but I probably speak more languages than them. In all these cases it’s been so fast that i didn’t even have time to react and stand up to it, so I’ve been really laid back about it and (arrogantly, lol) though: your ignorance, your loss. Arrogant, I know… Have a great week Mabel! xx
Thanks for the compliment on the photo, Sofia. I thought it was a good fit – chess pieces do resemble people and hierarchies in the metaphorical sense. If you’re half Asian and half European, do you call yourself Eurasian? That’s what a lot of my half-Asian-half-Western Singapore and Malaysian classmates called themselves. I don’t know if that’s a derogatory term and I don’t know if you like being called that, so sorry in advance if I offended you
“Racism goes both ways, not only with non-“whites”. So true. For instance, a lot of us call westerners names such as “gweilo” – which in a sense is racist to some Westerners who don’t like being labeled.
At least you didn’t get hurt in those racist encounters in Europe, that’s the most important thing. Yes, racism can be a fast an swift incident – most of the time it’s so unexpected that we don’t realise it until the racial perpetrator have left. Maybe they just meant to tease you, racially, which isn’t a very nice thing.
Sure I’m Eurasian and don’t worry, I don’t really understand what is so derogatory about it! I mean I’m half European and half Asian so there we go. I don’t consider myself only one or the other. I am both. And Australian too, lol. I think we’ve all become so uptight in living in a politically correct world that we don’t want allowed to “label”, “name” many things anymore in case it might be offensive.
Ok, this has nothing to do with racism, but I remember a few years ago one of my clients said oh we need to make a brochure for this product for “special needs” patients. So I was like: what are they? (physically disabled? mentally disabled? patients x disease?… you get me). You know, I need to know who they are to write about it, right? I can’t remember what it was now, but the answer was that in that country they had become so politically correct that the government had decided that x group of patients would as from now be called “special needs”. It was driving everyone mad because then all the other patients were ALSO special needs after that. And anyone with anything would be special needs, then the healthcare system didn’t know what they were dealing with anymore!
Back to racism, you cannot imagine the amount of times I get stopped in the streets: what time is it. Oh, you must be “Chinese” you cant even understand me. And walk off before I can look at my watch. lol. I don’t even look Chinese (NOT a derogatory comment here, I love how Chinese people look, so cute). Thats what I mean that I’ll just arrogantly think: your ignorance, your loss. 🙂
My goodness, I do blabber on in your blog don’t I?….
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It’s interesting to hear you say that you don’t have an issue with being Eurasian. When I was living in Singapore and Malaysia, everyone around me was referring to those of Asian and European descent as Eurasian. Here in Australia it’s a different story – I don’t hear the word too much but have met Eurasians. And they tend to get labeled as and describe themselves as half-Asian, half-European. I suppose Australians have a more “direct” mentality towards race…
Yeah, putting a label to the way we look and how we sound isn’t very nice at all. One can never assume we fit a certain stereotype since so many of us have traveled and moved around heaps. Then again, sometimes people like to use labels and guessing “where are you from” as conversation starters. Maybe a lot of us are racists and we don’t know it…we don’t mean to be racists but we are.
That’s a very sad discriminatory situation there. “Special needs” is itself a vague term. However, it’s often regarded as an euphemism for the tern “disabled”. I don’t know if they people who are “special needs” like being called that. I hope you got the brochure sorted out 🙂
You’re a blabbler? Actually, a blabber with a lot of thoughtful things to say 🙂 When I first started following your blog, I thought you looked Indonesian, judging from your gravatar.
Sure I got the brochure sorted out, I’m good at that 🙂
I do realise that the Australians (of foreign descent) I meet are very touchy about ththis issue (we already commented about this in a previous post of yours I think). Maybe its a way of thought. When I first came to Spain and Europe, I was surprised that when you ask someone where they are from, they will specify not only the country but exactly very proudly the town or little village they are from, AND where each of their parents are from etc. Now I’m used to it, so I find the other way around bizarre. One thing is feeling like oh I am from here x place, but I proudly say I am half Indonesian, because I am, even though I have only lived there until I was 2 years old lol. Yeah, I think in my gravatar I look more Indonesian, though in real life I do look more mixed.
Blabbering again hhaha
Yes, we definitely talked about where are you from in other posts. But we always have something different to say each time 😉
Never knew in Spain and Europe people there seem to be very sure of answering “where are you from” – and they are happy to give a very long-winded answer. Maybe people there are more friendly and accepting, maybe that’s why there is less racism there (I’m guessing). Unlike in Australia, people seemed very reserved and like to keep to themselves – people respect each other’s distance, like, everyone has their close “mates”.
Can’t wait to meet you in real life. I’ll probably still think, “Yep, Indonesian” 😀
If you want I’ll send you some clearer photos so you can decide 😉
i.e. their problem if they are too ignorant to not recognise my features. Ok, that’s a tough one, usually no one can haha.
Chinese is one of the biggest Asian races, and one of the more prominent Asian races around the world. For example, in most big towns there is a Chinatown. Maybe this has something to do with some of us associating a person who has dark eyes and yellow skin – who looks Asian – as Chinese. Sorry to hear that this has happened to you so many times. I hope it happens less!
I love being in Chinatowns!
Now this happens less because Spain has received more immigration in the last decade. So now that Spanish people see a wider variety of features, now they think I’m Brazilian. Again, no I am not! But it’s fair enough because most of these people are mixed like me 🙂
They think you’re Brazillian? Going out and meeting new people must be very interesting for you then. Especially since that they seem to be showing genuine interest in learning about your race, or at least guessing. Yeah, I think the more features and cultures we know, the more open we may be to other cultures, hence less racism 🙂
Even Brasilians think I’m Brasilian! 😛
Hmmm. Yeah…I think you DO look a bit Brazilian. Must be the hair 😉
Hello! Have a nice, successful new week.
Thanks, Marko. You have a good week too.
i hate racism..
I don’t like racism one bit too. At the end of the day, it’s up to us to say something about racism and take a stand for it. The more of us stand up and speak about racism, the louder we will be and then hopefully others will see the beauty in diversity.
Dear Mabel, I have no idea what happened. Lately I’ve noticed that some of the blogs I thought I follow have dropped off and when I go in to check, it seems I’m no longer following. So sorry for this 😦 I have absolutely no idea why this happens but I have corrected this. I think it happens on my blog too. But what counts is I’m now able to keep on top of your excellent posts 🙂 I am so, so sorry that racism exists. BTW did I ever tell you that one of my really good friends in California was Singapore-Malaysian? I think I did, yes, I remember now, her name was Wahida but she went by Sheeda. A beautiful lady inside and out, like you my sweet friend. When my children moved back to the UK with me from California, they were teased terribly for their American accents. My sons took it well and dealt with it but my daughter, who also as you know is an Aspie, took it terribly. I know it’s not racism in the true sense of the word, and I will never understand why anyone would be bullied purely for the colour of their skin and looks, but it is an awful thing to be picked on like that. I wish I had been with you when that jerk said that to you. I would have had a thing or two to say to him. Still, maybe we should thank him because you now have this excellent writing to show for it and so, my dear, you have risen above it with integrity, purity and a most beautiful grace. Thank you for sharing your heart with us today, I know that it wasn’t easy to write by any stretch of the imagination, but I, along with all your readers, applaude you and send you a huge hug… ❤
Dear Sherri. It sounds like you’re writing me a letter. I love that. I always thought you were busy with your book, Sherri – and you have every right to be busy with it and not visit me! Writing needs you 🙂
Yes, I recall you mentioning your very nice Singapore-Malaysian friend. I hope she hasn’t experienced too much of racism. So sorry to hear you kids got teased for their accents – that is racism alright. Our speech depends on our culture, family and where we grow up, and the way we speak, we can’t help how we sound. It IS very hard to understand why some have a problem with that and feel the need to point it out to everyone – the colour of our skin, the way we speak is US, our problem and personality. Not theirs. Baffling indeed.
I hold nothing against those who say racially unpleasant things about me. I can never really guess what they’ll say to be…it’s interesting perceiving their opinions with an open mind and trying to work out why they throw racial taunts around. Above all, such incidents remind me to take things with a pinch of salt and focus on those who matter to me. Lots of hugs right back at you, Sherri. You’re always so supportive ❤
Bless you Mabel, for you have written me lovely letter right back! You have taken the higher road and that is a thing of beauty. It really is about those who matter most and the love and respect received from them, not the sad and troubling actions of the ignorant few. Have a beautiful day my friend 🙂 ❤
You’re too kind, Sherri. At most we can try to see the situation from those who are not being too kind, take criticism of ourselves and move on.
Have a lovely weekend, and a better week ahead ❤
Thanks for another interesting post on such an important topic. I liked your angle – why do we not stand up to racism – & thought your answers were perceptive. I agree fear plays a big part, and with good reason considering the violence people can be capable of, but also the decision to not engage for more positive reasons, like not fanning the flames of hate, is valid.
In one of your comments you say perhaps being targeted with racism has something to do with you appearing cold or reserved – well maybe that’s a trigger but I don’t think it justifies abusive behaviour. Sometimes I despair at people’s inability to see beyond their own feelings!
Anyway, coincidentally today I saw an article that may interest you, about the relationship between class oppression & racism: https://medium.com/message/how-white-people-got-made-6eeb076ade42 – I think the arguments in it could easily be applied to Australia both now and historically. Racism towards Asians in Australia has a very long and ugly history & has usually been underpinned by fears about competition for money & employment – which makes it very easy for our politicians to exploit.
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An American anti-racist speaker named Tim Wise talks about many of the things mentioned in that article you provided. “Whiteness” as well as race is general are social constructs (like Irish, Italian/Sicilians, Jewish, Greek people etc have not be considered “white” at some point in history). Of course even though it is a social construction it has effected Asians, Africans and many others so it must be discussed.
Yes indeed it must Domenico. Thanks for the reference to Tim Wise, I’ll look him up.
Thanks for mentioning Tim Wise. I’ve heard a bit about him through Twitter previously. I will look him up. His ideas sound rooted, or at least entwined, in the academic notions of racism, I think I’ll find his work very interesting. Thank you, Domenico.
Never knew anyone read the comments. Thanks Maamej 🙂 It’s so true. Acts of racism seem very much self-centered – as if our culture is the best among all cultures in this world, as if our culture should be the one that dominates the world.
That is an interesting article on Medium about racism, I will have a read soon. It looks very comprehensive, thanks for sharing. That is true, racism towards Asian in Australia has it’s ties to money and employment, and education as well. Those of Asian heritage tend to be associated as the demographic that is more well-off – for instance, in terms of property, this demographic seems to be able to buy the most most expensive places to live, and this recently has garnered some negative attention in local media.
Racism is a big topic. As you mentioned, there’s also the topic of what triggers racism. And also how to stand up for racism. The kinds of racism we face every day. Stories for other posts for another day.
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Thank you for deciding to write this post. I think it is very important that we talk about racism. I also think your “everyday” story of just walking down the street and being called a name is sad, but an important reminder that racism isn’t just some academic idea but something that is in the fabric of our societies that has very real repercussions.
No, thank you, Amy, for reading this post. Racism is a very sensitive topic. Many of us might hear or read about it, but not make the effort to put in their thoughts about the subject. So I thank you for this comment.
Spot on – racism isn’t just an academic idea, it really should be talked more outside of university and academic conferences. Racism needs to be talked about in everyday language, by everyday people, if more of us are to understand the term and how we all can get along.
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Great post, Mabel. I’m sorry that you’ve experienced racism towards yourself. There’s just no excuse for such rudeness and discrimination against fellow human beings. We all deserve the same respect. Love your chess image. 🙂
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Thanks, Sylvia. Definitely. Racism is rude and it’s discrimination. Respect is what we all need. We’re all from different backgrounds, it’s a fact.
Thanks for supporting, and for the compliment on my chess image. I took the photo a few months ago during Australia’s winter 🙂
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sadly… it is also getting worse in your ex-home country. =(
Oh, really? It’s bad enough already, and many tend to make no big secret of it. I suppose the different races still stick together in their own groups.
yup. in yr ex-home country, it is more of a politically motivated which makes things even more complicated.
Sounds the same, like it has been for many years. There’s so much distrust between the different races. Even when someone’s being nice to you, that’s viewed as suspicious.
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It gotten worse lately…..
I hope at some point all the races can get along in Malaysia. Things get tense there when politics dominate the news.
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yup. I hope so too.
Great job, Mabel. This is a very sensitive topic. I just found a quote from the internet and I’d like to share it with you. Don’t be racist. Be like the PANDA. They’re Black, White & Asian 🙂
Thanks, Kai. I love that quote. I’ve heard it before but so glad you reminded me about it. It’s a very funny quote. Pandas are so cute, how can you not like them 🙂
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This is your own “race” around the world. =) Great job unpacking the hindrances to progress in this area. Indifference and fear, I’d say. And well possibly fear beneath the indifference because we’re afraid to look, really look – at others and at our heart. Change is uncomfortable and breaks into our “little world”. We don’t want to rearrange the perceptions we’ve arranged JUST SO on the mantles of our pride.
What a compliment, D. My own “race” around the world 😀 No, yours was so much more comprehensive.
“fear beneath the indifference”. Pride. Very well said. Maybe we’re afraid to look because we’re afraid of seeing the flaws in ourselves – flaws that WILL be there because we’re not perfect. No one is.
We’re all brought up with certain values, language and perspectives. All of this combined affects how we see the world and the different races around us. Maybe we’re all a bit racist in some way.
Yes, I think we all are, Mabel.
You’ve hit a nerve with this controversial topic — and it’s so interesting to read through the comments, as not only do many people have something to say, they have a LOT to say and it’s all meaningful. I wonder if racism has something to do with the way our brains are hard-wired. For example, I’ve read that we learn by noticing similarities, so maybe that predisposes us to be drawn to people who are like us, and to think of those who are from elsewhere as “the other” and to be feared. So even in our supposedly enlightened times, there are days we can’t quite escape that.
Thanks for a thought-provoking post.
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Thanks, Sandy, for reading and reading the comments. Always appreciated. Great observation there – people seem to have lots to say. I didn’t really think of that until now. Racism is a sensitive issue, and we all have our own believes and values. And I believe that’s why a lot of us are reluctant to talk openly about the topic – for fear that our beliefs will be criticised.
Your theory sounds very convincing. Maybe we do feel safer when we are with people of the same background – we have the same beliefs and languages and so we know what to “expect” of the other person’s behaviour. Also, our personality is usually influenced by our background. Definitely a point for food for thought.
Racism is really the case in today world. We need to listen to all different voices from every nations not just stick into the idea that there are high and low people. Thanks for sharing!
“listen to all different voices from every nations”. Spot on. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and at the end of the day we are all people. So respect is the way to go. The world would be so boring if we all came from one culture. Thanks for stopping by, Khan.
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Indeed. I do agree!
Yes. As one big happy planet 🙂
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I can’t read all of this right now, sorry (but I can assume, by having read all your previous posts about the topic), just stopping by! ❤ Don't let my new avatar fool you 🙂
Thanks, Iva. It really means a lot to me when you stop by, you are such a great blogger-friend. I love your new photo a lot. You look very cool and funky with that hairstyle, so pretty at the same time 🙂 I hope you are doing well, I send lots of love to you from warm and almost-summer Melbourne ❤
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You’re welcome! specially when you show me with compliments like that hehe 😀
Cool&funky is my jam 😎
I am better, I can go on computer although I’m not pushing it – I go for an hour, hour and half and I’m off. If I need anything I have my mobile (weird that that bothers me much less). Thank you for love love love, that is exactly what I need… ❤
My guess since it has been two months of it is that I have some more time in front of me, but this is huge stuff going on and it is worth it. I know when the pain gets smaller and smaller I will be well in another level. I am so happy.
I am saying hi from late autumn Zagreb, it is beautiful… Leaves are on the ground, it's cold and sunny (today was cloudy), there are fogs in the morning… Everything points to a normal winter ahead, I love that. I dislike when the weather is very different than it should be at that time of year, then I feel like we messed up Earth xd
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Mabel you have done an excellent job here by bringing into table a very sensitive topic for discussion, and acting as a responsible moderator.
We used to hear racist attacks (and even deaths) on Indians in Australia quite often and the number of Indian students enrolling Australian universities had really gone down.
Now it seems the authorities have taken some strong actions and it’s come down or the media stopped reporting them.
I feel racism is a universal thing and the prey and predator keeps changing.
Here in India, we could see racism of all sorts, based on region, cast, community, religion etc;
Being a country of this size,population and diversity, it’s so obvious that, people from one part of the country looks so different to those from other regions and narrow minded ones will always try to make fun of and tease others in their home ground.
The same people would be at the receiving end when they travel elsewhere in the same country.
To me, one reason for being racist, is narrow mindedness and intolerance.
I don’t think the education has anything to do with racism, as I see, even people who works with me in the IT industry shows this kind of attitude. Thank god, I never had to be on the receiving end but I know people who were.
Let me just tell one thing, it really hurts when you feel like you are being targeted for insignificant things like the physical appearance or your cast/religious background.
Thank you so much, Mabel, for another though provoking article 🙂
Hope you are having a great day 🙂
This was a very meaningful and honest, comment, Sreejith. Every sentence you wrote was so thoughtful. What jumped out at me when you mentioned that racism may not need to be due of a lack of education. And I have to say, rather sadly, that I agree with you. No matter how much we learn at school and are exposed to different cultures, if we’re stubborn enough to think that our own race is the one is above the other races, then we’re delusional.
It’s true that we don’t hear too much more about racist attacks on Indian students in Australia. I hope that this is the case but as you mentioned – the media might not be reporting them. Or the students aren’t speaking up for themselves.
As you mentioned with India, different groups of people live at different ends of every country. I really don’t know why a lot of us forget that and think certain races rightfully dominate. Maybe it’s because some cultural groups have more opportunities to speak up more and be in the limelight. Sort of like a viscious cycle going on here.
“I feel racism is a universal thing and the prey and predator keeps changing.” What a phrase to some up racism, Sreejith. Your words are just as beautiful as your photos. Thanks for sharing and writing 🙂
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I know where you are coming from on this Mabel. Being a Gay man, I have had homophobic comments shouted at me many times. It happened a lot 20 or so years ago, but even today, I hear the odd comment about my sexual orientation. Fortunately, here in the UK, same sex marriages are now legal and many other parts of the world are also accepting that there is nothing wrong in allowing love to blossom between two people of the same sex. If these two people love each other, then why not allow them to live happily ever after?
I ‘ve seen quite a few homophobic comments on blogs I read and also in the comments section, but rather than get angry about them, I move on. I’ve learnt my lesson not to react to these comments having seen evidence of how some of these people will come after somebody challenging their point of view. People should think very carefully before they leave comments which include any kind of racial hate, as it only promotes hatred and fear.
I sympathise with your situation and your post asks a lot of questions of what one should do in these circumstances. My advise is not to come down to the level the people who say, write or shout abuse are on, but walk away and hold your head up high. These people often want a reaction and getting nothing at all is usually the thing which hurts them the most.
That is terrible that some have, not said, but shouted homophobic comments at you, Hugh. My heart sinks hearing that 😦 But good to hear it doesn’t happen as often anymore, I hope it stops completely. We all certainly have the right to be who we are regardless of race, regardless who we choose to love.
I admire the way you handle such emotional comments on blogs, simply by giving them a glance and moving on. You are right – those who leave such opinionated comments tend to want a response, and our response is always a chance for them to spread more hate. In all honestly, I do get affected by some of the comments I receive, comments which I subsequently unapprove.
I guess part of me doesn’t want racism or any sort of hate between the human race to go unnoticed because if we don’t notice it, we won’t recognise that it exists and won’t do something about it. Then again, we need channels of encouragement and diversity if we were to promote equality and acceptance. And if we are positive, I think we can all achieve so much more. Thanks for stopping by, you always say the wisest things.
Wonderful and powerful post Mabel, not easy to address but so important for all to realize what a beautiful world we live in. Racism truly is for fools, simply those who fear and are cowards…
Thanks, Randall. Your second sentence sounds quiet poetic, I must say. Racism is always hard to address because many of us are on one side of the fence on this one, and sometimes don’t know which side we stand…sometimes we may also be sitting on the fence and not know about it. We’re all human, though. Hope you’re doing well 🙂
Hi Mabel, I’ve pretty much experienced similar to you in the past in the sense of walking on when a stranger in the public has called me something. It obviously greatly upsets me and is probably on my mind for days but I don’t want to show them they’ve affected. I know things are crazy laid back in Australia but in UK there is legislation protecting people put in these positions so it is actually an offence to treat a person unequally due to their race. Of course though, evidence is hard to come by, especially because a lot of racism is so discreet, indirect and institutional
That is good to hear there are laws in the UK against racial discrimination. There are legislations like that in Australia too, but I still think they are too lenient. Don’t blame you for not showing that you’re upset – because when we do, I suppose that makes them feel more “powerful” and daring.
So true that racism is discreet. What might be racist to someone might not be to someone else, which in a sense makes racism a form of perspective…confusing.
The big question is: why isn’t people standing up against racism when it’s black on white racism?
Interesting experiment. Not all of us know what reverse racism is. Thanks for sharing.
I don’t agree with the term “reverse racism”, because it implies that racism is a white attitude, while the truth is that it’s a lot of racism between all races and it’s got nothing to do with skin colour (pun intended).
In the mainstream media in Scandinavia, people are considered racists if they’re against mass-immigration, or even if they just raise questions on how the multicultural society wiorks and where it’s heading. With the development the last couple of decades, the Scandinavian welfare state is soon nothing but a vague memory – something we can read about in the history books.
Very, very good point. If we ever stand up for reverse racism, that means we are being racist ourselves. It’s sad to hear what’s happening in Scandinavia, but great to hear that it’s improving. Sounds like each country is on a different continuum of the multiculturalism.
Great post, Mabel. Very thought-provoking. I’ve faced it too… and many times just let the comments slide – what is the point picking a fight with ignorant people and wasting time and energy on them. But you’re right, sometimes if we don’t speak up against it, some people may not even REALIZE that they are being offensive to other cultures. Such kind of people, who are doing it subliminally and without a malicious intent, really need to be educated.
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Thanks, Kan. Sometimes speaking face-to-face to someone who hurled a racist insult to you might not be the wisest option. Then again, if we don’t speak up, they may never learn to see that we’re all the same. It’s good there are things like blogs and social media where we can talk more and talk more honestly about racism and how to fight it. That’s definitely one way we can make our voices be heard on this issue. Getting others to listen is another thing altogether.
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I used to live in PNG and grew up around a lot of aussies and poms. As an Asian female (mix of Filipino/Spanish/Persian/Chinese), I never encountered the sort of racism you describe as happening on the Australian continent. However, living in Southern California now and married to a White American guy, I do encounter the “up and down”, head-shaking action from (surprise!) White females. I have also run into reverse racism from Black females. I can only say that this negative attention has to do with insecurity of Asian ethnicity. Maybe they were bested in school by an Asian, or their boyfriend/husband ended up leaving them from an Asian…I’ve even been told by a Black colleague that in regards to racism I wouldn’t really “know or be affected by it”…as if Asians are invisible to that sort of thing when it does occur. What has worked for me, is to return exactly what they give me…glare for glare, snotty looks and all. If the thought is that Asians think they are better/smarter/richer…than play that up and get your revenge!
That is interesting to hear other minority ethnicities describe Asians as not knowing what racism is and that we don’t really experience that much racial discrimination. I suppose it boils down to a lack of education and not usually hanging with people of Asian ethnicity. Or this racism could also stem from plain jealously, as you said, like an Asian besting them at school.
I always thought Southern California is pretty culturally diverse. However, the more races a town or city has, doesn’t necessarily mean everyone will live together harmoniously.
I googled “how to stand up against racism as an Asian American” and found this sticker I. Recently, my friends and I have experienced multiple racist situations in Philadelphia and each time we have no idea how to react. I’m not a hostile person and don’t get the hostility thrown at me sometimes just because I’m Indian. We usually just turn the other way because we don’t want to get heated and start an argument that clearly no one else around would support us in. But it’s so degrading and makes you feel helpless.
I am so sorry to hear that you experienced racism recently in your neighbourhood. It must have been shocking and hurtful to you and your friends.
“…makes you feel helpless”. That is so true when we choose not to react in the situation you described. Not only do we feel like we’re taking it personally by keeping quiet, but sometimes it feels like the perpetrator is “winning” too (that they are the so-called inferior race). But in these situations, I do think the best option is to walk away (safety first) and then perhaps take our story elsewhere and tell it.
On a side note, I’ve always wondered if racial perpetrators want to hear a verbal response from us after they’ve said a derogatory remark to us.
Thank you for stopping by and reading, Anjali. I really appreciate it.
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I have never been the object of ridicule for my race, though I have been “picked on” in school in the past for being less than athletic and being more artistic (I recently found out most in high school thought I was gay). My practice has always been to shrug it off as stupidity, but it is very dangerous. We always say remember Auschwitz or the internment camps in the U.S. during WWII. But no one really remembers. They pay lip service to that time in history, believing it is all in the past! I do not think society, as a whole, will ever accept others who are perceived as different.
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Sorry to hear that you’ve been picked on in school, that must not have been too pleasant. It’s true. When we shrug off a situation, racist or not, we tend to give out the impression everything is okay. It would be great if we could all live harmoniously regardless of race in this culturally diverse world. That day will come when we all can look back and learn from the past.
Thanks, Mabel. Let’s hope for that day!
I hope so too. Cheers to a multicultural world!
Reblogged this on Big Asian Package – Hung Asian Man Talks Sex Politics – Straight Up.
Great blog entry, Mabel. This whole racism thing is like a journey, isn’t it? It’s definitely not nothing or a minor part of our lives as Asian Australians. It certainly was a big deal for me growing up, and it has coloured my world and made me who I am today. I’m now at the point where I really put racists into a lower class of people. There are innocent racist remarks that show their ignorance, and I do make a joke of their ignorance, and then there are the no-hopers. I pick my battles, like I think you do too (with that loser that called you a name – he is really clever, isn’t he?) and I don’t bother with the no-hopers that go into a raging fit. I think my feeling is this: all this racism must lead to a consequence. People just can’t be racist to another person, without a corresponding reaction from the victim. It might not be immediate and obvious, but there will always be a reaction of some sort.
I’m trying to fight it. Bless your efforts too. Your words have power over intimidation and I am inspired too by your voice.
Good on you for fighting the fight. Bless you too. We need more stories, real stories to shed light on this ugly thing that is racism and do something about it.
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