With COVID-19 racing across the world, it’s become a different reality overnight.
Some of us feel fear hearing COVID-19 cases rise in other countries. Feel uncertainty as toilet paper disappears from the shelves at the grocery store around the corner.
For some of us Asian-Australians, we feel the slap of racism once again amidst this pandemic.
Melbourne Central (MC) 2020 (1)
Being an Asian-Australian who once aspired to be a journalist in Australia, it’s disappointing seeing recent anti-Asian sentiments in the media and racist incidents on the streets. It’s undoubtedly disappointing seeing certain cultural groups get accused of spreading coronavirus.
According to a study by the Australian National University, 82% of Asian-Australians surveyed reported they experienced discrimination in Australia. A survey of 6,001 Australians found over 30% experienced racism on public transport or at work.
Growing up in Singapore, Malaysia and Australia, this sentiment surrounded me in subtle and non-subtle ways. As a kid brought up in a traditional Chinese family, I never agreed with this train of thought. These days I still don’t.
Race. Ethnicity. These are two words that seem similar. But they are two words that mean different things.
When I studied cultural studies at university, the terms ‘race’ and ‘ethnicity’ often appeared within academic texts that I read. The more I read about these two words, the more I realised they are more complicated than they sound.
Commonly, ‘race’ and ‘ethnicity’ encompass grouping and categorisation. But each word is its own concept. As people and culture change, history and stories rewrite themselves; each word builds upon lessons of the past and revelations of the present.
As someone who was born in Australia and has lived here for most of my life, some stereotypes, myths and perceptions about Australians ring true. And some don’t.
Australia is a diverse country, with the outback and city side by side as I wrote in this blog post about the geographic land of Oz itself. Naturally, Australians are a pretty diverse bunch in general, diverse in terms of what they like, the way they choose to live their lives and who they chose to be.
Time and time again, some of us get the question, “Where are you from?” We might dislike this question, or we might not. It’s a matter of perspective, or rather how we’re feeling in a moment in time that we decide if we like or hate the question there and then.
Chances are if we’re migrants, immigrants, refugees, third culture kids, expats or find ourselves part of a cultural minority community (think an Asian Australian in Australia, an Asian American in the States, we’re much more likely to hear the question. So too if we’re some place where our skin colour, accent or hair style sticks out from the rest.
A while back I wrote a blog post on the different answers to this question. It’s a question carrying quite a few assumptions, a question I’ve been asked all my life as an Australian-born Chinese living in different countries such as Australia, Singapore and Malaysia. Sometimes it rubs me the wrong way. Sometimes it amuses me.