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.
As an Asian Australian living in Australia, I get the question “Where are you from?” thrown at me quite a bit.
When I get asked this, I pause: it’s a confusing question. Where exactly is “from”? The place where we were born? Where we live? Our heritage? One of my favourite responses to this question is, “I’m from three countries. Guess” (I grew up in Australia, Malaysia and Singapore to Chinese-Malaysian parents; see previous post). It’s also an intrusive question that demands a very personal answer, maybe demanding that we give our life story away.
We usually feel the urge to ask the question when get the feeling the person we’re talking to has a different story than us, judging by the accent on the tip of their tongue, the colour of their skin, the way they dress.
As an Asian Australian girl who has lived Melbourne for nearly a decade, I’ve had quite a few local Caucasian guys hit on me.
These encounters are amusing and annoying. They give me the impression some Caucasian guys are attracted to me because of my ethnicity (maybe some have yellow fever). These moments also remind me of what it means to be Asian Australian, an Asian person living in Australia.
On a recent winter’s weekday afternoon, I had one of those random encounters in the city. Two hands plunged in the pockets of my grey Target jacket, I settled down on one of the empty benches along the glass panelled sky bridge linking the Melbourne Central and Emporium shopping malls. Tired from window shopping, I gazed at the traffic on the roads below, and sensed someone sit down beside me on the bench.
When we were young, maybe we were forced to travel, travel for a better life and a better education. Growing up, I moved quite a bit: Melbourne to Malaysia to Singapore and back to Melbourne. My parents wanted to work in Asia, and so little me was dragged along with them.
At university, I hardly said anything in tutorials unless the tutor asked me a question. Hanging out with others whom I barely know or just met, I usually don’t say much either.
Autumn along the Yarra River. Stories change. Seasons change (Photo 2/2)
When we’re shy, we feel confused. Words don’t come easy out of our mouths when others talk to us. Some of us are shy because we’re not used to being around others or certain people: it’s intimidating, and we don’t know what to expect.