Fact: Australia is a multicultural country, a multicultural country where roughly 2.4 million of the population today comprises residents of Asian – Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino etc. – ethnicity.
Fact: There is a lack of Asian faces in Australian mainstream media.
Billboard in Melbourne’s Chinatown. Caucasians tend to be featured over those of ethnic background within local tv & radio programs, ads, magazines etc.. Photo: Mabel Kwong.
Given Australia’s ever growing Asian population, it would be expected for Asian faces and representations to be constantly featured in local media, showcasing the true make-up and diversity of Australia to the public and the rest of the world.
It has been seven months since Korean performer Psy’s Gangnam Style video and horse dance went viral. What have we actually learnt from this whole craze?
Not much about Korean culture or the essence of multiculturalism. But more about how many of us unconsciously love having fun with those of similar background and how Psy is a one-hit wonder.
As discussed in Psy’s Gangnam Style: This Isn’t Multiculturalism, the media frames used to portray Psy in the media encourages the public to see him as just an entertaining entertainer as opposed to appreciating diversity within society or interacting with others of Korean culture – hence Psy can be described as a racial “isolating viral act”.
The “Diversity Dictionary” are posts where I try my very best to explain in plain English common words and phrases that we often come across while reading articles/papers/stories about multiculturalism and diversity. It’s always good to learn new lingo as learning is always good. It’s educational. Part I can be found here.
“Us” and “Them”
This phrase is used to compare people, in particular comparing people of different ethnicities or backgrounds.
One of the ways to be less afraid of and understand the ‘Other’ is to appreciate their cultures and even learn their language. Photo by Mabel Kwong.
Henri Taifel and John Turner have linked “Us” and “Them” to the concept of social identity theory which is the idea that a person’s sense of self is based on their membership of social groups such as class, age and faith.
There is no shortage of discussion in the media and academia today about multiculturalism and diversity, including the many topics related to these terms (e.g. ethnic minorities and their rights, international students, languages, racism).
Google both words, or better still, chuck them into Google Scholar’s search engine and you’ll see what I mean.
When we read about multiculturalism and diversity, certain sets of words and phrases pertaining to these topics often repeatedly spring up.
Words/phrases relating to the subject of multiculturalism can be have complex, multiple meanings. It’s akin to every Chinese character having various connotations. It’s also akin to how each and every person has varied personalities, traits and reactions. Photo by Mabel Kwong.
Most of the time, these words appear easy enough to grasp and understand at first glance. However, many of them are in fact complex and vague conceptions – they are ambiguous terms with multiple undertones that one can easily misunderstand.
Chinatowns in Western cities across the globe are constantly dubbed as not only sites that are a home away from home for the Chinese living here but also multicultural hubs.
Hubs where non-Chinese locals can meander about, appreciate Chinese lifestyles/food/products and chat with their Chinese community members. Hubs that promote camaraderie amongst people of various races.
The back of the front entrance of Melbourne’s Chinatown. The arches embody traditional “Chineseness”, but also stereotypical notions. Photo by Mabel Kwong.
Or so many of us think. There is always more than meets the eye and as clichéd as it sounds, we should never naively judge a book by its cover. Even Chinatowns.