When I think of racism, the following words also pop inside my head: sexism, homophobia, inequality, ageism, discrimination.. What really got me to write about this, is how much racism I have heard in one day. Living in Australia (or New Zealand – and anywhere for that matter), there will unfortunately be racism, especially in a multicultural country. Did you know, according to All Together Now, 1 in 5 people living in Australia has been a target of verbal racial abuse? Racism is an issue that is far too common and the more we hear about it or experience it, the more we realise just how common it is.
The first thing I heard as I sat at the cafe, was a women talking loudly about Chinese students, and how they should make more effort to speak English, otherwise they should stay in their country. She sounded very angry, yet I could understand her frustration because perhaps some people don’t put in effort to learn English but in other cases – some people do. However I did find it somewhat racist, when the emphasis was placed on the words “Chinese”. Afterwards, I was walking home, and as a couple past the building I live in, I heard them say beside me “I hear that building is full of Asians, because it’s so expensive”. Which is fair enough, because the building does have a lot of Asians (including myself), however being Asian doesn’t mean you are rich. That is a stereotype. I knew of a co-worker, who lived in the same building, but she shared it with 3 other girls. As for myself, I live in the smallest possible studio in the building.
It’s easy for people to take a look from the surface and say “That looks like a fancy building, so it must be filled with Asians”. Which – I could go on about stereotypes some other time. My final experience of overhearing racist remarks today was as I walked inside my building to wait for the elevator. There was an Australian family with a Chinese real estate man. The mother said loudly to him “Are the walls all black, because the Chinese people like it?” The man looked very unhappy, but of course he could not do anything about it, to which I could really empathise. What I want to emphasise by writing this article, is how regular subtle racism happens – and how it’s really not okay.
I will tell you a story about an experience when I was with my Mother. She had visited me in Sydney, and I was so very happy. As we took a stroll at the University of Sydney, we were admiring the buildings, there was a huge tourist bus of Chinese people. Minding our own business we continued walking and staring at the nature and old buildings. Only moments later there were loud voices and camera snapping everywhere. There were designer bags and clothing worn while people talked loudly in Mandarin. This didn’t bug me, because people can do as they please, but it was when an Australian couple were having their photos taken for a wedding, and all the Chinese people ran towards the fancy car and the couple to take selfies with -that’s when I felt uncomfortable.
I remember telling my Mother “that’s really inappropriate”. It was quite a ridiculous sight, as the selfie sticks were out, and dozens of tourists were running towards the car. Understandably, the driver was quite annoyed, and said immediately “Excuse me, please do not touch that car”. Regardless, they continued to snap the photos, and he ended up standing there watching. Racism comes from different areas. I have had many cases from Chinese people looking down on me, because my background is from Taiwan. The thing is, racism comes from these stereotypes built up about certain races. No, not all Chinese people are selfie snappers, loud talkers and designer label lovers. However, when these negative behaviour are displayed, it can make those sort of stereotypes true to Western eyes. The example I used, was a way of showing that stereotypes are made from these examples, but they are not the truth and certainly should not define a race.
From All Together Now, it also mentions that Australia has a culture of denial when it comes to racism. Most people will deny there is racism, even though it is common and therefore denying it, unfortunately causes it to continue to happen. It also mentions that racism affects people’s employment and housing opportunities. For example, to get as many job interviews as an Anglo applicant, an Indigenous person must submit 35% more applications, a Chinese person 68% more, an Italian person 12% more, and a Middle Eastern person 64% more application. A quick example, is the media and the lack of Asians in Australian media. There are limited opportunities in areas such as these, and noticeably on television, advertisements and fashion magazines.
Racism is something we can all stop from building up, by not participating in it. Even subtle racism can make it seem as if it’s fine to do so, but it will only encourage it to continue to happen. At the end of the day, we are all different. If we can accept our differences within this world, there would be far, far more peace and equality.
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
― Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom