I was talking to my coworker yesterday, and he was telling me how he gets several customers that have a conversation with him, and mention something thats quite racist. A little reference is that he is a White person, and so tends to get more customers complaining about an Asian person. The one regular customer that comes in over the past year, nearly pushed me to tears from verbally putting me down. She always complains about Chinese or Indian people, in some disrespectful way. The issue here is those who say racist remarks need to realise that most of the time it has to do with someone as a person, not their ethnicity. However, many people will say the ethnicity.
I’ve been working on an essay this week that talks about inferential and overt racism, and it felt fitting to write this post. I was also reading Mabel’s post The Racism And Discrimination Asian Australians Put Up With here. It’s something that is far more relatable with my Asian friends, because we understand many experiences that we’ve been through. As I looked for examples for my assignment, there were examples in New Zealand of inferential racism. An article talked about a dangerous driver on the road, and in the middle of it it read ‘the driver was Asian.’ I couldn’t help think why would they need to write that, and how it deepens the stereotypes that ‘Asians are bad drivers’. The comments said they must be tourists, but what if they grew up here?
Growing up, the children that bullied me or said racist remarks to me, were always White boys. Obviously I’m not saying every White male person is racist, but I feel that it’s important to address my observation. Many powerful positions in society in news media or where ever, are dominated by White men. A little side note, is that I definitely feel it’s important to travel, in order to understand different cultures. It’s good to expose yourself to different places. I find that in New Zealand, we’re quite far away from the rest of the world, and so the importance of travelling can open one’s minds to different places. I was sharing with Mabel on her article:
Even til now, as a young adult, there are many instances of casual racism. The person on the street who says ‘Ni Hao!’ or ‘Konnichiwa!’. I’ve learned to just ignore it or smile and say ‘Ni Hao’. In the past I’ve had classmates who put on Asian accents of broken English. I’ve grown up with people being impatient with my parents when they spoke English. I have to express my full opinion, but I often do feel that some White people in Asia and in Western countries, feel a sense of superiority over Asians. There is a sense that they feel more civilised. In one of my studies, they talk about the concept of ‘us’ versus ‘them’, where racism creates a sense of inferiority and superiority. Mabel mentions that ‘Despite the culturally diverse makeup of Australia, racism towards Asian Australians persists again and again.’
I consider New Zealand my home. No matter if I’m at university, work, church or other public areas, there will always be individuals who will ask me where I’m from. I’ve seen job advertisements that read “English as a first language”, and I can’t help wonder about all the different ethnicities and individuals who might have a different language as their mother tongue, but be completely fluent in English. Chinese is my mother tongue, but I’m fluent in English. There are endless stereotypes about Asian people, and I can’t tell you how many times I was asked for help in Maths in high school, when it was my worse subject. English and History were some of my best subjects, and I love writing essays.
I am sure many Asians have also experienced people saying “ching chong” growing up, or being made fun of what was in your lunch box. I’ve also previously written about my annoyance to people who have a yellow fever, and how, if I speak plainly, it really disgusts me. I previously wrote about how my friend and I have had strange experiences of older White men flirting to us. Of course, there is a difference between liking someone for who they are, and liking them because they are Asian. There is definitely still a sense of white privilege. I remember when I lived in Sydney, I would talk to my classmates at the fashion college, but I often felt that all the tall Australian White girls would keep together.
I was reading a comment on Mabel’s article, where the person said people are generally more comfortable among those from their own backgrounds. There is truth to that, from the language we speak, our culture and the perspectives we might have. As the article title suggests, it seems to me that often someone has to specify that someone is Asian. You’ll often hear “That Indian person…” or “My Chinese friend…”, or something similar a long those lines. It is extremely common in news headlines on newspapers, online and television, to see specification of race. The issue with that is that it tries to normalise it, and allows it to continue in growing a sense of putting a whole race into a group. It allows stereotypes to be ingrained in some people’s minds.
Asia is a massive continent, with many different countries, languages, culture etc. When I type Asia to Google, one of the results says Asia is Earth’s largest and most populous continent. There you have it. That’s why when people often specify that someone is Asian, it can be a huge generalisation. There are situations where perhaps it’s fine, depending on the topic. However, in most cases it’s completely not necessary to specify that the person is Asian. In most cases, as I previously mentioned, whatever may have happened has nothing to do with their ethnicity. If you ever catch yourself doing it, please ask yourself why you might feel the need to specify. Every person is an individual, most cases we don’t need to specify.
What are your thoughts? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments.