I recently read an article that really got me reminiscing over my childhood. It is about the story of an Asian girl who grew up wanting to be anything but Asian. Whilst I did attend a school that was very multicultural, I often felt like the odd one out. In our year group, I found that most people would automatically group up with others of the same ethnicity and seeing how there were only a handful of Chinese kids in our year, I felt that, even though I did have my group of friends, that I was still not ‘one of them’. To be fair, our year group did mingle around with others, but there were definite divides. I don’t blame them, I loved my year, it’s just how things naturally played out. This did, however, lead me to frequently think of what life would be like if I was a different nationality. What if I was white? They were the cool ones, they weren’t limited to being stereotyped as only good at study, video games and fun, but not that much fun. It seemed like they had the freedom to forge their own personal traits without being slotted into a certain category. Please let me remind you that this is my interpretation and this could well not be the case – of course, I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors.
So all these thoughts, of course, led me to rebel against my own culture. Not in a harsh anti-Asian sort of way, but I wanted to define myself as someone who was different to your typical Asian. I started listening to pretty dark music, I dressed myself different, I made jokes about Asians and let people make jokes about them too, laughing along. I agree with the author of the article regarding the way media portrayed Asians – stupid. In reality, if someone speaks to you in a foreign language that you do not understand, would you consider yourself stupid? Or course not – you just don’t understand their language. But this is seen time and time again in TV shows, movies, you name it.
I’ve actually found myself emphasising my Australian accent that much more when I feel like the person I’m about to talk to acts like I don’t know a speck of English. Just one example of this was when I was visiting my parents when they lived in the Central Coast – where the percentage of Asian residents is very small. We went to the local charcoal chicken shop to grab some dinner. I was joined by my mother and my boyfriend (Caucasian). The shop looked like it was a family-owned business and the mother (White Australia) was working the cash register. I waited in line whilst my boyfriend stood back behind me and my mum was looking at the other things in the shop, my turn was next. The guy in front of me moves aside after ordering his food and the cash register lady looks up and assesses who is in her shop. She looks to me, who was standing behind her previous customer, and then to my boyfriend leaning against the drinks fridge two metres away from the counter and yells, ‘NEXT!’, her eyes not moving from my boyfriend. It wasn’t until he pointed to me that she finally believed that I had lined up and was, in fact, next. When I placed my order, I made sure my Australian accent was clear as day.
These little things you start to pick up on as you grow up stick with you. To some, this example may sound like nothing – that she was just asking who was next. But for people like me, we recognise these minute details as it happens all too often. Like how my boyfriend and I will be walking around the shopping centre and people assume we aren’t together and walk in between us. Of course they don’t cut him off (could also be because he’s 6′ 4″), but they have no problem pushing in front of me.
But, you know what? I’m glad to be who I am. My parents brought me up with their morals and values and that’s what matters most. It doesn’t matter what colour skin you have – it’s your actions that speak the loudest. So discriminate however you what, you’re not going to change me.