Today we welcome Stephanie in her first Guest Hoyden post!
Stephanie is a loud person of Chinese-Anglo descent, who tries to navigate being an Australian by way of Malaysia. Growing up in Australia meant never seeing any people who looked like her on TV, constantly having to explain the most basic food and customs, and being mistaken for one of the two other Asian girls in her grade who looked nothing like her. At the age of ten, she was horrified to discover that not everyone eats rice several times a day.
At The sky is high (an approximate translation of her blog name) she talks about beautiful things, her embarrassing love of Chinese pop music, food, language, identity and privilege. Stephanie also posts at Vegan About Town (no relation!) This post was originally made here.
“But that’s the good thing about you,” K said recently. “You can choose your Chinese side or your Australian side.” And I didn’t say, “are you using ‘Australian’ to mean ‘Anglo’?” I can’t remember what I said, but I didn’t say that, and things that I hate include but are not limited to: that I have become so complicit in this game of privilege and institutionalisation.
Week before last I posted about the racist “Chinese can’t speak English” cartoon in the Western Suburbs Weekly. The comments in that post demonstrated that someone I had previously considered a friend is a racist apologist, and our friendship is over. Since then, I have been so fired up and angry, but also more aware than usual of my own privilege and the privilege of others. I am almost always aware of white privilege and, as someone who has been known to pass (as many things that I am not), sometimes it’s painfully clear to me how I play that to my own advantage.
I tend not to talk about this stuff because I find it really difficult to articulate, for all that I like talking and I enjoy writing. But not talking means silence, and silence is often a tool of acceptance, and I can’t let myself be like that anymore, that’s not really who I am. And I’m not just talking about racism, either.
So if I get angry at you, I’m not sorry. I don’t want to be complicit in playground equipment that you can’t get to if you’re on wheels, preventing parents in wheelchairs from reaching their kids. I don’t want to just accept when people tell stories that start, this Asian girl or that Aboriginal boy, but begin a boy when they’re talking about someone who is Anglo, singling out the difference and othering us through language. I don’t want to sit silently by as people talk in stereotypes because they’re funny, gay people are promiscuous and fat people are lazy and when you say these things somebody believes you, and when you say these things you draw a line between you and the people you’re picking out, and we have different backgrounds and histories but we’re people and it’s terrible, regardless of your intentions.
My anger is real. And so is the bigotry and discrimination in this country, overt or not, and talking about it doesn’t create it, talking about it makes the problem visible, and we do not have to give the benefit of the doubt that everyone is actually totally nice. It’s easy to point at someone who thinks all Chinese are stealing the jobs or whatever and say, “that person is racist!” but it’s harder to point to someone who is being nice, because it’s often the nicest people who are so well meaning and don’t notice that their own prejudices are totally messing us up.
Friday, on the bus:
*man visually of African descent stands and gives his seat to a middle-aged lady*
Anglo lady next to me: Oh, isn’t that lovely. (in an approving tone)
Anglo lady opposite her: Well, he’s not Australian.
Anglo lady next to me: Give him twelve months.
This is a well-meaning conversation: isn’t he lovely? He’s giving up his seat! But it IS STILL RACIST, this assumption that different ethnicity = different nationality, and it does us all a disservice, and it still makes me angry. I bet they thought they were being nice, too. And how did that guy feel, hearing that? All he did was stand up whilst black, and to those women that means he’s not Australian.
- “Check my what?” On privilege and what we can do about it – if you only read one thing, read this one. I want to quote the entire post (A SUMMARY: you aren’t bad for having privilege, but it’s real and you have it (yes, even me))
- Fighting Through the Confusion of Anger
- Calling out Privilege is not an Attack
- Mind Your Language on the role that word choice plays in opinion and situation and feeling.