In a previous article for the Crescent Times I wrote about my protection from racism due to my carefully constructed life (so I rarely have to interact with those who are ignorant and/or straight out racist) – my social networks, my work life and my home life are all areas in which my exposure to racism and ignorance is limited.
Recently however, I started to interact with those outside my carefully constructed spheres more often – I started to work at a family friend’s restaurant and thus started to interact with the general public, customers, much more often.
Interestingly, this restaurant is an Afghan one (and a very good one at that, it just won an award!) so you would assume that all the clientele are open-minded to, or more knowledgeable on, other cultures than the dominant ‘culture’ of White Australia. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Recently, two cases of ignorance had my head spinning and got my friends talking on facebook.
Firstly, upon answering the question about my cultural background a woman called me ‘exotic’ clearly asserting that the norm is White and that my perceived exoticness was not just exotic in relation to her, but that it was exotic in general because of the wrong notion that the norm is White.
The second incident, I report straight from my facebook:
“White guy: so where are you from? Me: I’m Aboriginal and Chinese. Questions continue (and satements of “how odd!”) Then, white lady “what are you going to ask her next, her tax file number?”, other white guy: “well she’s Aboriginal and Chinese – it’s not like those two groups need tax file numbers!”. Them: *laughter*. Me: WTF?!?!”
I guess the thing that struck me the most about these two incidents (and I’m not talking about the standard reaction of upset, anger and frustration) was that they happened at an Afghan restaurant. I guess, firstly this indicates that the more I am exposed to the general public, the more racism and ignorance pervades my life. Secondly, I think the incidents also indicate that there are different levels of acceptance by the dominant White society dependant on what they choose to be comfortable with. Clearly being straight Afghan is fine, but being from two cultural backgrounds, two seemingly (by the dominant White Australian mind – where I come from the two groups are often aligned and intermarriage between Asians and Aboriginals is the norm) strikingly different backgrounds is cause for nervous jokes and patronising romanticism.
This bugs me on so many different levels. There’s the straight out racism wrapped up in a joke, there’s the patronising romanticism, then there’s the other bugs – the acceptance of Afghan culture but the non-acceptance of my particular mix of cultures, the disbelief that Aboriginal people and Asian people could come together let alone intermarry and White society’s ability to favour some ‘others’ more than the rest.
So I guess the learning here for me is…to keep being pissed off! I refuse to accept that these types of attitudes are okay. I hope you do too…
Peace and love and light ❤