As a neophyte of the blogging world, where core topics of travel, food and beauty are blogged about, I want to cover the serious topic of racism- like on all things on my blog this is based on my personal experiences, readings and findings from the internet. Please hold your confirmation bias.
Migrating to Australia at the age of 7 from the Philippines, unable to speak a word of English I struggled academically at school while also seeking acceptance among my peers while I studied ESL (English as a Second Language). My teachers from memory all caucasian in appearance were all warm, supportive and patient. I eventually made friends with a girl from Romania and a girl from Russia who both lived nearby. My childhood was fun and eventful because of them, we would rollerblade, swim, eat at each others house, slide down hills and even flirted with Aussie boys who went to my school. Eventually, I made more Australian friends as my confidence grew in the English language, I would invite them all over to celebrate my birthdays at my house and have sleepovers, and I would do the same for their birthdays.
In high school the pattern continued, my circle of friends grew in quantity from different nationalities. Korean, Filipino, Australian, Turkish, Sri Lankan, Lebanese, Serbian, Chilean and more. I do not recall ever feeling marginalised, inferior or less than anyone else. As the French call it, I felt as if I was living in Egalitarian society. I didn’t know the word at the time, but I felt its meaning. Nothing like living the United Colours of Benetton advertisement right?
Fast forward to reality, the working world. My first stable job out of college, a waitress in the city. This was my first experience with xenophobia. A newcomer to the team from western Australia asked me of my background, I didn’t think of it much and responded “Filipino”. Then after that, I noticed a pattern in most of our interactions, he would share stories about “Filipinos” in a negative context. I’m not sure why he did what he did, but that’s what I remembered from our interactions. He was a psychology graduate and had a witty character about him, he also had great influence amongst our peers.
Subsequently, I observed open racism in our restaurant. Our managers would talk about “Asians” and their inept table manners during our meetings, there was even a fellow Filipino who agreed to their demeaning remarks. As a young, impressionable, passive employee who did not want to lose her job, I felt confused and livid. And felt that I was living in another country, compared to the country I grew up in. I eventually resigned and found work elsewhere.
Nowadays, I am not surprised by the remarks or racist behaviours I see around the world via social media or in person. It is a reality and as they say in psychology, racist behaviour is an act of self-preservation. Quoting the professionals, It is said to be:
- “a psychological defence mechanism generated by feelings of insecurity and anxiety.”
- “In other words, racism is a symptom of psychological ill-health. It is a sign of a lack of psychological integration, a lack of self-esteem and inner security. “
But what has surprised me though are the new champions for people of colour. Yes, we have had the likes of Alexander Hamilton (an immigrant from France) to be celebrated as one of the founding fathers of America, Abraham Lincoln abolishing slavery during his presidency, and Martin Luther King seeking equality in all men during his lifetime.
But these new blood of defenders are coming forward to hold the line, they are not politicians or world leaders, rather they are normal working people speaking up for what is right, not allowing oppression or intimidation to occur on their watch. You have probably seen them doing their good deeds captured by others on social media.
- First, it was a waitress defending an Asian family while they were attacked by a Silicone Valley CEO while dining out. Link: https://www.businessinsider.com/tech-ceo-california-racist-attack-asian-family-2020-7?r=AU&IR=T
- And then it was a gracious article from the Paris Review, titled “Performing Whiteness”. Link: https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2020/06/08/the-performance-of-white-bodies/
Here is an excerpt from the article:
“Here is what I know: hatred is heavier than love; ambivalence is less rewarding than action. We are diminished by the man occupying the presidency. We are diminished by those who enable him. People who have spent most of their adult lives on the sidelines are moving to the centre. White folks need to move past their fear and call each other into deep, authentic and embodied learning and unlearning around what it means to be white in this country. All of what that means, both the history and the present.”
In contrast, I have also observed a lot of privileged individuals commenting on social media or their professional platform (radio, television, movies, articles) with a generic remark that:
“Everybody is too sensitive nowadays, grow a backbone!!”
Everyone now is “sensitive” because where racism, sexism, classism or any other ism was once tolerated and simply accepted, these people have shouldered passively, offensive and insulting projections from individuals who need to hurt other people, and they have had enough.
It starts with a racial/sexist/classist joke, then the mind expands to bigotry. We then entertain and follow with continuous acts of discrimination, violence, then the extermination of an entire race. Boom, Genocide. Hitler, is that you?
“Racial inheritance” words by Sarah Bellemy (Performing Whiteness) where an individual has NOT have to deal with racism, has inherited racial privilege. The label describes to enlighten those who have been privileged to live with such a life.
History is past and does not blame any future generations, and one cannot control what kind of life we are born into. But certainly one can control how one acts, behave and treat others.
Seeing and hearing about the new breed of social warriors circling our streets today gives me hope. To acknowledge and know the foreigner, to sit beside him and allow him to feel that the world, rather this universe is big enough for all of us.