Friday, October 23, 2009

So you're Asian?

I suffered a bit of racism when I was in boarding school in Australia. I was so unprepared for it. I couldn't work out what I had done or said to this one particular Aussie girl in my house who seemed to dislike me because I had black hair and black eyes and was labeled "Asian" or "not one of us".

I remember saying hello out of courtesy when I first laid eyes on her in the corridor (I was only 15 when I got sent to boarding school) and she turned away totally ignoring me and shut her bedroom door. Ouch!

Back home, I had never encountered anyone as rude as this due to my skin colour. It was quite a shock for me. I now know how it feels to be discriminated against and so senselessly. It feels really bad. It's a rejection of an entire human being based on the shade of your epidermis??? Or the slant of your eyeballs???

I didn't know how to react to this girl so I did nothing. I just studiously avoided her. Girls can be quite nasty to live with. I wasn't about to get into a fist fight. Just not my style and it didn't help when I heard she uses a shot gun on her farm to kill all the cockatoos on it!

It's an interesting thing that happened. One night over dinner, the girls in my class asked what I did for my English creative writing piece. I told them the whole story in a nutshell, including the twist at the end.

The cockatoo killer was on that table and she hadn't sat for her English paper yet. She copied my story (can u belive it?) and I discovered to my horror that we both got an "F" becoz the teacher said it was obviously not original. I was so upset this happened to me. I told the teacher she copied me and she did the same so it was my word against hers...sigh

Incredibly, a blond girl on the table that night (who was her friend) just got fed up of how badly she treated me and all the other Asians in the house and went to the teacher herself to set the matter straight. She said it was my script and her friend stole it.

I was so grateful to her coz my paper got re-marked. Boarding school was a real learning curve and I have no regrets. Over time, I found it in myself to forgive that Aussie girl. She didn't know any different. Her parents were racist and inevitably, it rubs off on the kids. Next time you think a negative, judgemental thought about someone, ask yourself, "Do you even know them?" Who gives us a right to judge anyone?


CripsyCaiHong said...

speaking of not badmouthing la.this is a fact i heard from someone

australia is part of asian country.they are actually "asian" as well but they do not want to admit they are asian.hmm:0

but some aussie are good like some of the friends who stand up for you right:)

naz said...

I understand all too well how you feel. Racism is a form of prejudice and therefore you don't necessarily need to have experienced racism to feel the negativity associated with it as you could also easily feel the same had you been a victim of any form of prejudice. A very recent form of prejudice I faced was that of ignorance when I was discriminated based on gender during my promotional activities where I offered free breast cancer examinations. Was I wrong? There I was trying to provide our society not only with a very important skill but also knowledge of its importance but I was deemed insincere in my efforts. :(

chris_lim said...

Now im really worried. Im leaving to study in Australia next year. Will I b discriminated against? Will I have trouble fitting in? Any advice if this does happen?

Crispy, I think Aus was never an asian country although they're in the south-east hemisphere. They're considered a western country plus they're under the rule of the queen of England.

Family of Four said...

Yes, I do feel somehow people have this 'inbuilt persecution nature' in them. It has been happening in this country very long and you will feel it especially if you are in the minority in any organization.

Once, we were in Wales when we were confronted by some youth. They shouted at us, "Asian,go home!" and threw stones in our direction.

I guess that is life. You have to take the good and the bad together until universal education in values and understanding is achieved on a global scale.

Anyway,this must be a very nostalgic time for you;especially at such an impressionable age.

Good topic. Take care

Pocket said...

wallaweeeiii, how i felt the same thing when i was in japan,
u do know the terms 'Gaijin' which means 'outsider', they have this mind that outsider is a race that u should not mingle with, and if u have to... do not let be seen doing it.

entering the lecture hall, sitting on a row of seats with some local sitting there, but left alone after a few minutes.
they just packed up their things and left.
and that was not the only thing i got from the country of the rising sun.

being judgemental to a race?
i have to say i am too...
after hearing my mother had to get 14 stitches from her eyebrow to one end of her eye because she got mugged by mugger from one particular race...

my view just changed right after.
i hate racism,
but am feeling racism myself.
what a shame.

HoustonWok said...

wooh a bit ignorant but I thought biggetry and racism only happened here in the states, well and Russia. Austrailia is a part of SouthEast Asia which makes them Asian as well. We just happen to have tight eyes among many other beautiful attributes and characteristics. Yup experienced all the ching chong father looks like Bruce Lee jokes. The best joke I heard was, my eyes are so slanted that I could be blind folded with dental floss.

goingkookies said...

as for me, my experience so far going to aussie every year, in fact, i find d aussies a REALLY friendly bunch!

it's ASIANs there who really give us asians a bad name. they're the ones who AREN'T curteous and bump u without saying sorry.

maybe i was just fortunate.

ppl say thank you to the bus driver when they get off their stops. when u step into any shops, ppl will say hi, good day and how was ur day etc.. and actually are friendly n sometimes u can strike conversations..

i mean.. nowadays, ppl aren't as racist as last time.. so for chris, i think u shouldn't have problem..

sometimes, ignorance also is blisss.. try not to over read into any gestures etc..

CraSH said...

discrimination will always be there! it is just how you manage it. all i can say is it depends. once the people know who you are, they are really friendly.
back when i was in college, the malaysian student association consists of 50% msian and 50% from all over the world.
we malaysians were the coolest in town because the bars/clubs knows us. we have student athletes and cheerleaders hanging out in our parties.

Anonymous said...

i guess racism is everywhere. i'm studying in new zealand now, and people here are mostly nice, but there are some who just dont like you simply because "you're asian".

one night when my asian friends were out, a group of kiwis came and threw eggs at them. thats probably the most extreme case of racism i've seen here. but yeah i do know lots of nice kiwis, though most of them choose to stick to their own race rather than to mix with us asians.

then again, you cant really blame them because being asian, when we leave for a foreign country, it's nice to see a familiar face so i guess it's easier to make friends with other asians. because they remind you of home. ahhh i miss malaysia T_T

btw nice blog jojo :D my nickname's jojo too!

Mel said...

Don't know `bout racism but growing up, I've always gotten flack for the way I speak. Apparently all the kids shunned me because "she talk got slang one" and people still - to this day - think I'm a try hard white girl wannabe. Yeah it sucks that people judge but I guess everyone just learns to take the lemons people hurl in stride.

Good on you for surviving the viciousness of boarding school!

Jojo Struys said...

Guys, you've made some incredible comments. Profound. I loved reading all the insights. Thank you!

And don't worry Chris. You'll be fine and if you encounter it when ur there, don't take it personally.

Nicole said...

Hello JoJo, my husband & I have intention to migrate to Australia for our children to have their education over there, what do u advise?

stranger. said...

Wow since when is oz part of Asia? Yes it's in the Asia-pacific region but it's more pacific than Asia. It's a continent on its own so it's definitely not "part of an Asian country".

That said, I'm not ozzie but am a Singaporean living in oz. I've experienced outright racism when I visited oz a decade ago as a tourist. Shopkeepers would refuse to serve us, one even said to our faces that their "toilets are not meant for Asians" etc. However since I've started living here in 2007, I've not experienced any outright racism directed towards me, so things have certainly improved a lot imo. Instead I've experienced countless cases of racism from other Asians, where they serve Caucasians with hearty smiles and good service but turned grumpy immediately when serving me.

What I cannot comprehend is that many Asians here often play the racism card. If something is not aligned with their interests, they would jump to the conclusion that the person is being racist. I have encountered Asians who jumped queue and when they were refused service by the counter staff, they started dishing out the racism card.

So the point that I wish to make is, (and this is of course from my own little narrow point of view and from personal experiences), while the issue of racism has improved over here, the mindset of Asians and/or other ethnic minorities has yet to change. Always shouting racist to whatever and whoever is not going along with our wishes is just gonna make us look even more pathetic. White supremacy definitely has to stop, (I hate it myself)but racism is always here to stay, no matter where you are. I'm just really thankful that I've made a few very good ozzie friends during my stay here and people I've met are generally fair and partial.

May all men be equal.

David said...


Racism is always unfriendly and a sign of a small and prejuidiced person.

I'm and American who just about 20 years ago married a lovely Asian women.

These have been the greatest years!
She has encountered a few stares and the occasional look from the few people unfamiliar or simply uncomfortable with anyone who looks different.

In this part of the U.S.A., Michigan, there are many Asians now living here, of all Asian ethinicities.

I see Asian/American couples just about everywhere I shop or vacation. In fact locally, Asians or those of Asian heritage,make up 14-15% of the population.

I trust you have not ecountered this behavior towards yourself often.

Enjoy the weekend!


Jojo Struys said...

hi David, I love the States. My sis lives in Florida. No issues at all. If anything, they're so curious where I get my "accent" from n are generally really friendly.

When I was in school in Perth, the racism was bad IN the boarding house but not so much at school amongst the city girls who were more educated, exposed and didn't live on farms (like the boarders who were quite sheltered n insular)

hi Stranger. You def have a point. Minorities can bring a lot of problems on themselves coz they have a chip on their shoulder. Your last point sounds like reverse racism! We must never forget who we are n where we come from coz it's like turning your back on your own culture. We must respect ALL cultures

Anonymous said...

hye jojo.This is my first time reading your blog.Its really awesome.I think this entry somehow related to me when I went on a trip overseas.I know pretty much how you feel.

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