We’d all like to believe we live in a post-racial world where progress grows on trees and prejudice is just a three syllable word. But the undeniable truth of it is race is a very real thing in this day and age. I’m not saying I’ve faced any monolithic obstacles, daily hate charged physical attacks, or was ever forced to overcome “the system”. Alright, like three times in a life of twenty years. No instances I care to bring up here, anyways. I mean, occasionally I have been in the background of one of those Youtube videos they play on Channel 7 where someone old and aggressively working class spouts off, ruining their own life in the process, but that’s like 30% of the population here anyways. There are, however, little subtleties of having a beigey-caramel pigmentation, straight black hair, and slightly different shaped eyes.
For one, school was a perfect training ground for the greater world. The underlying assumption made by teachers first, and students second, was that I was capable of an accelerated curriculum. And I was actually able to keep up (until the beginning of high school when I discovered… other… things…), though there was never a moment of testing my boundaries like there was with kids of other ethnicities.
Math and science were being pushed onto me when my actual strengths were in English. My ambitions were told to me time and time again: doctor, lawyer, engineer. I didn’t have the heart to tell them I wanted to be a novelist. Whenever something needed to be set up technology wise, I would always be nominated again, by teachers first, and students second- before I had even demonstrated any form of proficiency, might I add.
Beyond the scope of the limited confines of educational institutions, this was also evident in everyday life. When asked where I was from, my answer of Sydney simply didn’t cut it, with “… Yeah, but… where are you from?” quickly following. To which I would either respond with Rwanda, or a gross description of my parent’s reproductive organs. Being able to have “nutsack” as the place of origin on my passport would be pretty sweet, to be honest, but I don’t think it’ll become a globally recognized nation state anytime soon… so…
And no, I’m not with this fellow standing behind me. Yeah, funny that, I’m not with that group. Sure, we look like brothers, but I’m pretty sure his genes are from a couple nations over from where mine are cropped from. I don’t know, just a thought.
Other Asians assume I am culturally identical to them, which throws them off for a spin when they realise I’m basically Michael Cera in a different body. Their words and customs fall on dumb ears. My dumb ears. And in the same vein, there are more than a few instances where I have found myself lumped in with said mass of Asians, sometimes followed by an apologetic, “Oh, but you’re different”. Cool. Thanks? Was I meant to be offended? Yes and no. Moving on.
It’s not all that bad when I think about it. During run ins with authority figures that have caught me doing things I shouldn’t have been doing, I’m faced with the recurring phrase, “You seem like a smart fellow”, which is a euphemism for my appearance implying sensibility, and nothing more beyond a warning. My racially influenced treatment is not overt, nor is it exactly offensive. It just is. Asians in Australia as a whole live under a burden of expectations and assumptions, but it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. It’s just another part of my day to day.
By Garry Lu