I don’t recall noticing that my grandfather was black until his ‘difference’ was pointed out to me at school when I was about 9.
“Who was that black man I saw you with at the weekend,” a schoolmate asked.
He’s black? He was just my grandfather as far as I was concerned. And while I didn’t see colour then, I certainly do now.
And so started my experience of racism. While I would later be taunted at school about having a black grandfather, I soon came to realise that the pathetic comments directed at me were nothing in comparison to the direct-action racism faced by people with a skin colour that’s not white.
My mother spent her childhood trying to scrub the brown out of her skin.
Here’s a picture of my grandfather in Egypt in 1940 during WWII:
He was Moriori but served in a Maori battalion. Continue reading Inclusion Zone
Blog Action Day is an free annual event, that has run since 2007. It’s aim is to unite the world’s bloggers by posting about the same issue, on the same day, in order to raise awareness and trigger a positive global discussion around an important issue that impacts us all, raises awareness or even funds for not-for-profits associated to the theme issue. This year the theme is Human Rights.
Suzie Nguyen on being a Banana
A banana is a fruit that is yellow on the outside and white on the inside. I am Asian Australian, and so are B1 and B2, the two characters from the Banana in Pyjamas show. When I was a kid I never questioned the differences between people, fruit and race. As a teen, I struggled with my identity of fitting into yellow/white cultures. Now, I am embracing my combined yellow and white thinking. Diversity is a part of Australia’s identity and unfortunately so is racism. Today’s battle in Australia isn’t fighting overt racism. It’s recognising the greyness of the issue and raising more awareness of other forms of racism, like casual racism. I am part of The Two Chairs initiative, we are planning to use art, community and conversation to help bring constructive discussion to this issue. It’s time we creatively chat about race and racism.
Dan Machuca on Pop Culture
Popular culture is this generation’s myths and legends. Characters such as Superman, Optimus Prime and GI Joe had as much of an effect on my upbringing as Theseus, Moses or Hercules. This is why I think it’s important now more than ever that we are as inclusive and culturally senstitive as possible with the shows we have in TV. For some people what they see on television will be their first exposure to other cultures, so stereotyping them as lazy, dishonest or otherwise “different” can only further a negative stereotype for nothing more than cheap laughs. Remember that it’s your attention that these shows want, and by voting with your eyeballs you can truly help make a change in the community.
Tell us a little about yourself
My name is Max Atkins and I am a musician and furniture maker from Melbourne, Australia.
How did you become involved in The Two Chairs project?
Soon after Suzie discovered I had begun building furniture she came to me with the story of the ‘European Labour Only’ stamp
and idea of building a pair of chairs with the aim to starting a conversation about racism in Australia.
Which project were you a part of? What was your role?
I agreed to build the chairs and we began designing them together. This is among the first of my woodworking projects, previously I have made some percussion instruments, a speaker box, benches and only a few other things.
What are your thoughts about the “European Labour Only” stamp found on furniture?
The existence of the ‘European Labour Only’ stamp does not really surprise me, and it is certainly not the worst of what remains of that time in Australian history. I understand that the “white”, unionised, furniture makers felt threatened by the Chinese furniture makers and wanted to protect their jobs; but the idea of stamping the furniture in this way seems to me like a silly idea, and in fact it had the opposite effect than that which was intended. The stamp was a clear message to all saying which group of furniture makers had built the bookcase or whatever but it also included the maker’s address. Therefore anyone could see, on a ‘Chinese Labour only’ piece, where they could buy more, cheaper, furniture.
Have you experience or seen racism around you?
I live in Footscray which is a very multicultural suburb in a city that is, I think, quite multicultural in general. The main groups of immigrants in Footscray are Vietnamese, Chinese, Indian, Somali and Sudanese as well as those like myself which we might call ‘European’. Perhaps it is strange but even with all these different people from all over the world living so close together I have not seen or experienced any racism since living here.
Any final thoughts, hopes or dreams?
My hope for The Two Chairs Project is that many people get to see it but more importantly that they start talking about racism in Australia. The Two Chairs themselves are only a medium for getting the conversation going and changing negative attitudes about race.
Since my last post a few people have responded and shared their own thoughts about common racial misconceptions, such as “Where are really you from?” and “All asians look alike”. Ellie, a Korean Australian adoptee, recently shared her experience about visiting Korea and how culturally different it was, including how she noticed micro-facial differences between people. While Shu Shu responded with her version of “Where are you from?”
My background is Vietnamese, yet people will come up to me, show me a potential tattoo in Chinese Characters and ask if it reads “peace” or “love.” Maybe I should nod my head, hope I was right and potentially give them a tramp stamp. Continue reading Not All Asians are Chinese
My personal memories as a first generation Italian growing up in Australia are quite positive. My parents migrated to Australia from Italy in the late 1960’s, and have told me that initially they did encounter racist slurs and comments, especially in the workplace. My parents could not speak English well and had no way of defending themselves. Continue reading Educate our children about racism
I am on a journey where I continually questioning my identity as Asian Australian. As a story collector, I come across many interesting and dark stories. Once, I found a racial secret underneath a 1950s timber chair. The label read:
European Labour only.
Continue reading The little dark secret
Have you seen the new show ‘Wonderland’. Have you noticed the lack of diversity?
Is Australian commercial television racist or not?
Originally posted here.
I’m not racist, but I like candy.
Note: “I’m not racist, but” is not a valid legal disclaimer
That title looks ridiculous, even though grammatically it’s correct. Saying it out loud it almost sounds like the start of a Seussian rhyme, as though the second line should be “I like beaches because they’re sandy” followed by a picture of a mammal in ridiculous headgear. Normally when we hear “I’m not racist, but…” a mind mentally readies itself to hear something awful. “… Filipino call centres are the worst, they never know what they’re talking about,” or “Indian cab drivers are terrible, they never know where they’re going”. Ultimately, these statements are blanket statements, insulting a whole race based on their job. They’re undeniably racist, and for a long time I’ve wondered why people bothered prefacing it “”I’m Not Racist, But” (INRB) in the first place. Continue reading I’m not racist, but I like candy
Last week I posted up my thoughts on the question: “Where are you from?” and I had some pretty interesting responses. There were two distinct voices that came out of the ensuing discussion. A number of people believed that most uses of that question are genuinely curious. With the right tone and intent, the conversation is a great way of learning about each other’s cultural history. On the other hand, some believe that it is intrusive and rude. The question to them is like a reworded and nice way of profiling you. Continue reading Do All Asians Look Alike?
Source: The Story collector comic: Where are you really from?
Being an Alien in Your Own Land
I was born in Australia to parents who arrived as refugees to Australia and escape the war in Vietnam. I considered myself to be more Australian and I have encountered everyday racism. Continue reading Everyday racism as an Asian Australian