Tag Archives: true story

How The Two Chairs can help white people.

Over the past few months I’ve had lots of opportunities to talk about The Two Chairs and the discrimination issues that we are tackling. Some are excited, some add their own personal stories, some tell me about their special friend that they can call the “n” word (ugh). There’s one particular group that I wanted to write about though: the ones we can teach.

When we start talking about The Two Chairs, it’s as though they develop a speech impediment. They start talking slower, pausing between words to make sure that they’re not about to say something insensitive. They start using awkward, unnatural phrases like “persons of ethnicity”.

After this happened a few times I finally worked out what was happening. They’re afraid I’m looking for an opportunity to leap over the table, grab them by the collar and yell triumphantly that I had managed to catch a racist out! Continue reading How The Two Chairs can help white people.

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Inclusion Zone

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:

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He was Moriori but served in a Maori battalion.  Continue reading Inclusion Zone

Living la vida Laowai

Wikipedia describes Laowai as a commonly used Mandarin Chinese word, and a shorter, informal version of wàiguórén 外国人 (“foreigner”).

Laowai is not intended as a negative word. Of course you may hear expat stories where the word has been adapted to be used negatively by some. Sadly, this has become human nature. I am currently not an expat, and my story is not a story about international racism. However, my story is about being different. My story is about being an outsider, and loving every minute of it.

I was born and raised in Victoria Australia. I am an English Language Tutor. I love what I do, I get to meet a fantastically diverse bunch of people, and I probably learn more than I teach.

A little over a month ago now I began looking for a quiet office space in the CBD to accommodate some new Melbourne based learners. After browsing through sublet advertisements on Gumtree, I had come to the conclusion that I was probably going to end up in a broom closet next to the restrooms of a Legal Chambers, where the land lord had placed a semi-constructed flat pack desk, an over swiveled swivel chair, and a poster reading “hang in there.”

I picked one ad at random, and arranged a visit via email. I arrived at the address, took the elevator up 5 floors and stepped inside a lovely looking office suite. I was shocked to learn that I had arranged to view an office inside a Tutoring Center, there was even a stack of IELTS books by the reception desk. Needless to say, I moved into my new Melbourne office a few weeks ago. I share a suite with a wonderful company called Energy Bean Tutoring Center.

Energy Bean is probably best described as a Chinese Australian Tutoring Centre, as it caters mostly to the needs of international students from mainland China studying at various levels in Australia.

It’s fair to say the official spoken language within my office suite is Mandarin. The signs are all in Mandarin, the posters are in Mandarin, the Energy Bean web page is in Mandarin, I noticed that even the label and fine print on one of the whiteboard markers was Mandarin. Despite not knowing a great deal of the language, not once have I been treated as an outsider. Despite running a similar business, not once have I been treated as competition. I was instantly treated like a partner. After only three weeks I feel like I have been part of the Energy Bean family for a decade.

Last night I was invited to the Energy Bean Anniversary Celebration. The speeches, presentations, and games were all in Mandarin, and I felt how some of my intermediate students must feel when I ramble on and forget to articulate, and just like them, I was politely nodding and pretending I knew what was going on. Perspective is one heck of an eye opener. After giving up on my high hopes of becoming a fluent Chinese speaker by carefully listening to the speeches, I sat back and enjoyed the culture shock.

When the games began, I watched Energy Bean staff and students light up with joy as they participated in competitive group activities. It was so entertaining from a spectators point of view. I couldn’t even being to guess what the objective was, but their smiles and laughter spoke louder than any words in any language. Energy Bean’s very own hard working receptionist kindly explained what was going on, and it turned out there was a lot of method to the madness unfolding before my eyes.

I felt guilty that I couldn’t fully understand the festivities despite all the hard work that had gone into the evening. Everyone else probably felt guilty that I was unable to participate because they made sure not to make me feel as though I was being excluded, being sure not to alienate me, and make me feel like an outsider. As a result I felt like I was on an adventurous international vacation, but it became clear that I was actually witnessing Australia as the multicultural paradise that it should be.

In my opinion, I have become a better ESL teacher by spending some time as an outsider with people who instantly welcomed me, and let me in. I believe there are no minorities based on heritage and race. The only true minority group in this country are those ignorant few who consciously chose to shut everybody else out. I truly feel sorry for them. They don’t know what they are missing out on.

Thanks for reading!

Written by Dayne Collins @academiaesl

Not All Asians are Chinese

snguyen0111

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

Educate our children about racism

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’m not racist, but I like candy

I’m not racist, but I like candy.

Screen shot 2013-08-28 at 11.12.25 AMNote: “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

Do All Asians Look Alike?

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?

Everyday racism as an Asian Australian

The Adventures of The Story Collector - Where are you really from?
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