To name the bitter taste in my mouth when I read these headlines on my phone: shame. These headlines (to me) are badly written, anti-Chinese, promote conspiracy theories, and really stirred me up in the past fortnight! This is not a sudden occurrence just because of COVID originating in Wuhan, China; but a buildup of years of noticing thoughtless and insidious and subtle and not-so-subtle anti-Chinese messaging by Australian media. I’m so thankful to be 27yo sometimes - and my heart breaks for trials and tribulations for any fellow young Australian-Chinese navigating their way through predominantly Anglo- schools.
To be clear, I do not have access to the full article because I do not subscribe to the Australian and it is paid content to read. The other is a science article on ABC which though the content isn’t actually racist, the headline was triggering for me when seen with the others (white people, white people, COVID in Asia, white people). It wouldnt be the first time I heard someone keep their child away from a Chinese child/family because they could “carry more diseases”. I can also so easily imagine someone who is just a “casually racist” how reading this headline could further their bias… why couldnt the writers have phrased the headline “COVID found in ancient genomic sequence” instead, and disclose the specific cultures in the body of the article?
Concepts of Chinese-Australian identity are already confusing as it is - I spent my first year in Sydney in the year 2000 as an 7 year old doing everything I could to modify my Singlish (that’s Singaporean English) accent and was embarrassed about the way I spoke for many years longer. And you wonder why music and the arts have formed the the safe haven for expressing my angst - expressions beyond my tongue-tied-ness - letting me connect with real and imagined cultures, literally integrating broken parts of me whole again.
It’s only in the past few years I have able to truly appreciate the full extent of the wonder-full diversity and complexities of China and love the “skin” I’m in, but it also comes with moving with the grief too.
If you identify as partly, mixed or wholly Chinese-Australian (or any other form of Australian-Asian who tend to get assumed they are Chinese) and are reading this, I see you, I love you, we’re stronger together and let’s be courageous in finding words for our complex, multifaceted journeys of identity building.
If you identify as an ally, I thank you, I see you, I love you, I’m so grateful.
If you’re not sure where you sit on this spectrum, I urge you to reflect about the ways in which you talk about China or your Chinese friends which may inadvertently be “othering”. Yes, we’re all different. I hold so much hope and love for you to learn ways in which we are different, similar, complex, but also simply Human beings like you who are also scared and terrified of how this virus has caused so much ongoing pain.
This pandemic is going to heighten inequalities for All, a bit of kindness goes a long way.
july 9, 2021