Days before, I had an infuriating conversation with a patron at the pub. He demanded to know where I was from,and whether I "loved Australia."
I have this conversation every so often with some deluded old fart who is convinced that I am a dirty, slanty-eyed illegal immigrant who has just walked straight off the boat and taking the jobs of ordinary, hard working Aussie battlers, blah blah blah. To this day I'm unsure as to what they think they'll achieve by having this conversation.
Herro herro dis is Shitty Wok, you want some Shitty Chicken?
Despite the fact that I am an Australian citizen and can speak English just fine (except when inebriated), this old dude just did not get it. Our exchange ended with me mishearing what he said, his triumphant juvenile mockery of my alleged lack of English skills and myself promptly tipping his beer down the sink.
Now for the twist. You'd think this would be an entry whinging about how awful and oppressed I am, being an Asian female, in a land of thong-wearing white Aussie dudes.
Well, even though that exchange with old mate made my blood boil, I must say that racism is on the decrease. Conversations like that happen, but not very often out of the hundreds of people I talk to every week. And when they do, they're from people who couldn't be taken seriously by any intelligent life form. Like my obese, hairy, pokies-addicted friend I mentioned.
Sure, you meet the occasional person who can't get past the fact that you're not white, but I put that down to upbringing. Most people are merely curious and mean no harm, even though most of the time it comes across as offensive anyway. Other than that, 95% of my friends are white Aussies and none of them particularly care that I'm Asian.
Hell, Mr Chicken is a blue singlet-wearing, self-proclaimed "bogan" from Toowoomba whose idea of a rad time is wandering around in the bush, and he still reckons I'm allright.
One could argue that the loopy old bat I talked to was just a product of an old upbringing. Yet a lot of old people nowadays have lived through wars and the immigration boom. Many of the regulars at the pub are old men who are quite friendly to me and totally understand the whole "I'm Asian but I've grown up in Australia, mate" deal. In fact, most people in general understand, or even go the other way and are concerned about racist fuckwits giving me a hard time.
But what of events like the Cronulla Riots? I say that in the grand scheme of this country, it was a small group of people who were widely condemned by any Australian with a brain. Thank god for that. Imagine if the entire nation condoned racial violence.
Basically what I'm trying to say is that racism, in some form or another, is always going to be around. It's human nature to fear or hate something different. But the world - particularly Australia - is a lot better than it used to be, and it can only get better.
Not too long ago, it used to be perfectly okay to say "nigger" in everyday speech. Now the American president is black and an Aboriginal man is Australian of the Year.
It's a small start, but it's a good one.
Many people realise that racism, on a public level, comes from the truly ignorant or hateful. Racist comments, if they're not a joke already, are very rarely taken seriously. I try not to anyway. If I got upset every time an idiot said something insensitive, I wouldn't have time to go to the toilet.
Basically, if someone wrote a very serious letter to The Australian saying something like, "All Koreans are dog-eating communists who should be culled immediately", I hardly think a political leader would put down his morning coffee and call a meeting about it...
"Koreans are a serious problem in Australia."
"My god, you are right. They're everywhere, speaking in some crazy language I don't understand, cooking tasty food with lots of chilli, studying quietly in universities, drinking our beer and dating our sexy, sexy Australian men! Plus they're all Communists."
"Isn't that just the north?"
"Huh? Anyway, I suggest an overhaul of international relations. We must close all tasty Korean restaurants, blow up Kias and Daewoos, outlaw any eating of dogs of any kind..."
...and enact an Anti-Korean Bill of 2009.
All this talk about unnecessary racism reminds me of a certain ranga politician...
So all things considered, I don't mind being an Asian in Australia. Sure, some of our political leaders make my head hurt, the phrase "un-Australian" makes me want to slap somebody and the more nationalist bogan Aussies scare me.
But on the other hand, Australia has some good beer (well, not all of them), Triple J, crazy stoned Queenslanders (which is another blog entry altogether), a majority of fairly decent people and a prevailing sense of humour.
One of my favourite TV shows to ever come out of Australia is Fat Pizza. A thoroughly politically incorrect comedy, Fat Pizza exploits and exaggerates the stereotypes of wogs in gangs, bad Asian drivers (cheers Ahn Do), insane Italians and disgustingly racist white Aussies to make people laugh - ultimately to realise how silly it all is.
Hopefully one day, everybody will.