Normally, I try to keep the writing here light and (hopefully) entertaining. Apart from the occasional diatribe against certain politicians of course… However, there are some things I can’t resist having a real crack at. One such issue is racism and disrespecting other people’s cultural roots.
Before I begin the latest diatribe, I’d like to add a disclaimer. I love living in Australia; it is perhaps the most multicultural, socially equal and accepting country in the world. Thanks to living here, the list of countries and cultures where my friends come from spans the globe. Now, I admit this is hardly a direct replacement for a backpacking holiday through continental Europe, but talking with friends about differences in our upbringing is an enlightening experience no matter how you look at it.
Anyway, the scene is Saturday night. The Boss and I are out with some of our friends to have some dinner, which was delicious and it was decided to get some dessert. Dessert was also delicious, but spoiled by a Pink Bogan’s stupidity and racist comment. Now, I’m a Chinese immigrant to Australia. As a result, I am naturally multilingual as are most of my friends from other parts of the world. Some of them even prefer to talk to each other in a language other than English, such as Mandarin. I don’t particularly mind that since these instances give me a chance to practice my own native tongue.
Of course, Pink Bogan decides that she would take offense at our group not talking in English and said to her friend quietly across the table with a thrust of the head towards us that: “if they’re going to be here, they should speak our language.” Her friend’s immediate response was: “No, no.” That would have been the end of it were it not for the glancing and glaring from Pink Bogan directed at us (in fairness, there were quite a few evil eyes glaring back on my part) that happened continuously until we paid the bill and left. I knew I had to say something to counter the prejudice emanating from the table next to us. I did, politely, state that what language we spoke was our business alone and none of hers. There wasn’t an apology, just an emphatic nodding motion with crossed arms. I didn’t care, I had made my point and it was time to move on.
After all, in a diverse, liberated and multicultural society like Australia, which embraced Chinese take away, kebabs, souvlakis, pizzas, burritos and sushi, we can’t have a multitude of spoken languages. It has to all be English. Never mind that most companies embrace the ability for an employee to speak another language and is seen as a gift when someone can communicate easily and fluently overseas in a professional manner. I also don’t see why anyone in this country needs to feel like they’re committing some kind of sin for speaking a language other than English when they feel like it. I doubt when Pink Bogan goes overseas, the locals would expect her to know the spoken language there with any fluency.
I apologise if this sounds like an angry post, but it is how I feel. I think I’ve been lucky that the vast majority of people I’ve met in my life – in school, at work and friends – have never cared about my heritage and in fact are quite supportive and interested in hearing about where I come from. This country has, since I’ve been in the workforce anyway, been as close to a meritocracy as you can, with people from all cultures having the opportunity to live a comfortable life if they put the hard yards in for it. Yes, there has been the rare occasion where I’ve encountered racism, but it’s never changed my opinion of Australia and its inhabitants in any way.
I don’t think racism can ever truly be solved, whether during my lifetime or the far future. But one can never stop defending the idea of a free, open and accepting society that views the kind of prejudices I encountered as wrong and unacceptable. Oh, and one last thing. Pink Bogan is a silly bitch.