Racism rears its ugly head in both big and small ways

"IT'S not a noodle bowl dear, ha, ha, ha," the woman snorted at me, in a very Kath and Kim way.

I was at the Tasmanian Craft Fair at Deloraine for work, and was admiring some fine glass bowls because I was considering buying one as a present for my mother.

I had been talking to the woman, a stranger, about how delicate they were.

I told her that if you put something in them, they would break.

She reacted with her "joke", which she must have thought was extremely funny.

I was taken aback and walked off. The woman was Caucasian.

Had I just been racially vilified, because of my Asian appearance?

If the woman thought I was British, would she have said, "It's not a bangers and mash bowl dear, ha, ha, ha?"

On another occasion, I was walking around a corner one afternoon in the Launceston CBD.

I stopped suddenly because three youths were sprinting around the corner and almost ran into me.

They were wearing hoodies and caps and at least one appeared to be concealing a bulky object underneath his top.

One of the youths muttered, "f---ing Asians," and they ran off.

First, I was alone, so why use a plural?

Second, why is my Asian appearance an issue?

At other times, well-meaning people have approached me in the Brisbane Street Mall - the same woman approached me twice in two weeks - when I am using a digital camera for work.

People inquire if I need help and I explain to them what I am doing for The Examiner.

Do people think I'm a tourist because of my Asian appearance and the camera?

My colleagues are often in the mall, doing the same job with the same camera, and no one asks them if they need help.

On another occasion, I went to a presser [press conference] at a tourism site.

I was not carrying a camera, but two employees - separate from the media gathering - asked if I needed help, although I was standing near the people I was about to interview.

Would they have done the same for my Caucasian colleagues?

Another time, I was waiting for takeaways in a Thai restaurant in Launceston.

I was sitting next to the cash register and a customer, a Caucasian man, approached me, pointing to where the toilets were.

He must have thought I worked there, because of my Asian appearance, but then realised his mistake and said nothing.

Taxi drivers also assume I work at the Launceston General Hospital; is that because of my Asian appearance?

So when I heard of the racism at Aurora Stadium against a Sudanese-born AFL player and saw racist comments about it online, such as "most people don't want multiculturalism here", I thought that underpinned my experience of Tasmania.

If you are against multiculturalism, you are also against your own existence in Australia, because it is highly probable that your ancestors arrived in this country by boat.

Anyway, I was born in Melbourne and English is my mother tongue.

I'm Australian, or specifically, Melburnian, and I don't care that I can't speak whatever Asian language people assume I can speak.

In fact, the derogatory Chinese insult for a western-born person of Chinese ethnicity is "banana - yellow on the outside and white on the inside", meaning that I'm not a proper Chinese person.

I have lived in Tasmania for almost a year, after having worked for two years in Horsham in western Victoria - probably one of the most conservative places in Australia.

When I talked about my Tasmanian experiences with a Tasmanian-born acquaintance, I told him that I had expected Tasmania to be "more progressive, more left-leaning and more cosmopolitan" compared to Horsham.

He answered a defiant "no" to each of my expectations.

In Horsham, I was usually the only non-Caucasian person on the street.

The population was tiny compared to Launceston, where it's common to see Asian people.

But apart from two Horsham interviewees assuming my shorthand was Chinese (I can't write Chinese) and a creepy, elderly gentlemen telling me how much he wanted to marry a Chinese woman, no one else in Horsham took issue with my Asian appearance.

No one in Horsham assumed I was a doctor or a tourist, and no one racially abused me.

If Tasmania wants to profit from Asian tourism, people need to first reconsider how they treat non-Caucasian people who live in this state.

My experiences in Tasmania have discouraged me from wanting to live here long-term.

And when my family and friends back home ask me how Tasmania is, it's the first thing I tell them.

People are racist and think I'm a foreigner.


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