"I don't think that being a strong person is about ignoring your emotions and fighting your feelings. Putting on a brave face doesn't mean you're a brave person. That's why everybody in my life knows everything that I'm going through. I can't hide anything from them. People need to realise that being open isn't the same as being weak."

- Taylor Swift

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

How to Talk to People of Colour

1. Do not ask me where I come from.

I am Australian. I was born and raised here. I am as Australian as any of you. I do not come from anywhere else and the colour of my skin should not have to force me to dive into family history for you. If you are so bloody curious as to why I am not white, at least have the decency to say 'what is your ethnic background?'. My skin colour is not for you to play geography; don't throw random country names at me or stare at me before passing judgement that I am in fact Cambodian. 

2. Do not ask me what my 'real name' is.

I was unaware that only white people with white names have names that actually exist, because apparently my name is yellow and therefore imaginary. If people of colour have anglo names don't ask them what their Chinese name is; their name is not an 'English name' just like when women wear pants they're not wearing men's clothes. 

3. If you cannot pronounce my name, don't try.

If you see my name written down and you don't remember how the alphabet works, ask me. My name is not something for you to make a great show of how alien I am. My name is not something for you to laugh at. 

4. I don't care that you've been to Malaysia. I especially don't care if you like kimchi. 

I don't need to be reminded that a) people fail to see the great cultural, linguistic and culinary diversity of Asia, which should never be considered as one single homogenous entity, or b) my culture is so alien despite Australia's extremely diverse multiculturalism or c) you think you know everything about a country because you once ate one thing people there sometimes eat. Telling someone of Korean heritage that you've been to Malaysia is like telling an Englishman that you've been to Poland. 

5. Don't tell me that my English is excellent.

I know my English is excellent. It's not a particularly special achievement considering that I am analytical and creative and grew up in a former British colony. And don't tell me that my English is excellent when you can't handle the fact that I beat your white kid in the WACE. 

6. Don't tell me that I'm good at languages.

No. I'm good at English. You would never assume that a white kid who is good at English is also fluent in 900 other languages. Asian babies are not born fluent in Mandarin. 

7. Don't try to introduce me to every other non-white person you know. 

Not all Asian people are besties for life; the Japanese did invade pretty much all of Asia and China disliked the nomads in the north so much that they built a wall to keep them out long before George R. R. Martin used that idea. I don't really care that you know tonnes of people who look like me and I don't appreciate that you appear to choose and categorize your friends by race. 

8. Don't act all surprised when I let slip that I have more depth and complexity than Cho Chang. 

I am not a stereotype, or a fetish, and I am not an anomaly or a freak of nature because I'm doing 'white kid things' or not doing 'Asian things'. I'm a person. I'm a human being. And all I ask is to be  treated as one. 

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