People Are Sharing Their Stories Of Everyday Racism And It's Timely AF

Racism isn't just for "racists".

Posted on

Of all the days to announce an overhaul of Australia's race hate laws, prime minister Malcolm Turnbull chose today, March 21, the "International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination".

Andrew Sheargold / Getty Images

It's also known as "Harmony Day", which is supposed to be Australia's national day for celebrating diversity.

Instead, Turnbull said that the government will remove the words "offend, insult and humiliate" from the Racial Discrimination Act, to be replaced by the word "harass".

Chef Adam Liaw used the occasion to write about racism in Australia in 2017.

It’s #HarmonyDay so I want to be a bit frank about race. I’m going to thread this so bear with me. Sorry in advance if this offends you.

I was in at my mobile phone provider’s store today for over an hour. All the staff there are Asian (I live in a very Asian area).

There were maybe 10 other customer groups in that hour. 7 Asian, 3 White. I could overhear all their conversations. It’s a small store.

All 3 groups of white customers berated the Asian staff. For speaking to them rudely (they weren’t), for being incompetent (they weren’t)…

for outsourcing customer care to The Philippines (not really their call). All stressed they “weren’t being racist”. I believe that 100%.

I accept dealing with a customer service is stressful. I also accept maybe they would’ve spoken like that to white staff too. I don't know.

But I can guarantee you it’s much, much easier to be rude to someone you don't think is your equal.

Not one racial epithet was said, and nobody was being "racist". But this is racism. Racism isn't just for "racists".

Our politicians will argue a lot today about who has the right to say racist things, and whether it should be criminal.

I’ve had my accent (do I have one?) mocked THOUSANDS of times. I’ve been told to go back to where I came from THOUSANDS of times.

I’ve been called a ‘gook’, ‘nip’, ‘ching-chong’ or any number of racist names THOUSANDS of times.

My beautiful, adorable kids will be called those names. I KNOW that because it’s happened to every single Asian person I know in Australia.

They’ll be physically abused for their race, too. I KNOW that because it’s happened to every single Asian person I know in Australia.

I cried a bit typing that, but that's life.

The odds of me, or them, bringing legal action around it are next to nil. Amend 18C or don’t. I truly don't feel strongly about it.

But don’t pretend it solves the problems we have in this country with race either way.

The racism I worry about isn’t getting abused on a bus while someone films it on their phone. Or running into “a racist” in a dark alley.

Most Australians aren’t racists. Neither are the kids who will one day tease my kids for their race. The racism I worry about is systemic.

It’s under-representation media, boardrooms, or the slightest inkling that kids with brown skin are less Australian than if they were white.

I’m lucky to do what I do. Maybe for it Asian-Australians of my kids’ generation won’t grow up thinking they need to be somebody’s sidekick.

I don’t mean to come across as preachy or anything, but thanks for listening. Happy #HarmonyDay!

Writer Benjamin Law responded by starting the hashtag #FreedomOfSpeech, calling on others to share their stories.

At the age of 10, I was at the local pool as a group of white boys held my head underwater, laughing at me for being Asian. #FreedomOfSpeech

People were keen to tell their story.

Being so generic brown that dude couldn't figure out which racial slur to use. He tried them all #FreedomofSpeech

#FreedomOfSpeech was the number one trending topic around Australia on this momentous day.

Last year explained what structural racism is on JJJ and two white dudes tracked me down online to berate me. #FreedomOfSpeech

#FreedomOfSpeech a cop saw me with my (black) boyfriend and gave me unsolicited DV hotline numbers @mrbenjaminlaw

Childhood years: 1. Where are you really from? 2. Where is your camel? 3. Why don't you wear a towel/sheet/rag on ur head? #FreedomofSpeech

When I was 10 my best mate told me he "didn't like Aboriginals", but he couldn't say why. They start em quick in Australia #FreedomofSpeech

Mother w child asks if I am Persian (Kardashian enthusiast?) before stating she "doesn't like foreigners" #FreedomOfSpeech @mrbenjaminlaw

2010: a man yells out that I'm a "coconut" while I'm eating breakfast with my Mum. I just wanna eat breakfast peacefully... #FreedomofSpeech

Getting asked if I'm an au pair when hanging out with my white friend's kids (this has happened more than once) #FreedomOfSpeech

Being called an abo, coon, boong, coconut, darkie, etc etc before the end of primary school #FreedomofSpeech

When your uni peers sitting beside you have a loud discussion about how much they hate Asians for not doing work "right". #FreedomOfSpeech

Yr 7 teacher thought it was hilarious to encourage classmates to call me 'Wog-io' and 'Spaghettio' instead of Lessio. #FreedomofSpeech

Australia's first female Indigenous MP Nova Peris then posted the disturbing abuse she received while in office.

It couldn't have been more timely.

Mark Di Stefano is a political editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Mark Di Stefano at mark.distefano@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.