The ongoing diplomatic row between these Chinese and Australian governments has now prompted claims from our government that Australia is not racist. Being Asian in Australia, my experiences indicate the opposite is true.
The Chinese government recently warned its citizens about travelling to Australia due to a “significant increase” in racial violence against Chinese and Asian people amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response, our Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack quickly dismissed these claims as false, saying “there hasn’t been a wave of outbreaks of violence against Chinese people”. Our Trade and Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham also rejected the claims, saying they “have no basis in fact”.
For those of us who have been on the receiving end of racial violence, these kinds of responses are not unfamiliar. Not only do they dismiss our realities as false, but they also perpetuate and enable the racism we experience every day.
The reality is that since April, there have been almost 400 reports of racist attacks against Chinese and East-Asian appearing people in Australia. A survey of anti-Chinese racism also revealed that around 90 per cent of racist incidents were not reported.
This significant spike did not come out of nowhere, but rather a culture and political system that actively denies the existence of racism.
Personally, being Asian in Australia means seeing my mother called a “dumb Asian b*tch” to her face by a Harvey Norman staff member. It means often hearing “go back to where you came from” yelled from passing cars. It means being spammed on Facebook with comments like “I hope you fall off a cliff and snap your neck, you dirty Chinese”.
In between the racial harassment, I am also consistently reminded that I do not belong here. University tutors confuse me for other Asian students. Doctors ask me if I am a citizen, visit after visit. Classmates tell me I speak “good English” as if it is a compliment. Strangers greet me in languages I do not speak.
Being Asian in Australia means that when I share my experiences of racism, I am often accused by others of lying, over-reacting, being too sensitive or not being sympathetic enough. I am told I need to change my perspective and I need to understand where others are coming from.
Having experienced anti-Asian racism throughout my life, I anticipated that it was going to get significantly worse during the pandemic. And it did - in the news we heard of a landlord evicting a Malaysian student because of coronavirus, a knife-wielding white woman attacking two Vietnamese-Australian sisters, and a man punching a Hong Kong student in the face for wearing a face mask at the supermarket. But these were just the incidents that were reported.