When was the last time someone asked you where you are from?
When? It happens quite often, more since moving from New Zealand, as I don’t sound Australian. What irritates me, is that the majority of people who ask me this are white, as if their default for an Australian is white. The last time I was asked was at work, when I briefly worked in hospitality.
What happened/how did they say it?
She asked ‘where I was really from?’ She went into it by complimenting me by saying ‘I was so beautiful,’ then went on to say that her son in law was Fijian, as if we had some kind of relation like, ahhh. The kind of mentality that was like, ‘You’re Black, and my son in law is Black too!’ It was this horribly received like this ego-boost thing that inflated her as to follow the same pattern of ‘my best friend is black’. It’s all the same kind of rhetoric, whether you have some kind of relationship with a PoC, doesn’t mean that you won’t be racist or that you are suddenly an ally.
What was the person like?
Late 40s white woman with, you know, classic Eastern Suburbs aesthetic. She was dressed in a Camilla caftan and she was out on the prowl for someone to open her arms to and give the acceptance that I’ve always needed from a white woman trying to keep up appearance as wealthy, but still woke.
How did/does it make you feel?
It takes away the humanity from my existence and turns me into this like token zoo animal. She made a reasonably safe setting uncomfortable. She just could have just kept it to the compliment.
How did you respond/how would you have preferred to respond?
I awkwardly laughed because I was at work, and just kind of walked away. In my mind, in reality, you always want to call it out, but what is really is even going to get through to this middle-aged white woman? They aren’t going to get it.
What connotations do you think the question has and what do you think it says about Australia in terms of the way we understand cultural identity/ nationality?
I think it draws the parallel to her thinking it was ok, in regard to what she said and the context in which she said it. Racism is one of the things that a white person never wants to be called out on. But y’know, if it talks like a duck, it acts like a duck – it’s a fucking duck! If you want to play this woke narrative, ‘down with black people/PoC’, understand what is okay and what isn’t, then actually be down for us and be held accountable for the things that you say. In 2019, if I wasn’t at work, it would not fly with me – it would be on site! (only verbally speaking).