Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Australia Day nail art, and some reflections on racism in Australia

January 26th was Australia Day, also known as the day where Australians like me sometimes get told to go back to where we came from by drunken, jumbo flag-waving hooligans (ironically, we're often doing just that - catching the train home). Given some of the unpleasant demonstrations of patriotism-cum-xenophobia that've occurred in the past (not to mention the lovely verbal abuse I get to receive on public transport approximately once a month), I'm slightly wary of leaving the house on any holiday tinged with patriotism. But I had a dance class in the CBD, and if I stayed home, that's just letting the terrorists win, right?

I went to an incredibly homogenous primary school (I was one of two East Asians in my grade. My high school, where 75% of the grade were East Asian or Indian, may have overcompensated for that). We were fed symbols of Australiana which we were (rightly) told to be proud of - our beautiful landscape, our weirdass flora and fauna, our sporting prowess. We had special days where we wore the national colours, green and gold, to school. I used to wonder why my parents were so bewildered by my enthusiasm for drawing gold kangaroos everywhere (by my infallible kid-logic, a country with kangaroos had to be the best country in the world). Given my trepidation whenever drunken white males enter my train carriage (augmented by the presence of flags, football scarves or Southern Cross tattoos), I can't imagine the alienation and paranoia my parents felt 20 years ago, as recent immigrants with thick Chinese accents, arriving in a country where, 8 years later, the unashamedly anti-immigration One Nation party would attract almost 10% of the nation's vote. Despite the greater visibility of migrants (no doubt helped by the work of Asian-Australian celebrity chefs), migration (more specifically, intake of refugees) vs. the dominance of Anglo-Australian culture is as big a political issue as ever.

Most Australians aren't overtly racist (cue "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist"). Most groups of drunken white males who get on my train could never imagine themselves hurling abuse at an immigrant. But often, sensible, intelligent, upstanding white people mistakenly assume that other white people also share these same views. My lovely, pasty white boyfriend shook with anger for hours after a girl on the bus repeatedly told me they "didn't like [my] kind" around there. To him it was unthinkable, lunatic behaviour that demanded violent retaliation. I just mentally crossed off October.

So how was my Australia Day? It was fantastic! I didn't witness a single racist incident, and I got to delightedly remind the boyfriend mutiple times that he's descended from illegal boat people, while I am a perfectly legal Cathay Pacific person (he's a tad embarassed about his ancestors, not because they were criminals, but because they were "dumb enough to get caught". Also their cuisine). Not to mention that Lacquerheads of Oz, the blog that a group of Australian nail bloggers/indie sellers/nail techs started for storing ALL THE POLISH KNOWLEDGE, launched!

To end possibly my most humanities-tainted post of all time, here's a shot of my nails (Pretty Serious VT100 with ulta3 glitter and stamping, by the way) with a work by possibly my favourite Australian, Nick Cave (fittingly enough, he's emigrated).

Like this? Click below to let us know!


MissLanage said...

Really like this combo! :)

Anonymous said...

I really appreciated your honest reflection - I don't know very much about Australia, and I don't usually expect to read this sort of account on a nail polish blog. It was refreshing to read, and very thoughtful. Plus, your nails are super cute.

Emily said...

Thank you for this post! I want to second the above and say that this was very, very interesting and refreshing to read. I'm only sorry that racism remains such a problem in so many societies.

Anonymous said...

I'm shocked by this story. I don't know much about Australia but the fact that this is real freaks me out.
Love your mani!

Cassie Goodwin said...

I grew up in a ludicrously white town, but now live in Marrickville, which is wonderfully diverse. Once you learn to get out of the way of the Italian nonnas because there is no way they are stopping for you, it's one of my favourite places in the world to be. I love that I can get Vietnamese rice paper rolls, and Greek coffee from the same shop. The thought of telling any of the residents to "go home" never crossed my mind. It's always so sad when I step outside my little social bubble and realise what total jackasses some people can be.

Saima's Salon said...

Great post, being of Pakistani origin but born Scottish, race does cross my mind and I have heard of Australia's race issues although not specific examples, ironically just some prejudicial reference to racism being common! I had noticed in an Aussie tv drama I used to watch that the aboriginal character was always deemed a tad dumb whilst the rest of the cast were writers/lawyers etc. Perhaps it wasn't intended but perhaps it was. I'm glad you had a racism free day and I hope you don't have to define your life in that way!

Julie Vernie said...

A great, thoughtful post. Thanks for sharing - and may racism-free days be many, many more.
By the way - you're good at humanities-tainted posts. Who said humanities were not compatible with science?

Ness said...

I'm from Australia, too, and I used to work in retail. Being Asian, I had to deal with a lot of racism - customers refusing to speak to me, telling me I had stolen the job of a rightful Australian, and more.

It has really hurt me, but reading your post was very inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

Mel Giandzi said...

Hey Michelle great post! Love the mani.

I love your honesty and I hate that this still happens to you today! I really hate that because your characteristics are more distinguishable as asian they jump to the conclusion that you should go back to where you came from...I have dark hair, brown eyes, tan skin and look very european yet I never get any shit about it, people are such assholes some days. Don't forget you are an amazing person and never let it bring you down!

Robin Storesund said...

Michelle, I'm so sad that you have to put up with that treatment! I don't know why I'm surprised at racism in Australia when it's so common here in the USA. I guess I thought that anyone who wasn't aboriginal was an "immigrant" there.

I'm glad you got to enjoy your day and flash those awesome nails!

LabMuffin said...

MissLanage - Ta :)

thedalailamasnails - Thank you (both for the comment about the post and the nails) :)

Emily - Thanks! I'm glad it was interesting and not too rambly :) - I don't think it's all that different elsewhere to be honest - many Asian societies are much worse, but at the same time, I think white Australians tend to underestimate the racism here, simply because they're less likely to encounter it.

Cassie Goodwin - I love my bubble too! My bubble is near Eastwood, the place where white people get stared at and there are amazing Korean, Japanese and Chinese restaurants galore. After going to a 90% ethnic high school and living around here, I can't imagine living somewhere too white, but the boyfriend is determined to live near the beach where he currently is (a suburb where the Chinese restaurant is called "[suburb] Chinese Restaurant", to give you an idea, and every time I meet someone new there they awkwardly steer towards the question of where I'm "originally from", and I know it's bitchy and pedantic, but I always try to make a point of asking it back to them to highlight how bizarre that question is).

I grew up in a ludicrously white town, but now live in Marrickville, which is wonderfully diverse. Once you learn to get out of the way of the Italian nonnas because there is no way they are stopping for you, it's one of my favourite places in the world to be. I love that I can get Vietnamese rice paper rolls, and Greek coffee from the same shop. The thought of telling any of the residents to "go home" never crossed my mind. It's always so sad when I step outside my little social bubble and realise what total jackasses some people can be.

Saima's Salon - I think that's true of almost every ethnic character on TV and in movies! There are a few where it's handled well (Harold and Kumar!), but so often it just feels weird.

P.S. Don't watch Australian-made TV. It's crap :P

Julie Vernie - Thanks! I'm out of practice writing non-scientifically, but I love that I don't have to draw any strong conclusions ;)

Ness - That's disgraceful, and an absolutely ridiculous accusation! I'm sorry that's happened to you.

Mel - Thank you :) There are so many things I'm grateful for in Australia, and luckily it makes up for the occasional racist idiot!

Robin - It's funny - Aboriginals get treated badly as well. They used to be treated worse in fact, but now with Islamophobia and the increasing publicity surrounding refugees, it's hard to tell who the bigots hate more.

Ling said...

I'm not in a very Asian suburb but I honestly have been lucky to not encounter problems like this.

Lol at Cathay pacific migrant.

Sandi said...

Aaargh. I know that racism exists in all races, but the arrogant stupidity (and obviously deep seated insecurity) of racist whites in countries like yours and mine (the US), drives me fecking nuts in light of the fact that both countries have native populations that were there long before the first germ ridden white person ever showed up and started trying to commit genocide against the REAL native population. I am not as knowledgeable about Australian history as I should be, but I know ours quite well, and those oh so genteel, lily white Europeans I am descended from committed some pretty heinous crimes against the Native Americans, and in many other countries as well. I just hope the entire planet gets it's stupid crap resolved before the first intelligent space peeps show up, or they may decide the Universe would be a better place without our particular varieties of crazy.

Saving a pic of your gorgeous nails for inspiration come St Paddy's Day.

Rach said...

Thanks for writing this post. I don't know anyone personally who's been on the brunt end of racial prejudice in Australia, so this was (at risk of sounding trite) an eye-opener for me. I'm sorry you keep having to go through this, but you sound like you handle it as well as can be expected. :/

My parents emigrated from the Philippines and my sister and I were born in the U.S. I did my first two years of school in Brooklyn, NY with many classmates of different ethnic backgrounds and races, so when we moved two years later to rural Virginia (close to Tennessee and North Carolina), we all had quite a bit of culture shock. Our particular struggles had more to do with other people's ignorance rather than racism, but if I bet if I'd grown up further south I'd be telling you a different story.

Papagana said...

I’ve never posted before, but had to weigh in that I am just so so sorry that you have to deal with this! I’m another first fleet descendent but I strongly feel that having such a diverse population is one of the things that makes this country so great! I currently live near Ashfield and I love it and the people in the community. And every day I go to work in Auburn and also love it there. I would NEVER dream of telling someone to go home (besides, I don’t want to go back to England so I’m not about to insist anyone else does :P). Thankyou for sharing!

shaz.roseto said...

I hear you sister! I got the same bad mouths from drunken men. Hence, I moved Noth Shore to be next to my work and everything to aboid public transportation lol... But occasionally I still get the foul comments but I just give them a finger lol

Melanie Snyder said...

thanks for the honest reflection. Interestingly enough, it was your Nick Cave picture that brought me here. Wasn't aware that he wrong, but I do like some of his music!

Elaine said...

Had no idea, I guess I am a too unaware of all the hatred. It literally makes me nauseaus. I am caucasian and work for our US government,where we recently have had an influx of people from other countries. I enjoy their cultures,but see much prejudice. I am so sorry for what you deal with...

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