Issue One: Recognition
Sometimes I forget I’ve got Chinese ancestry.
However it doesn’t take much for me to remember I don’t look like a ‘typical’ Aussie.
It’s innocent; I’m overseas and the shop-owner can’t comprehend that I’m Australian. It’s malicious; my mates and I enter a restaurant and another customer mutters “North Korea’s invading”. Or it’s simply overdone; the casual “ni hao” or “konichiwa”.
But what is a ‘typical’ Aussie?
Growing up in Bondi and Vaucluse, I was a ‘white-washed Asian’ or ‘banana’ – disconnected from my Chinese heritage. When my grandparents spoke Cantonese, I’d simply smile and nod. When Mum and Dad sent me to Kumon, I’d daydream about the beach and rainbow Paddle Pops.
It’s taken me a while to recognise and appreciate my heritage.
Recently, my girlfriend’s Malaysian relatives were in town. One of her young cousins looked at me and asked why I look Chinese when I’m Australian. Before I could respond, another replied:
“Because he is Chinese, but he's also completely Australian.”
This stayed with me. Being ABC doesn’t mean we have to divide or choose between our Chinese and Australian roots. We are 100% Australian and 100% Chinese.
We’re the Aussies whose entrepreneurial spirit and sense of community led to a local Chinese joint on every corner and a vibrant Chinatown in our major cities.
We’re the Aussies whose struggles between past and present gave rise to rich subcultures and new identities.
We’re the Aussies whose family sacrificed everything, seeking a better future for their children.
We’re the 50% of Aussies who come from migrant backgrounds.
We are the typical Aussies.