Growing up as an Australian Asian

Growing up as an Asian Australian could be challenging for most people. We were raised with values that we are to be polite, submissive and agreeable even though at times we don’t agree. As a result, some people can take advantage of this and let other people “walk all over them”. Dana’s story is one of too many but her response is quite “uncommon”. This is her story and how she fights back against racism.

A bit about Dana Edmunds in her own words..

“I’m a Scorpio, enough said. I’m mysterious however, do not cross me. I will fire back and it won’t be pretty. I’m Vietnamese Australian; born in Vietnam and bred in Australia. I once ran a successful business until my husband got a job offer elsewhere, I decided to shut up shop and followed him. I currently live the “Real Housewife” lifestyle in Singapore and I work for one of the biggest advertising agencies in the world. I go on holidays once a month and online shop practically everyday whilst still complaining about how expensive Singapore is. I’m still getting over the fact I paid $9 for a few celery stalks. My life isn’t perfect, I’m just really good at telling a great story. And being nice to others is very important to me unless they’re an asshole to me then I will be an asshole to them.”

Beatrix: Dana have you ever experienced racism in Australia? Did you grow up here or did you move here when you were younger?

Dana: Oh l-rdy, I’d be lying if I said no! My racism story is a bit odd to say the least.

When my family and I relocated from Vietnam to Australia 20 years ago, we lived in an area surrounded by Western people. As a result I went to a Western orientated primary school then high school.

It was always the Asian eye gesture – fingers on the side eyes pulled back, some made up Asian like names, my pronunciations and my grammar. Until one day in 6th grade, I’ve had enough and slapped the girl across the face for imitating stupid made up Chinese language. Mind you, I’m Vietnamese and NO not all Asians are the same in neither the looks department nor language. It’s like saying every Westerner is the same as the next even though German is the first language in Germany and not English which is an international language.

Funny enough the racism was reversed when I got to high school, this is when the (Vietnamese) “COMMUNITY” started to venture out where I lived thus more Vietnamese pupils were enrolled in my school. I was labeled, “Aussie Wannabe”. The reason being I was surrounded by Western pupils growing up therefore, I had adapted the Aussie accent, culture and the way I dressed. The “normal” Asian kid would wear (back in my days) Nike, Adidas & Kappa ect… whereas I, Billabong, Mambo, Rip Curl and every brand that was advertised in the latest Dolly magazine. Hell my first boyfriend (in 5th grade) was a kid with red hair.

As I gotten older the racism towards me started to fade however, it will always be there and I know it will come up once in a blue moon. The only difference now most people wouldn’t want to cross me as I can be a bit of a raging bitch at times. No one walks over me.

Kids are cruel (including uneducated adults) and we’re all guilty of name calling each other whether it’s a racist remark or not. It’s how we respond to those remarks is what really matters. I encourage all to fight back and don’t ignore the ignorants. Give them facts. Australia is an “Asian” country after all (note, the Indigenous people own it). And we don’t speak Australian, we speak English with an Australian accent. Whoever says otherwise clearly needs to go back to school.

Bea: When you were living in Australia, do you think that Asians have to work harder for example when at work, in order to prove themselves that they’re good in comparison to white Australians?

Dana: I personally don’t think that’s a true statement. The reason why we work hard – for some, is because we know how lucky we are to be where we are. We appreciate what’s given to us and we don’t take it for granted. Most of my extended family were boat people escaped the Vietnam War. My immediate family including myself are VERY lucky to have been sponsored by my extended family whom have come over with nothing, worked hard to better their lives at the same time helped us here to better our lives. That is what I will always be grateful for and because of that, the reason why I work hard to succeed is to let them know what they did didn’t go to waste.

As for office politics, it’s because of the language barrier that most are not confident with conflicts hence you don’t hear much confrontations coming from people of Asian background or other backgrounds. For me, no one puts baby in the corner!

Bea: You don’t have a lot of Asian friends and your husband is white, can I ask why that is?

Dana: Ahhh this question, I always get asked this question. This goes back to the first question. The environment I was put into and the people who were in that environment – that’s all I knew. To me having Western friends, dated Western men and being married to a Western man (British) is a normal thing. To me, it’s not a “phase” nor “trend”. This environment growing up surrounded me, it’s my comfort zone. I do have more Asian friends now however, even they are Westernised same as me. And as for the dating factor, I just don’t rate Asian men at all – I don’t find them attractive.

Bea: Thanks for sharing Dana! I love your honesty and your attitude that no one “walks over me”. I agree with you, I think it’s important for you to stand up for yourself when someone made a racist comment or remark as racism in a way is a form of bullying.

Readers, have you ever experienced racism yourself? If so, how did you respond to it?

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