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Go back to your country

Disclaimer: I am very aware that the majority of Australians are not like the person I had the misfortune to deal with. I am also very aware that other minority races, such as the African Americans and the indigenous communities in Australia, have been coping with worse systematic discriminations. My experience was nowhere near as bad.
The reason I am sharing this is to bring awareness - what I have experienced, what I have seen, here in Melbourne, 2020.

February:
COVID-19 first started gaining its notoriety in China in late January 2020. Over in Australia, bush fire was raging, and our tourism industry started plummeting. At that time, COVID-19 was still being called 'Chinese virus' by many Australian mainstream media outlets, with the undertone that this is China’s problem and her problem alone.

Over in China, COVID-19 was getting worse and worse, spreading across cities including Xi'an where my parents live. I started worrying about them as the infections increasing by the thousands and the death toll looked like it was from an alien invasion movie. My parents are in their 60's and my mum does not have the best of health. She catches colds easily and sometimes would have a lingering cough for weeks before she fully recovers. Within days they were completely confined to their apartment as the government started lock-down measures. I was worried sick about them at the time. I am an only child and I could do nothing to help them, separated thousands of kilometers away.

It was around this time someone who has been a friend of mine for years posted a crude-quality video on his Facebook. It showed some villagers of possible Asian ethnicity scoping with their hands and eating feces-looking content directly from an animal's stomach. The title of the video was 'Chinese villagers enjoying eating cow shit'. It was one of the most blatantly racist videos I have even seen. The villagers looked primitive and intellectually challenged. The language they were speaking was not Chinese, or any other languages I could recognize.

My comment on that video was "I don’t think they are speaking Chinese".

Immediately that person messaged me, and the civility of the conversation lasted for about 10 seconds before his narrative went from how Chinese people should be held responsible for the downfall of Australian tourism industry and economy, to calling them and me: dirty, diseased, lowlife thieves who came here to spread the virus and take things away from 'us Australians'. I argued back of course, tried desperately to use facts without attacking him personally, and that’s when he said it:

"Go back to your country".

And that was it. At that moment I realized I have allowed myself to be hurt deeply, deeply by an unintelligent, racist and extremely bigoted individual.

The conversation ended very quickly after that, and I spent several minutes trying to calm the violent shaking of my legs.
My heart was beating out of control with rage and disbelief. I eventually managed to sit down on the floor with my back leaning against the wall. I called my partner and started crying.

I would have cried for about 30 minutes. My poor partner tried his best to console me. "Why would you care about what he says? He clearly is not someone whose opinion you should value" is one of the questions he asked me, and this was what I said:

I care very much because I love this country. The length of time I have been in Australia is now longer than what I have had spent in my birth country. My life is here and here only. When I was told to ‘go back to your country’, I felt like these years of my life did not matter, my identity was taken away with those words and I was never as fully accepted as I thought I was.

I care very much because all I would be judged on by people like him is purely based on my skin color and ethnicity. All that matters, is the race I was born into - I can do nothing to change that.

I care even more because I know when I have children, this is the world they will have to face. I can teach them to be resilient and strong, but I would not be able to shield them from bigotry and racism. It would be something they have to learn to deal with eventually, just because of the race they are born into.

It breaks my heart.

March to May:

The pandemic spread to Australia. More and more racially motivated incidents started to happen: the Harvey Norman sign placed outside one of its NSW stores that said 'no viruses here, our products are not made in China'; the 'Go back to China you yellow dogs' phrase painted across a wall in a Melbourne suburb; the two Asian international students assaulted in the city of Melbourne; my partner's father (who is a Malaysian Australian and has been living here for the past 50 years) was taunted at his local supermarket; a friend of mine was harassed several times by a neighbour in her own building.

It was reported that over 300 cases of racially motivated crimes were committed towards members of Asian community since early this year here in Australia. The actual number I believe would have been higher.

Now:
I do not label myself as a 'victim of racism'. If I have learnt one thing from this experience, is that it is truly horrible being at the receiving end of bigotry. Now I can say I know how it feels, and it gives me more strength to stand up to it in the future.

What’s happening now, is this wave of racism seems to have passed for the time being, and no one is talking about it anymore. In my opinion it was barely brought to the open to be talked about in the first place. The world has moved on to worse things.

Next time when another world-altering disaster happens, the media will pick another target, and it will be some other minority’s turn to take the blame - because it was 'ok' to do so the last time, and the many many times before.
A problem will never be solved if it was never known in the first place.

Please, notice it, call it out, fight it, if you will.

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