I’m an asian guy. SG is an anglo woman. And we’re a couple. Apparently some people still have a problem with this.
It’s been a long time since I’ve even thought about this as a potential issue but being with SG has opened my eyes to it again primarily because she notices it more than I do. Ok, there’s no real problem in my social circles (or they wouldn’t be in my social circle) or in SG’s circles either. And the majority of the places we hang out in are completely cool with the mixed race couple thing. In fact, it may even be cooler to be a mixed raced couple than your average run of the mill same colour pairings. Personally, I’d rather it didn’t matter at all one way or the other. But on the whole, for at least the last ten years, I haven’t noticed any untoward reactions.
However, walking around arm in arm with SG the other day, she noted that a couple we passed on the street was very unimpressed by us. SG had met the eyes of the other woman and smiled. The woman had stared pass SG (apparently breaking numerous sisterly protocols by doing so). The man had likewise looked at SG, flicked a look at me, frowned and fixed his gaze away.
“What was that about?” SG asked me as soon as they walked pass.
I’d been completely oblivious to this little wordless interchange of course .When she explained what had happened to me I was tempted by the hippy with dreadlocks explanation or the them having a bad day explanation or that being smiled at by strangers is an offence in their sub-culture explanation etc. The one possibility I just didn’t want to entertain was that they had a problem with me, an Asian guy, being with an Anglo woman.
When I first got to Australia in the late eighties, I noticed anti-asian sentiment everywhere. Partly this was because there were more portions of the population that were anti-Asian, partly it was because Asian movies hadnt flooded the market with the new cool, partly because muslims had not become the favourite hate-object of talk back radio and partly because I was a young sensitive angry person who had a chip on his shoulder.
Around the late 90s, this anti-asian sentiment reached its apogee in the whole Hanson One Nation thing about the same time I got most anxious about being an asian person in Australia for obvious reasons. I got over my anxiety by travelling very slowly around much of Australia, spending time and getting to know different sectors of the white Australian community. I got over my anxiety by putting myself out there, exposing myself as much as I could and in so doing getting to know the different types and levels of prejudice that people have. In that process, I understood that in Australia while stereotyping is very common, actual prejudice is much less so and malicious racism is very rare and usually isolated to the most underprivileged and damaged portions of society.
And so, I got on with the actual business of living here. Much of the time, I’ve forgotten that I look different and for the majority of that time, I’ve not seen or experienced any racism whatsoever.
I think what has also happened in the last few years is that I’ve also become complacent. I’ve stopped noticing untoward reactions or have even actively started talking them down. By not labelling uncomfortable events with uncomfortable terms, I’d managed to build myself a nice little tolerant society in my mind. Now, I don’t want to go back to jumping at every little frown and labelling every display of ignorance based stereotyping as racist but I shouldn’t also be too quick to forgive and explain away.
So, much as it pains me to admit this and based on SG’s description of the event, I think what actually happened that day is because that rather pleasant looking young couple have a problem with mixed race couples, had a problem with me and are to a very worrying degree racists.
To think that it can still happen in this day and age.