This one’s an important one. If you were to take a single page from my book, I’d like it to be this. As you would all know, I grew up in a small town in South Queensland, I attended a school that had close to zero diversity at the time – though this isn’t a bad thing of course. It’s just a very sanitized version of life, and it wasn’t until I moved to Brisbane that I was exposed to the multicultural Australian. And it wasn’t until now that I’ve realised how much this unintentional learning experience benefited me as a person.
I’m currently in the passenger seat speeding from Dusseldorf to Munich, finally having time to reflect on my past few months of nonstop travel. I’ve known for some time that travel is the best form of education, for it addresses and banishes the ideologies that hold us ignorant in favour of our own culture, or our own country.
During our past month, we were lucky enough to have a friend from back home in Australia join us on our stint travelling through Italy, Croatia and Greece. She’s Australian born and raised, she attended school in Australia, she grew up eating jumpys, drinking milo, sucking on zooper doopers, just like we did. The only difference? She’s a first-generation Aussie, I’m a third. Though her parents migrated to Australia, just like our grandparents or great grand parents did. We’ve been travelling since January, though travelling with her and another one of her friends has opened our eyes on how much society, all over the world, will generalise a person based on how they look.
For a matter of contrast, consider this – the image that many people in Europe have of Australia baffles me upon how many times I’ve been asked what my background is. Why? Because Australians supposedly all have blonde surfer hair, blue eyes and tanned skin, having me clearly not fit the criteria of an ideological Aussie.
“You don’t look Australian.” I’m sorry but what does an Australian look like? Considering our Indigenous history in Australia, alongside countless migrants coming from all over the world for the past few hundred years, it’s unfeasible to generalise our population as holding a particular appearance. Just as it is with the continent of Asia, that is made up of thousands of diverse cultures.
We now live in a world where a majority of our major cities are quite diversely populated. So why is it that our multicultural world still lacks the education needed to pass on to our younger generations to reduce segregation?
I’ve recently grown tired of the demeaning question that always followed the initial introduction of meeting people on the road. “Where are you from?” “Australia” we would all answer in turn, and then the “But where are you really from?” directed at our friend. Why can’t she be Australian? Why is it necessary to question someone’s identity after they’ve already stated where they come from – in an Australian accent I might add! The sad reality? “Oh well, we’re used to it.”
The one that gets me is the assumption that everyone of Asian descent must be Chinese. Yes, China is a massive country, though there are an abundance of unique cultures that society seem to fail to acknowledge. Our two friends were both Vietnamese, yet every single assuming person would pronounce Mandarin words or throw racial slurs at them while they stood with puzzled looks on their faces. What I do understand is that it may be a matter of the uninformed, though there is a significant difference in being ignorant and merely curious.
One incident that stood out in particular, was at a swimming hole in Croatia. A 10-year-old kid came up to our friend and said “Konnichiwa!” – from the mouths of those who know no better. The Japanese word for hello. Considering the fact that this kid was wayyy off, and being the type of people we are, we were all in hysterics laughing at the innocence of this poor kid who has clearly been misinformed by those he looks up to. Why did he laugh and not correct the kid? His own words, “it’s not my job to educate someone else’s child on culture.”
In the 21st century, diversity = the society we live in today. Children aren’t born with hatred, they are taught to see that ‘difference’. Help strengthen togetherness and teach your babies love knows no colour, love knows no race – one love.
– Haylee x