While at a party the other day, a guy I had just met made the comment that I sounded “real Australian”. In my formative years, a statement like that would have made me swell with pride, that I was able to shed my otherness and distort myself into an ideal that could even fool a “real Australian” into thinking I was one of them. The sides of myself I felt needed to be hidden away at a young age in order to fully assimilate - my native tongue, my preference for spicy and oddly smelling food and other aspects of myself that were hidden consciously and without knowing.
As I have grown older, I have come to realise that being Asian and Australian does not have to be mutually exclusive, and the mentality of them and us should not exist. Which is why I have tried to reconnect with my roots and permit my heritage to enrich me as a human being.
As Australians, we pride ourselves on our multiculturalism, but we still have a long way to go. We cannot remain neutral in situations of prejudice. Instead we should use the opportunity to educate and ensure both parties walk away with more than just a single story of the other. Culture is ultimately the culmination of its people - it does not make the people.
Which is why I decided to respond to the comment by saying "Yes, I am Australian, but my heritage is also Chinese."