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  • Writer's pictureAngelica Aquino

Growing up as an Asian in Australia

Updated: Feb 12, 2019

Growing up as a first generation Australian, with Asian parents, there was always the thought at the back of my mind “I wish I was white”.

How messed up is that?

Never seeing myself represented on the big screen, attending predominantly ‘caucasian’ schools, and the subject to ‘harmless’ racial jabs, I wholeheartedly believed my life would be 100 times better.. easier.. if I had been born a different ethnicity. I would be ashamed of my culture and pride myself on having non-Filipino friends, as if it were a good thing. Every day I would hope that mum prepared ‘western’ food for lunch to bring to school instead of whatever Filipino dish we’d had for dinner the night before, scared to give kids another reason to label as me as different or weird. It was bad enough I already had a ‘weird’ accent.. despite being born in Australia.

It’s disheartening when you go through conversations that go a little something like “Where are you from?”, I answer “Australia”, and I’m almost always met with “No, but where are you really from?”. I was born at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney, a**hole. Or when I have to calculate a maths equation, I’d get “C’mon, this should be easy, you’re Asian!”. *Eye-roll*. In media, Asians only starred in films that were set in an Asian country – something I could not relate to – or if they did feature in western films, it would be horribly racist, like Long Duk Dong from Sixteen Candles. Thank God for Lucy Liu, at least.

Anyways, fast forward – it’s the year 2018, and we’re finally seeing the Asian world properly represented in popular culture and wow, what a feeling it is to witness this incredible change. And I’m also taken aback by how much it’s affecting me – where did these emotions come from?!

From the entrepreneurial prowess of Nicole Warne, to the endless drive of Jenn Im and to the world-stopping production of Crazy Rich Asians, I am shook. Slowly but surely, we’re moving away from close-minded ideas of “token-Asian-best-friend” to “kick-ass-protagonist”, and from appalling notions of Asian women as “fetishes” to seeing them – us – as incredible human beings.

Just thinking about this makes my chest tight with happiness and pride for my ethnicity – something that I haven’t felt a lot of in my 24 years of life. More and more, I am showing who I really am, my heritage, and showcasing the traditions of my country. I’m not going to lie, every now and then I think stupid thoughts about being Asian. Being perfectly honest, it’s been hard to change a mindset I’ve had for majority of my life – one of straight-up negativity and embarrassment – to one of pride and acceptance, but I’m happy knowing I’m moving in the right direction, along with anyone else who has ever felt the same way as I have.

There will always be times when I feel like the random in the crowd, or entirely out of place, but as of right now, I haven’t felt more included and accepted as the Filipino girl in the room.


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