I am a 1.5 generation. I came to New Zealand 20 years ago as a teenager. I went to school here and stayed here. As a 1.5er, I experienced all the internal and external racism. Coming to New Zealand as a teenager put us in the role of being a translator for your family, and learning how to be independent very quickly while you are still a child.
I was born in Hong Kong when it was still a British Colony. My first language is Cantonese, but I have been speaking English since I was 5, even if it is not used daily or was not fluent. New Zealand was a country that my mother wanted to move to, and as children, you don’t get to choose where you will go to, and no one at school even know where New Zealand is!
At school and with peers, even til this day, I am expected to behave the “Kiwi-way”, and at home, the “Chinese-way”. I am supposed to speak English at work and Chinese at home. I remember the way people used to look at me when I talk Chinese at work, fearing that we were maybe talking about them.
I remember the first time I had “reversed cultural shock” when I was working as a Settlement Support Coordinator. All but the CEO and HR were migrants, and they were comfortable speaking in their own language and practice their own culture. I felt uncomfortable conversing Chinese with my colleagues, and they often joke about how “white” I was.
I remember how I take many New Zealand culture as granted. “This is how the system works!”, I often think, not realising that they were from another country and they don’t know. I still have many people in the Chinese community who won’t accept me as “Chinese” or see me as “Kiwi”. They simply see my views a little avant-garde. When I hang out with my Kiwi friends, they see me “very Chinese”. The idea that I still live at home eat Chinese food and talk Chinese. Not knowing that I have only been comfortable with my Chinese-ness.
I witness racism within ethnic communities and against each other. The many shocking labels the Chinese community gives to the Indian community (A-San) or the Maori-Pacific community (Mao-Dao); all of which has a derogatory tone to it. The many times I see them saying that those other communities are less educated and create crime; or that the Kiwis are lazy and slow. At the same time, the Chinese communities scream about the many time they were racially profiled.
I have interacted with white supremacists online. I have personally been labelled as “Chinese takeaway” because of the mistakes I have done in the past. I have people calling me to “go back to China” many times. I hope we can get away from casual racism; I hope we can get away from labelling each other because we look different, act different or speak differently; I hope we can just see people as people, and agree to disagree.
I remember attending an Office of Ethnic Affairs workshop on the assumption and told as humans we make assumptions about other people because this is how we are. But one thing that is critical to consider is that these are just assumptions, and we all need to get to know the people we have theses pre-conceived ideas about.
New Zealand is my home and I am not going anywhere. New Zealand is a country where we value diversity, freedom to believe, and freedom to be who you are. And this is a country where I can be who I am, whether I am a Hong Kong Chinese, or a Kiwi.