Dear White People: A How To Guide for Talking with them Ethnics
1. When you ask our names and the pronunciation is hard for you, it is polite to at least make one attempt at it.
2. If you try and get it wrong, that’s Ok. We’re not about to smack you on the hand with a stick for wrong pronunciation of a language you don’t know. We’re not into repeating the mistakes your culture made with our parents.
3. After we tell you our names and you try / don’t try to say them, we don’t need to hear that you think our names are ‘so lovely!’
4. When you ask us where we are from and we say, ‘here,’ we aren’t being cute. It means we were born here, like you. If you laugh and say, ‘no really,’ that doesn’t actually make sense. Because are you really from England? Or from Ireland? No. Your people might be. If you’re asking us what our ethnic background is or where our people are from, we might feel inclined to tell you. But we’re not obliged to, any more than you’re obliged to explain to us that your grandfather was a convict from Ireland and your grandmother was a barmaid who married a land-grabbing thief in the 1800’s.
5. If we say we’re born here and that we’re Greek, or Samoan, or whatever, then it’s not up to you to say whether we are or are not ‘a real’ Greek, or Samoan, or whatever. You don’t get to decide if we’re ‘authentic’ or not.
6. If you move into our neighbourhoods, we don’t think you’re really awesome and open-minded. We just think you live here.
7. If you tell us how lovely and amazing our neighbourhoods are, that they’re so interesting and truly multicultural, we just nod and smile but secretly we think you’re a tokenistic white liberal dick.
8. If you say you love it that you can walk down the road and get a kebab, or Chinese food, or Greek food, and that’s what makes the neighbourhood so ‘different’ and why you love living here, we’re thinking how sad it is that you’re so bored with your own culture that you need a kebab to make you feel special.
9. When we open a kebab shop, or Greek restaurant, or Chinese takeaway, we don’t care that you feel that we’re enriching your boring white middleclass neighbourhood with our exciting ethnic-ness. We’re just thinking about how great it is that you have to buy our food because your own food is so bland.
10. When you give us art grants to help us express our culture and to help contribute to the grand multiculturalism of the nation, we are grateful for the money. We take it, but we are not using it to build your nation of fabulous white people being benevolent to their interesting ethnic others. We take the money because we are working to represent our communities to our communities, not to you. We take it to begin the process of explaining ourselves to ourselves.
11. Maybe you could spend some time thinking about why we are so exotic and interesting, like someone else’s taonga or an ethnic souvenir you can collect and put in your pocket?
12. Maybe you would like to spend some time explaining?