A fellow blogger recently showed me some love, recommending my site as "a blog that discusses current racism issues in Australia". Which is true I guess, and I'm always grateful for some blog love... but it made me do a double-take of sorts.
Is that what my blog has become? Looking at my list of recent posts, it is certainly a theme there. So yes, maybe I have become the guy who is always blogging about racism. It certainly is not what I had in mind in the heady days when I started this blog; back then it was a light-hearted blog about travel, culture and food that no one read. And then the "curry-bashing" phenomenon put Australian racism in the headlines. I blogged about it, and people were reading. And once I investigated the issue, I started seeing racism's tendrils everywhere.
I've had the occasional comment about me seeing racism where it doesn't exist. And this is possible. But at the same time, even when you're not looking for racism, on occasion the racism finds you.
I had a missed call on my phone this week, and a voicemail message was left. It was short and to the point, made by some youngish-sounding guy with an Australian accent. Two words: "F***ing scum." And then he hung up. No traceable number.
I assure you this is not the everyday kind of phone call I receive. And I'm not the kind of person who has too many enemies. But I'm pretty sure I know why I received it this week.
My mother is overseas right now, and her phone calls are being redirected to me. And she isn't the kind of person to have too many enemies either. But she is an important person in Melbourne's Indonesian community, and runs a business translating and interpreting in Indonesian. Open the Melbourne phone book and look for "Indonesian" and my Mum's number is the first one that sticks out at you.
I mention this, and also racism, because this is certainly not the first time we have received abusive, threatening phone calls on that number. Almost every time there is an issue of contention between Indonesia and Australia in the news, by coincidence some fool decides to ring us up and abuse us. It happened around the time when East Timor was achieving independence with the help of Australian troops, and Indonesian-military-backed mobs were attacking civilians. It happened when an Australian man was shot by Indonesian police, quite a few years ago now. It happened when Australian tourists were killed in the Bali Bomb.
The phone calls are either generally abusive ("You f***en c***s," etc) or threatening, of the "You're gonna pay" or "We know where you live" variety. The first one I heard was when I was in my teens and had the misfortune to answer the phone and get threatened with violence. I'm not sure what Indonesia had done back then, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't my fault, or my Mum's.
This week, 60 Minutes was running an emotive promo for a story this Sunday about the Balibo 5 (Australian journalists allegedly murdered by Indonesian soldiers in East Timor in 1975). According to the ad's voiceover, "5 young Australians... murdered in cold blood... executed by the Indonesians. On 60 Minutes, Liam Bartlett names the killers... demands justice... but these mongrels don't give a damn."
You should be able to watch the promo here.
I can only assume that the guy who called me "F***ing scum" had probably seen that promo. Of course, it could be that it's someone that I (or my Mum) had personally pissed off, but I doubt it. We are both, surprisingly, quite nice people.
(Dude, on the unlikely chance you are reading this - I didn't do it! I wasn't there, ok?)
Being on the receiving end of abuse and threats of violence is not pleasant, just in case you were wondering. Not that we've ever taken these calls particularly seriously, but they still leave a "what if..." lingering in your mind.
"What if we are being seriously targeted?"
"This person is clearly a bit unhinged... what if they decide to follow through with their threat?"
It was only two weeks ago that an elderly Filipino man was beaten to death by a drunken redneck, because he thought the man was Japanese. So I don't think I'm being paranoid when I don't just laugh this stuff off.
Of course, had anyone bothered to ask, both my parents and I always opposed the Indonesian military takeover of East Timor, and are quick to condemn whatever wrongs the Indonesian government may commit. Mum even spent the best part of a year working for the UN in East Timor to aid in their transition to independence.
But no, that is insignificant, isn't it? By virtue of the blood that runs in our veins, we are somehow responsible for what some soldiers did in East Timor did 34 years ago. We are somehow responsible for what the Bali Bombers did. As Indonesians, in some people's eyes, we are all the same. That, my friends is f***ing racism.
I await the screening on 60 Minutes on Sunday. Wonder if I'll get any more friendly phone calls.
Racists are out to get me! Aiyah!
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Comebacks to racist and stereotypical comments