Australians learn a lot about themselves through this epidemic, and many of them are refreshing and encouraging when we embrace a sense of common purpose that many have disappeared from.
We place the health of our citizens on personal financial well-being, sacrifice a higher level of freedom for the common good, communicate with the support of neighbors at the local level and swing behind leaders who work across partisan divisions.
But there is one area of citizenship discourse where we are disappointed ourselves, and this is a sign of increasing racist abuse of Asian Australians.
While the anger appears to be mainly aimed at the Chinese Chinese, other people of Asian heritage also report verbal and threatening behavior when they live their daily lives as Australian citizens. Others say they feel something more subtle but equally troubling – that they no longer feel comfortable in their country. An old friend who lives alone asks if I can help shopping for groceries for him, because he does not want to feel an indictment when walking in the corridors of supermarkets.
Sophie Doe, an Australian Australian who was crossing the road with her sister in Marikville when she was attacked and attacked, said: “I have never experienced racism like this before and it has a profound impact on me, it makes me feel real fear and destruction. My belief in what I think is an accepting and inclusive society.”
Last week, I was one of the signatories of an open letter calling for national unity and rejecting the racism that Australians have signed of all political and cultural gaps.
We have seen growing anxiety about the shift in public discourse that requires public intervention, something we haven’t seen since Pauline Hanson appeared on the National Theater in the mid-1990s.
What drives this wave of controversial evil intention? horrified? ignorance? Need to find a scapegoat?
Much of the anger behind racial harassment is caused by the union of two powerful narratives: that the virus was made deep in China and that is China’s fault. And that the Communist Party of China is trying to subvert Australian democracy.
Related incentives are informational stories about the Chinese in Australia who send masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) to China, which gives the misleading impression that exports are happening now, as if it were stealing these important Australian goods when we badly needed them.
Then this becomes a parallel narration of the Chinese in Australia who empty the merchandise stores and send them to China, to find the true cause of the supermarket shortage.
In general, it’s a toxic drink, often illogical but very emotional.
Our campaign advocates criticized us for not advocating racism in China. We distinguish Chinese people as defenders of a system that is avoided by many of our families.
But they missed the point: The way Australia handles China itself is complicated and difficult. Chinese Australians play an important role in building bridges of understanding and mutual respect that have driven much of our prosperity in recent decades.
But racism in Australia is not about the Chinese government, it is about us. We say that while it is legal to criticize CCP for its actions that conflict with Australian values, it is important not to pass them on to Australian Australians.
Indeed, saying that the Chinese did this to themselves because of bad behavior or that they did not do enough to mention racism in China, is no better than blaming the victims.
The Asian-Australian community reflects the diversity of our nation: from the people whose ancestors rushed in the 1850s, to war refugees, to dissident students who opposed power, they are part of our national story.
It is encouraging that this message has signed more than 10,000 of our Australian colleagues on the Australia Australia Forum petition to support the purpose of the message, while supporting crossing political gaps including among Senators Penny Wong and Andrew Prague.
They understood that it was now time for all Australians to gather instead of blaming each other. It is important and legal to discuss Australian-Chinese relations, but we cannot allow Chinese Australians to be severely damaged.
Distrust, void the right to vote, and discredit our citizens will eat us from the inside – it is not only fundamentally incompatible with the values of Australia that we value so much, but it will be more harmful to our democracy than foreign powers have ever been.
Jason Yat Sun Li, president of the Australia China Forum, participated in Australia’s series of discussions at home
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