I’d like to tell you a story about one of my Chinese friends who’s lived in New Zealand since she was very young. She decided that she wanted to swap her English class for Chinese. To say the least, her English teacher did not take it very well. That same day in class, the same teacher said, “A girl left English to do Chinese to get more E credits for med school.” My friend has no intention of being a doctor. The teacher had made assumptions based purely on my friend’s ethnicity. After all, don’t all Chinese students want to be doctors, isn’t that the stereotype? This is only one example, but I could stand up here and give several more examples of incidents similar to this.
Discrimination occurs far too often within society, whether it is just one small comment or a racist fuelled hate crime. One comment may seem harmless but words are very powerful weapons and speaking from personal experience, these comments hurt and they can really affect you long after they’re been made. One comment can completely deplete your self-esteem level and confidence, leaving behind the shell of the person that was there and it takes a long time to get over it and the worst part of it is guilt and anger. Why guilt? Guilt comes from believing that maybe, somehow, you did do something wrong, that you somehow provoked an attack by someone, that you somehow brought it upon yourself. Why anger? Why not? Because of the unfairness of such people that exist within our society and somehow gain satisfaction from demeaning other people.
However, you do thankfully eventually realise that it was not your fault and your only fault is existing and being yourself. You also realise that you have just as much right to be there as someone else and that nobody has the right to judge you and automatically make assumptions about you as a person. It takes a long time for people to realise these truths and many people are constantly living in fear that they will be judged.
However, one positive thing that I have learnt from my experiences is that change can be made. I strongly believe that change starts with you as an individual. We can all play our small part in making the world a much better place. Every single one of us here right now can start by trying to stop judging other people, we don’t know other’s people life stories, we don’t know what they have seen, done or been through. The best thing we can offer, is an open mind and no judgement. Taking these small steps ourselves, we can all change our mindsets, which can lead to an overall change in attitude in society and things such as racism and discrimination will be heard about less and less frequently. When I was 15, I arrived home in tears, after sitting in a bus in front of a woman who was whispering behind me “Go back to where you came from” and other things like that. Now, I would talk to my 15 year old self and using an idea rom Renee Liang’s poem “banana,” I would say to her the next time someone makes a racist comment toward you, remember, “It doesn’t tell them anything about you, but it sure tells you something about them."
“Count our voices, our voices count.”
- Written by Leanne. Another one of the brilliant speeches shared at the Youth March 2017.