ABC Radio National celebrates the lunar new year by wasting tax dollars on a harmless video:
Lefties are outraged:
What I see playing out is the embodiment of white privilege by a powerful media institution in having the ability to pass judgements on the palatability of other people’s cuisines and culture, to define what is ‘normal,’ and to have a national platform to broadcast these pronouncements. Being able to pick and choose which parts of other cultures are acceptable is a distinct exercise of white privilege in Australia. Specifically for Chinese Australians, whose experience has long been characterised by racist and discriminatory treatment dating back to the gold rush days, it reinforces the idea that it’s okay for white Australia to say ‘we’ll take your fried rice, sweet and sour pork, and lemon chicken, but we don’t want you nor your cultural complexities here.’
There are wider ramifications, of course:
For those of us who have ever been mocked for eating ‘weird’ or ‘smelly’ foods, the implications of such a palatability test by a majority group have some real and unexpected consequences. A few years ago, my family and I decided to go to yum cha in the Chinatown in Melbourne to celebrate the Lunar New Year. The restaurant we chose was an old favourite, but when we were seated, none of the usual plates that we liked to eat were being carted around. All that was on offer were the easy-on-the-eye, easy-to-eat, Yum Cha 101 dishes that perhaps the management thought would be popular with the large number of non-Chinese patrons that day. We still managed to eat what we wanted to by waving down a waiter to order a la carte, and then waited and waited for dishes that would usually have been in every second or third cart. It was largely an inconvenience, something you can only really laugh off, but the irony was not lost on us – that during the most important time of the year in Chinese culture, in a Chinese restaurant in one of the world’s oldest Chinatowns, what we could eat was subject to the delicate palates of white Australians.
The lack of ethnic representation in the Australian media, politics – public life in general – has long been a sore spot, and this video feels like yet another act of microaggression in a long list of indignations for Chinese Australians. I can tell the video is meant to be fun and quirky, but it’s also clear that there wasn’t much critical thinking involved. Such content doesn’t count as diverse programming when its content reinforces old tropes and stereotypes about minority communities being weird or alien, even when you’ve roped in brown people to be complicit with you. If anything, the video serves as a good argument for why institutions like the ABC urgently need to implement robust diversity hiring policies.
Lefties need to lighten up. Really.