NAME AND AGE
Anna-Mei ‘Mei’ Szetu, 16 or 司徒安美
WHAT MIX ARE YOU?
WHERE DO YOU CURRENTLY LIVE?
I live in the small city of Adelaide, Australia.
IS THE COMMUNITY YOU LIVE IN NOW DIVERSE?
Adelaide is incredibly Multicultural.
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?
I’ve grown up in Adelaide, though I’m originally from Miri, (a town in Sarawak, the part of Malaysia on the Island of Borneo). In terms of diversity, the city is not unlike Singapore, with a variety of ethnicities everywhere you look. Unfortunately, there tends to be a division between the races; Asians tend to hang out with other Asians, generally of the same nationality. It’s funny, I think, that I’ve never found my place in groups because I’ve never been ‘asian enough’ or ‘white enough’. Other mixed kids have always been present in my life. In primary school there was always at least one other mixed kid in my class, though now, I think I may be the only mixed kid in my year level. My father has kept strong ties with mixed families, so my closest family friends have mixed kids. Funnily enough, my first date was with one of those mixed kids and a woman told us that it was “good to see siblings bonding”- his mix was half filipino.
HOW DID YOUR PARENTS MEET?
Working at a Coffee Shop.
WERE THERE ANY SIGNIFICANT OBSTACLES IN THEIR RELATIONSHIP CORRELATED TO YOUR BACKGROUNDS?
They were incredibly lucky to have families whom embraced each other. I love looking at the pictures of all of my grandparents together. Aesthetically my grandparents are so different and you can see how differently they carry themselves but at the same time you can also see how happy they are in each other's company.
HAS YOUR EXTENDED FAMILY ALWAYS BEEN SUPPORTIVE OF YOU BEING MULTIRACIAL?
My family in Malaysia were really progressive and starting with my uncle’s marriage to a norwegian woman, were the first in their town to have an interracial marriage. Most of my cousins are mixed and therefore there has never been a divide in our family; there has never been the division of asian and half asian. My Caucasian family is much the same, with cousins of half Japanese heritage. Unfortunately, my second cousins and other extended family have always made me feel like ‘other’. It’s never been intentional, but, when I’m with them, a group of people with traditionally beautiful european features, I never feel welcome or related.
DID YOU CELEBRATE TRADITIONS FROM BOTH SIDES OF YOUR FAMILY? Whenever possible I travel to my father’s home town for Chinese New Year and even when we can’t my father and I celebrate by going out for dinner. Both sides of my family are quite traditional and I enjoy participating in both of their cultural celebrations.
WERE THERE MULTIPLE LANGUAGES SPOKEN IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD?
Unfortunately I’ve only ever spoken english but I have in the past gone to Chinese Language Weekend School to learn Mandarin.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR CULTURAL BACKGROUND?
I think it’s the atmosphere that I love as a whole. This is actually a really difficult question to answer! I love the food of course, especially my dad’s Sarawak Laksa and I never miss an opportunity to got to a Malaysian restaurant. The clothing, I think, is just a small feature of the culture, especially now, but I love my Cheongsam and just inherited my grandmother’s. I’m planning on wearing it to my year 12 formal (the Australian equivalent to prom?). It’s the people that I love most, and the history. I like hearing my family’s stories, like when my great grandmother jumped off of a boat to avoid an arranged marriage, despite never having swam before. I love my family’s history of strong coloured women.
WHAT ACTIONS DID YOUR PARENTS TAKE TO TEACH YOU ABOUT YOUR DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS?
My immersion into each of their cultures has been very organic. I learnt about each like a child learning how to walk- it was natural and inevitable. It was important earlier on in life that my father take me to Malaysia a lot just to let me know that I was part of something much bigger than myself and his choice to do that now means a lot to me.
DID YOU TALK ABOUT RACE A LOT IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD WHEN YOU WERE GROWING UP?
Not until recently. Within the past few months I’ve had a lot of problems with my identity as a biracial person and trying to discover where I fit in the community. My mum hasn’t really known what to say as a White Australian and my Father is equally oblivious. My Parents seem to have their own struggle with raising a child who has a culture beyond their own.
DO YOU IDENTIFY AS MIXED OR SOMETHING ELSE?
Personally I identify as ‘Eurasian’ or a Biracial Asian.
DOES RACE WEIGH INTO WHO YOU CHOOSE TO DATE?
It doesn’t matter at all because my parents have taught me that when it comes to love, or attraction, race shouldn’t be a factor. However, my father does have his ideas about who I should date and he has made it clear that he wants me to date a “nerdy asian”. (note the quotation marks).
WHAT DOES BEING MIXED MEAN TO YOU?
It means sticking out like a sore thumb and always having to state your ethnicity before other people state it for you. It also means epitomising the slowly dissolving divide between cultural groups. There's this thing that my friend said to me that I can never get out of my mind- he said that being a Eurasian Australian was “having vegemite and soy sauce running through your veins”.
DO YOU HAVE A LOT OF FRIENDS WHO ARE MIXED?
I do have friends that are mixed and from them I’ve learnt that people react differently to exposure to so many cultures. I’ve learnt that mixed people, even of the same mix identify as different things.
ARE THERE ANY COMMENTS YOU ARE REALLY TIRED OF HEARING FROM PEOPLE IN REGARDS TO RACE/CULTURE?
“What ARE you?”
“It wasn’t meant to be offensive. Why are you so sensitive?”
*white people telling POC what to and not to be offended by*
“It’s not cultural appropriation, it’s cultural appreciation.”
“I call my friends the n* word as a joke.”
“You’re only half( or, “You don’t look Asian”), but you’re SO Asian!”
“You’re not REALLY asian.”
*Any use of the n* word by non-black people*
*People putting chopsticks in their hair*
*White girls wearing Cheongsam as a fashion statement*
WHAT IS YOUR DREAM FOR THE FUTURE OF AMERICA IN REGARDS TO RACE?
I’m not American, so I can’t say for sure what race relations are like in America. But, in regards to Australia, I can say that we’re comfortably racist and I dream that one day White Men will stop telling me that I’m overly sensitive and that they’ll recognise what is and is not racist. As soon as we recognise racist connotations of statements and actions we can begin educate people and eliminate our racial prejudices.