In my time I have been called a lot of things, and at the top of that list is “white girl”.
An assumption that I have always understood but only now am no longer accepting. I am both white and not white.
My mother was Irish (Anglo-Saxon descent) and for the most part that provided me with a very “Australian” culture. She gave me gifts of beauty, my fair skin and hazel tinted brown eyes. Within my dark hair I have a mix of a few random red hairs, that I laugh at every now and then... seeing the direct influence my mother’s blood has on my body.
My father on the other hand, is Dutch/Indonesian. He gave me my yellow skin, my dark hair, my height and sadly my ability to grow a dirty moustache. My family was from a small village in Java before World War II destroyed their way of life. My dad’s aunties gave birth in Japanese war camps, where they were segregated from their families. Eventually they escaped to Australia with what little they had left in hopes that they could start a new life.
My father’s culture was very different to my mum’s. Within his household in Dallas Broadmeadows, they hunted all of the food that they ate, with a strict code of using every part of an animal they killed. He was brought up only being allowed to speak English at home, as his parents were new to Australia and needed to learn the language. My Nan and Pop left all of their culture at the door when they entered Australia because they had to learn how to survive.
I am a product of cultural assimilation. I have always felt lost hearing how white I am, how white I look and how people have said to me that having me use terms such as “Asian” was racist. The words that hurt me are not the same as other people, and not even other Asian people. People not realising how important acknowledgement actually is and that it is not a joke. What my family went through was not a joke, my culture today (regardless of how lost I have felt) is not a joke. I have always been proud to be a Dutch Indonesian woman and to be told that I am anything less than that, hurts me.
I have had people question what portion my race is and even tell me that I am “barely Indonesian”. I am Indonesian, just as much as I am Dutch and just as much as I am Irish. Just because I don’t have slanted eyes or darker skin doesn’t mean that my family wasn’t living on coffee farms in colonies of Dutch and Indonesian people in Java. Just because I am tall and look western doesn’t mean that I don’t carry years of emotional family trauma from experiences that have lead to a cultural death in my family.
Just as much as anyone deserves to be respected and represented, I am finally taking my place and my space back for my ancestors. I am taking back the space that my grandparents were forced to give up in order to survive. That being a mixed baby is who I am, that my heritage and its influences are and always have been in my blood.
I am grateful for my existence, created by two incredible people. Especially grateful for my father and his continuing support in my life.