chapter  22
4 Pages


ByJulia Austin

Despite everyone asking as many questions as possible, they never ask what it feels like to be a different colour from my parents. Ironically, the area which has caused me considerable grief is quickly interpreted as a modern fairytale. Don’t get me wrong, I would be stupid not to realise that I am very lucky to have been brought to England from the slums of Jakarta, it’s just that the consequences of this process seem to have been wrapped in a chocolate-box veneer. I think this is mainly because it’s my mother who relates the tale of ‘how I came to be an Austin’ and she has not been on the receiving end of racial identity issues. My parents have never had to experience the feelings I get when we have a pub lunch in the countryside. They simply don’t have to deal with the stares that have sometimes meant I cannot enjoy the meal. When I tell them, they say that this is paranoia, that the stares are not hostile but simply due to my stunning exotic beauty (mother’s at the wishful thinking game again). It’s as though for everybody else, the story ends ‘happily ever after’ at the point of English arrival. I am not trying to suggest that I have had to endure a lot of racial abuse but I do have to contend with a lot of narrow-minded thinking and racial stereotyping. And unlike ethnic minority families, I do not have a mother, father or sibling with whom I can share similar experiences. Nor do I have family that gives me a strong sense of my own ethnic culture. And herein lies the confusion because essentially, you see, I am a white middle class English girl and not an Indonesian. Yet to just look at me, you’d have one bona fide ethnic minority (ethnic monitoring group: South East Asian Other).