Teresa Li

Asians are not just a face

“Sometimes I forget that I’m Asian. I forget about the never-ending cycle of proving my humanity, of my worthiness to a country that I rightfully belong to.

The perpetual foreigner effect means that an Asian will never look like the face of Australia, that an Asian will always be an immigrant.

You see, when a minority achieves a significant milestone for Australia, they’re a true Australian representing the importance of multiculturalism.

Until they’re not.

Until they no longer serve a purpose for Australia.

The people who I spend time with at school, sometimes they would beat me up because I was little, because they could.

Then they just become another foreigner, and in this current climate, a foreigner that brought COVID-19 to Australia.

Despite our elderly contributing to the foundation of this nation while living under the discriminatory ruling of the White Australia policy, despite our elderly bearing the hardships of poverty and war trauma and sacrificing everything they knew behind for the future of their family, despite the elderly holding the highest mortality rate to COVID-19 and thousands of elderly dying each and every week, Asian people, and most disgustingly, our Asian elderly are being punched, hit, spat at, kicked at, lit on fire, and shoved to their deaths for supposedly causing COVID-19 while being the most susceptible victims to it.

Let’s make something clear. Asian Australians did not bring COVID-19 to Australia.

But the slant of our eyes can not be covered by a mask and so that fact becomes irrelevant.

It becomes irrelevant so a white man can spit on us and tell us to get out of their country.

It becomes irrelevant so people can call us COVID, bat-eaters, and virus.

It becomes irrelevant so a white Christian man can travel to three massage parlours and murder six Asian women as if his sexual addiction was not induced through his fantasization and exoticism of Asian women.

But I guess that’s all we are, a culmination of decades of systemic racism cast as stereotypes and fantasies.

Fantasies that were enough to take the lives of mothers, grandparents, siblings, and the reflection of all Asians on his bad day.

I’m sick of white men using their Asian wife as a certificate of proof for their inability to be racist.

I am sick of being in a room of white people talking about issues of people of colour, the audacity of someone who has never lived like me to racially gaslight how I should feel as a minority.

My ethnicity is not a diversity call, a face to free you of the claims of racism.

It is not the wife of a white man or parent to ethnically ambiguous children.

It is not there to make your entire cast of white actors look inclusive by adding one person of colour.

It is not there for casting directors to ask whether I can speak Mandarin or do martial arts.

If all you can see is an Asian face and nothing behind it, you dismantle the history of anti-racism rhetoric that has built this nation into a multicultural country.

Asians are not just a face. We are minds with extensive breadth, passion, and intelligence.

We have concerns that don’t just reside on being an A+ student or a doctor.

We have lives as everyone else does. And as Asians, we don’t need to prove our existence to you”.

Video credits: ABC News, NowThis, KPIX-TV, Global News, NBC News, WNBC, CGTN, AACTA, New Idea, ABC, BBC News, KickFlip, CBC News, The Economist, ABC7, CNBC, NBC Bay Area, GMA and Global News

Image credits: National Library of Australia, Phil May, Australian War Memorial, Michael Ochs Archives, Getty Images, Aaron Fernandes, SBS News, Bianca de Marchi/EPA, University of Sydney, Ken Middleton, Ben Gray, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Associated Press, Ringo Chiu, Andrej Ivanov/AFP, SOPA/Alamy, Lindsey Wasson, Guardian News, Peter Hardin and Ten News

About the Work

This short film recounts the recent attacks on Asians during the COVID pandemic alongside the common discrimination that Asians face on a day to day basis that have contributed to the inflammation of anti- hatred that has grown in recent months. A combination of commentary, video clips and images help to show the narrative of Asian stories that have affected the timeline of racism in Australia and across the world. It combines my personal experiences with racism, experiences from my fellow Asian friends as well as the events that have happened to Asians across the decades. This film delves into the mindset of myself and how I feel as an Asian living as an Australian as well as the constant hypocrisy and injustice that Asians currently face in the wake of the COVID pandemic. I hope this film encapsulates a slice of the Asian Australian experience and presents the racist narrative we have all experienced clearly. Only through understanding the Asian perspective, can society truly step forward in coming together as one.

About the Creative

Teresa Li is a 20-year-old, Australian-born Chinese female who delved into short films in highschool where she made films for her multimedia classes. From there she went into her first university film competition where she won first place within her first semester of university. Not only did she win the grand prize, she was also granted the opportunity to speak in front of hundreds of incoming students about her film and what it meant to her. She hopes to use the mode of film making to educate and create insights into the increase of anti-Asian hate crimes within the COVID pandemic in an engaging way.