Awhile ago I came across a graphic that one of my Facebook friends had shared.
The post made me think about privilege in our society. I live in Australia in the Western Suburbs. People who live in the Western suburbs are often depicted and painted in media as lazy slobs, who abuse the welfare payments from the government, and other unsavoury terms. Western Sydney is also home to a lot of new migrants and many refugees who have come newly arrived to Australia. Unfortunately the media has convinced some members of the public that this picture of people inhabiting Western Sydney is true. I see it everywhere, not only in mainstream media but from the people who surround me, particularly people in my university, the University of Sydney.
The University of Sydney resides in the streets of Redfern and Glebe. It is located about a 20 minutes walk from Central Station, part of Sydney’s CBD. People who attend this university usually come from the Eastern suburbs or places where there is a monoculture of “white” or people of Anglo-Saxon appearance or descent. Because I lived in the Western suburbs I was surrounded prominently by people of colour, i.e. people who were not white. Upon coming to university I was suddenly surrounded by a lot of “white” people. These “white” people often questioned my background and where I lived. I often told them the truth. I am of Vietnamese descent, and I lived in a suburb called Granville. This was often met with disgust and confusion. “Where’s that?” “You’re from the West” and other questions and statements. It was then I realise these people were judging me because I lived in the suburbs, my skin colour and my descent.
Not only that, I was often at odds with these people, who had lived a totally different life from me. I don’t ever recall attending skiing trips as excursions. I remembered the times my friends ran around the Powerhouse museum, eager to explore every nook and cranny of the infamous museum. I didn’t remember the time I had ever attended a débutante ball or gala, or a polo match or any of those things. It’s funny how we were only separated by 30 kilometres, a 25-30 minute drive, and yet we’d led totally different lives. They often said horrible things about people who lived in Western Sydney, about how they were undeserving and “povo”. I felt so ashamed about who I was.
But then I realised. Yes, they do live in privilege, but I live in diversity. I live within a rich cultural hub where I can literally access every cultures within a few minutes drive. The foods amazing and the people are even so amazing. People who have faced war, death and even worse horrors, but have built a beautiful and rich neighbourhood.
I am proud to come from Western Sydney. I am proud to come from a rich and beautiful cultural hub. It is me who is privileged to live in such a beautiful place.