Australian poet Eileen Chong says she was asked a racist question by her white neighbor

Australian Poet Eileen Chong
  • Australian poet Eileen Chong tweeted about a recent racist experience in Sydney in which a white neighbor asked her how much she charged for cleaning services.
  • In the thread, she continued, “Some white people will really look at an Asian body & think ‘interchangeable person here to serve me’. No shade on cleaners. I’ve worked as a cleaner before, it’s real work. But it’s just a lot.”
  • Chong elaborated that this type of casual racism was only one type of discrimination people face, and that people’s outrage at her situation should extend to all forms of racism.

Australian poet Eileen Chong shared a recent instance of racism she experienced in her apartment complex in Sydney when a white neighbor assumed Chong was an apartment cleaner.

Chong, who was born in Singapore, is the author of nine books, including five poetry collections. Her work has previously been shortlisted for multiple awards both in Australia and internationally. 

In a thread on Twitter, Chong shared that she had been attempting to deliver handmade baked goods to one of her other neighbors when the interaction occurred. 

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“Racism means entering the building you’ve lived in for 8 years & being asked by an old white neighbour how much you charge for cleaning.”  

“I was brought up with such impeccable manners,” Chong wrote, regretting that she did not respond to the neighbor more forcefully in the moment. Instead, she said, she politely told the neighbor she was not a cleaner. 

In a separate tweet, she added: “Some white people will really look at an Asian body & think ‘interchangeable person here to serve me’. No shade on cleaners. I’ve worked as a cleaner before, it’s real work. But it’s just a lot.”

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Chong continued her thread with a message to those showing outrage at her situation. 

“If you’re outraged that this casual racism happens you should be outraged we have refugees in detention. You should be outraged Palestinians have to fight to stay in their own homes. You should be outraged at the systemic injustices Aboriginal people face on their own lands still. Anything less is hypocrisy.” 

Eileen Chong Tweet

In later Tweets, Chong expressed that her goal in sharing her experience was for others to educate themselves. She added that by publicly sharing what she had gone through she had attracted more racists to her page, who took it “as a challenge” to send more racism her way. 

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Featured Image via ABC Australia

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