In the workplace
I lead the creation of Cultural manners for our workplace. My team members had received all kinds of inappropriate, ignorant and hurtful comments and questions as Aboriginal guides working at a tourism attraction. We documented all the commonly asked stupid questions and our insightful and humorous answers to them into a handout so now our visitors pick up their manners on the way into our park to improve the psychological safety of our workplace for our team.
I was working in a department store and this middle aged Caucasian woman came up to me, gestured wildly at a vacuum cleaner and said loudly, “Do you know how this works?” with obvious exaggerated pause between each word and intentional over-pronunciation. When I replied calmly “Yes, of course – would you like me to show you?” she exclaimed, “Oh! You speaks English!” I honestly would not have minded the first question, however rudely it was articulated, but when she used grammatically incorrect English to express surprise at MY ability to comprehend HER, it was like striking a match in the heart of a forest. So I answered calmly, “English may not be my first language, but I’m pretty sure I still speak it better than you. All you have to do is press the ON button” and proceeded to show her how to operate the vacuum.
I was working part time for Telstraclear 2 years back when I came across this customer on a call who wanted to speak to the CEO or the highest authority of the company as he had a billing dispute for huge amount. However, while I was trying to help him he started shouting at me that he wouldn't want to speak to, or deal with, an Indian and wanted to speak to the CEO of the company. I was quite upset by the way he said it as I was trying to help him and nothing more. He again asked me to transfer the call to CEO or someone who could speak English and I thought this was the perfect chance to rant against his racist attitude, so I said “the CEO is Indian. Are you still keen to still speak to CEO?” He was quiet for a moment and then apologised and said that he did not want to be rude. I think he learnt his lesson that way.
My very first art commission was for B.P. Australia, I painted a scene of Australia's outback with about ten aboriginal characters on walkabout. B.P. said sorry they would only accept the painting if l erased all the aboriginal figures saying they’re nothing but trouble and never did anything for us! Those dummies I'm aboriginal and they were asking me for a white boy's painting? That hurt! I lost the commission but l found my conscious(ness).