Tim Fung, president of ASX-listed online odd jobs platform Airtasker, was walking his dog on a Sydney beach last Friday when his pet sent sand flying into a woman on the beach and she yelled at him to “go back to China”.
The young entrepreneur was trying to relax with his family on a ‘recharge day’, just as he does for the rest of his entire company.
The founder of the online job marketplace took to LinkedIn to detail his racist experience and ask others for advice on how to deal with the situation.
Tim Fung wrote: “While we were playing on the beach, Harvey was wandering around, flicking some sand onto nearby beachgoers. Self-conscious and a little embarrassed, my wife and I apologised to the woman.
“I can understand that I get a little annoyed when sand is flicked at me and we make her uncomfortable at the beach.
“Then the woman started muttering racist comments and when she packed up and left the beach, she shouted at us: ‘Go back to China’.
Tim Fung said that, on the one hand, he wanted to avoid escalating the conflict, which could be potentially dangerous and ultimately pointless.
On the other hand, he added that the level of racism against Asians had escalated since the New Guinea pandemic, and that it “seemed irresponsible not to point out her (inappropriate comments)”.
Is there a ‘right’ way to deal with this situation?” he asks.
Tim Fung’s experience is not uncommon: research by the Australian National University (ANU) found that 84.5 per cent of Asian Australians experienced at least one incident of racial discrimination between January and October 2020. Earlier this year, research by the Lowy Institute revealed that 63 per cent of Australians of Chinese descent were treated differently following heightened tensions between Canberra and Beijing.
Tim Fung’s post has received more than 700 replies and attracted responses from other chief executives from across Australia, with the suggested responses varying widely from ‘leave’ to ‘confront, confront and confront’ and other different suggestions.
Steve Hui, president of Points Consultancy, said that, like the online ‘trolls’, the conversation was unlikely to have much impact.
You can’t control how people behave and whether it’s fair or not,” he says. Ultimately, what matters is how you react.”
But George Lipinski, owner of MeStudent.com, disagrees: “Only avoid walking away if she has a knife,” he says.
“Otherwise face it, face it, and face it again. Stand firm and straight!”
Many people shared their own experiences of racism, including Melissa Ran, a community leader at AirTree Ventures.
When I encounter this on the street or on public transport, I leave,” she says. I do it because I don’t think I’m going to change their viewpoint by facing them,” she says.
“I also think: this person has a lot of pain in front of me. I live a very enjoyable life, surrounded by people who love me, and I can be a better person here.
Adam Ferrier, founder of Thinkerbell and a consumer psychologist, also participated in the discussion.
He says: “People should be asked (in person) things like ‘Why are you a racist? and ask them to question their own behaviour and to speak out about why they are doing it.
ReachOut.com, an online mental health service, says it’s normal to be unsure how to deal with racism and recommends reaching out to individuals.
Staying calm…asking them why they have a particular viewpoint…gives them another perspective,” the ReachOut website says.
The AHRC also encourages the recording of such incidents when they occur in public.
If you can, please take a picture of the incident with your mobile phone,” it says. If it happens online, take a picture.”
These sites also strongly urge action against bystanders.
When people who witness racism speak out against it, it makes the person being attacked feel supported and may cause racists to reconsider their actions,” the Australian government website says.
“If it’s safe to do so, speak up and stand with the victim. Even a simple gesture can be powerful.” (Newsline Australia)