10 March 2021

"It is not just his fault": Dickson cafe owner calls for multicultural education after racist abuse

| Dominic Giannini
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Vincent Wong

The owner of the Folks Gallery in Dickson, Vincent Chen, has called for more education on multiculturalism after a racist incident at his cafe. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

The Chinese-Australian man who was racially abused by a school-aged boy in a now viral video has said he does not want to visit hate on the group of children involved but rather wants to use the incident to educate the community about racism.

A video taken by staff at Folks Gallery in Dickson on Friday shows a boy racially abuse staff before spitting on the cafe’s outdoor table.

The clearly identifiable teenage boy is shown filming cafe staff, making racist references to their appearance and referring repeatedly to “viruses” before spitting deliberately on an outside table and telling staff “clean that up”. Two girls standing on the footpath continue mocking staff members while the boy makes an obscene gesture. Region Media has chosen not to show the video.

Racism video

A screen shot from the video. Image: Supplied.

The cafe’s owner, Vincent Chen, said he had asked a group aged in their early teens to stop smoking outside his store and told them to leave when they started racially abusing him.

The group allegedly responded with a statement along the lines of “We won’t leave, you leave Australia”, and made comments involving COVID-19, Mr Chen said.

“At first I was of course angry, if someone talked to you like that you would be angry. I was shocked,” he said.

“I have lived in Australia and Canberra for so many years and I did not expect this to happen because people are really, really nice to me.

“We know we are aliens, we are coming from other countries, people here might think we will rob their jobs, I don’t know. We try our best to contribute to society, we have our business here, we choose to live here because we love the country.”

The boy in the video has since apologised to Mr Chen.

Racism against Asian-Australians increased during the pandemic: one ANU study from late last year found that more than four in five had experienced instances of discrimination between January and October 2020.

Mr Chen said the incident was not isolated. He said that other businesses in Dickson and his friends in Melbourne had reported similar examples of racist abuse, but he did not want to use the video going viral on social media as an excuse to spread hate.

READ ALSO When it comes to racism, we can do better

“It is not just his fault, it is what people are taught or brought up with,” he said.

“It is what information they have been given. They have never been to China, maybe they have never had a friend who is Chinese, they did not know how nice we are. [Instead,] they learn from the mass media and social media.

“I hope they understand how much we contribute to society.”

The video also circulated around the Chinese social media site WeChat, which was where it came to the attention of Chin Wong, the President of the ACT Chinese Australian Association.

Ms Wong said countless incidents are ignored and passed off as “stupid comments” but that the seriousness of the video meant that it could not be ignored by the community.

“This incident is the one we thought, hang on, this is really bad, we cannot be silent anymore, we cannot allow this to continue,” she said.

Ms Wong also criticised the ACT Government for not doing more to combat racism in the community but ACT Education Minister Yvette Berry said the government would use this incident as a chance to educate the community.

“This behaviour is not acceptable. While we can’t change what has been done and said, this incident presents an opportunity to educate these young people and to reinforce to the community that this is not acceptable behaviour,” she said.

“It is important that we make sure the people who have been subject to this abuse feel welcome and supported.

“We also need to make sure these young people, their families and their school communities are supported as well.”

The Education Directorate said that ACT Policing is working with all parties involved after the name of the 14-year-old was posted online and schools in the ACT have received hundreds of angry emails from the millions of people who have now viewed the video online.

If you experience violence, abuse or other criminal behaviour, you can report it to the ACT Human Rights Commission on 6205 2222.

If you need support, you can call Lifeline’s 24-hour crisis support line on 13 11 14.

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HiddenDragon7:26 pm 11 Mar 21

“….ACT Education Minister Yvette Berry said the government would use this incident as a chance to educate the community”

Also, hopefully, about the stupidity of kids taking up smoking.

Capital Retro10:09 pm 11 Mar 21

If her department had educated the children involved in the first place we wouldn’t be having this discussion yet, somehow she implies it is the community’s fault? Give me a break!

Yvette Berry: “We also need to make sure these young people, their families and their school communities are supported as well.” Supported to do what? In the case of the kids, carry on their disgusting behaviour? In the case of their families, not curb their disgusting behaviour? Or, in the case of their “school communities”, by which, if she weren’t so incapable of normal speech, she probably means schools, who knows what she wants THEM to do? What is that woman on?

Linda Stapleton racism is plain wrong. However, what you refer to as the Government’s “hate China crap” are actually serious policies to counter a serious threat, namely the brutal, authoritarian government in Beijing. If you want racism, take a look at what is happening in Xinjiang.

I agree Bryan. How China is behaving is terrible and it will have global consequences for them.

Capital Retro5:15 pm 10 Mar 21

“Jaffa Groube 9:46 am 10 Mar 21
Given our racist British heritage who’s surprised?”

What a stupid comment to make given that most comments on this thread would be from people with British heritage.

What is wrong with it Capital Retro? If one looks at the statement objectively, the British empire invariably was largely built on a bunch of racism based policies….. one can recognise the facts of the past while looking to improve in the future. Unless one is stuck in the dark ages I guess…

Capital Retro11:04 am 11 Mar 21

Did you ever read a history book JS9? There was a British politician named William Wilberforce who “improved the future” for millions of people.

Maybe after you check it out you could review your response.

On what basis would you suggest the British empire was built on racist policies?

Nationalistic and economic policies yes, but that isn’t the same as racism.

If you want to pretend what the British empire did in Africa, the Carribean and India was solely about nationalism and economic policies, go for your life. But you don’t start slave trading people on a basis that you think they are your equal, do you….

What precisely needs to be reviewed CR?

I never said there weren’t good people in the British Empire CR, such as Wilberforce. But hang on a minute, what happened in the 200+ years before he came on the scenes with his buddies, the period in which the British Empire established its economic might and dominance of the globe?

Oh that’s right, the British Empire was the greatest slave trader of them all, transporting millions of black African slaves halfway around the world to feed their economic machine….. now your welcome to try and mount it was all about ‘economics’ as much as you like, but at the end of the day, the policies of the day that endorsed that economic model were based on a clear assumption of superiority of the white man, who genuinely felt it was within their right to enslave another man for his own economic gain…. that is absolutely undeniable.

Capital Retro5:42 pm 11 Mar 21

The British (that’s a collective noun, by the way) were slave traders as were the other empire builders at that time. The British did not however carry out occupation and genocide like some of their continental neighbours.

Countries colonized by the British became countries of the British Empire and the host inhabitants co-existed with the British settlers. They all progressed to independence which is the epitome of democratic society.

This “white superiority” stuff simply doesn’t exist anymore.

You said:
“the British empire invariably was largely built on a bunch of racism based policies”.

Slave trading might be a bad and racist practice but the British empire wasn’t “largely built on it.”

Your claim was clear exaggeration and hyperbole, in no way could anyone realistically claim that the British empire was built on racist policies. It’s nonsensical.

Some of us prefer to look to the future. But if you want to talk about the past, Australia was founded by the British and it was mostly white British (and white Australian) people who fought for, gave their lives for, (and created) all the good things you take for granted in Australia today (like our system of government, the rule of law, innocent until proven guilty, free healthcare, the right to housing and welfare etc.). Those are things white British people established here in Australia, so please don’t generalise by being racist against white people.

Capital Retro10:03 am 10 Mar 21

It seems the cafe owner is over it so we all should follow his lead. This sort of thing happens all over the world, regularly.

Maybe the focus should be on the general behaviour of the offenders. Appears the ACT education system has failed them badly.

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