I felt so small, embarrassed, my mouth was dry and my tongue was paralysed. I couldn’t talk or help defend the poor man sitting opposite me. All I could do in my state of stock was drop my knife & fork, look at my boss, at the client and back to the man sitting opposite me with my mouth wide open.
We were having lunch with new clients recently, we were paying. A bunch of us and a bunch from the new clients celebrating our new project together. The client was an older bloke in his early 60s. I’ll call him Client Boss. I wondered early into the lunch when was his retirement coming. I will dread working with him as he is creepy, rude and after his rant, racist. One of his staffers was a really polite but shy guy who I’ll call Jimmy. Jimmy is Asian.
Client Boss is one of those guys who knows EVERYTHING. You know the type. You are wearing white and he will say it is beige. Your husband is called Jason but he would call him James. God only knows how we will get any of our designs approved as he HAS to review everything. He is so old school.
Anyway, Client Boss starts talking about how he heard on the radio that morning (bet he is a 2GB listener) there was an asylum seeker boat lost somewhere between Indonesia and Australia. “Another fucking boat load of Asians” he said. “Hope they have all drowned at sea cause we don’t want them here in Australia” he went on. He was not talking for ME and I am Australian.
I am not one for swearing in front of people I don’t know but he went on and on and used a few other non pleasant terms to tarnish our northerly neighbours. He grumbled about what do these boat people really think Australia is, a charity. Who wants them in Australia. Bloody wogs will bring their wog food with them. Who eats wog food anyway etc.
We were eating lunch at a Greek restaurant too. The Greeks were early dogs Australia wogs. We had Italians before them and oh look, we had the English, Scottish and Irish before that settling on Australia’s shores. Oh look, we are all wogs.
All this time poor Jimmy was sitting lower and lower in his seat eating his food, quietly. I looked at him and I think he saw me shake my head in disgust at his boss. Well, I hope he did.
I squirmed in my seat and when my knife and fork clanked down onto my plate after I had simply had enough my boss jumped in and changed the subject. Which really pissed me off. My own boss is not racist but I was peeved he didn’t cut this Client Boss creep off earlier and say something? But then why didn’t I say something?
Instead I just sat there in shock, sulked and kept quiet the rest of the lunch. On the way back to our office my boss & work colleagues discussed other parts of the meeting. Then my boss said he was sad that the client had this view on asylum seekers and refugees, that the Client Boss lacked any compassion but hopefully he will retire soon and he was entitled to his opinion. But for me, it’s hard to just let it sit.
Relaying the story to my husband Jason later, he gave me a line that I really wished I said at the time “Desperate people will do desperate things”. Asylum seekers and refugees are no more of a threat to our borders or to our society than anyone else and they need to be treated with compassion.
In reading the UN Refugee Agency website, it states that in 2009, Australia intercepted about 2750 unauthorised people arriving by boat. In 2007 over 51 000 persons arrived by boat on the coasts of Italy, Spain, Greece and Malta alone. You can’t say we receive more than any other countries around the world.
I am sure we can accept and process these people fleeing their countries in Australia rather than sending them off shore for processing. I agree with the Greens and do not support the Liberals & Labor on this. We should ensure asylum seekers and refugees can live in the community while their claim is assessed and are granted the ability to travel, work, access education and medical services anywhere within Australia. Australia is an island quite a distance from their home countries and if they desire to come here then let’s treat with compassion and dignity and accept them into Australia.
If you were sitting in at our lunch table what would you have done? If you had the courage what would you have said to this Client Boss?