Australian beach: dog friendly – people unfriendly

Tim Fung

AUSTRALIA – NEWS AND COMMENT: A dog friendly beach in Australia became an unfriendly place between an Asian man, Tim Fung, and an Australian woman. Fung is the 38-year-old founder and CEO of tech start-up Airtasker. He was out with his dog on a dog-friendly beach when he encountered another beachgoer.

Tim Fung

Tim Fung CEO Airtasker. Photo: Facebook.

His dog was larking around, apparently out of control it has to be said, when it kicked sand into the woman. Fung was embarrassed and apologised. However, she was racist towards Mr Fung telling him that he should return to China. Mr Fung says that racism against Asians is growing in Australia on the back of the Covid pandemic. However, in an interview published on The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, Mr Fung said he wanted to be clear he was not suggesting that Australians were broadly displaying racist perspectives or a lack of empathy in response to the virus.

I would like to add, too, that there has been increased friction between the Chinese and Australian governments. I recall that this kicked off with the Australian government criticising China over their treatment of the Uighur Muslims. China retaliated and stopped importing Australian coal. China now has a coal shortage and they have electricity blackouts as a result. There are other causes of the blackouts such as China’s attempts to tackle global warming (good to read about). But there is this background tension both in terms of trade and the pandemic.

I sense that the racist remark by the woman reflects this tension and deteriorating relations between immigrant Chinese and native Australians on the continent. This is all human staff because the beach is obviously a great place for dogs to play and I guess sometimes with each other. It is a stark reminder that above the level of dogs who live relatively innocent lives there are the complexities of human lives which incorporate a multitude of stresses and antagonisms.

Tim Fung wasn’t sure how to deal with the unpleasant encounter and he asked his followers on LinkedIn what they thought. You can see his LinkedIn post below. Please note, however, that this embedded post may disappear over time if and when he deletes it. He said:

“I’d like to get some advice on how to deal with racism based on an experience I had today with my family. Whilst we were playing on the beach, Harvey’s mucking around flicked some sand on to a nearby beachgoer. Self-conscious and a little embarrassed, my wife and I apologised to the woman. I could see that getting sand flicked on me would have been super annoying and that we’d sort of stuffed up her beach day. The woman then started muttering a number of racist remarks and as she packed up her stuff to leave the beach yelled at us: go back to China. I’d like to hear any advice on what the right thing to do is hereā€¦”

So, what would you do? Clearly, the woman had a right to complain. Her complaint was justified but her racism was not. Therefore, my response would be that she should have been politely be called out by Tim Fung for her racism while accepting that she had a right to complain. There is no place for racism of any kind no matter what the experience which revoked it. It should be addressed whenever it occurs but this can be tricky as it will exacerbate friction and could lead to physical violence. This is an example of tensions between two races and frankly it doesn’t surprise me. The world is becoming tenser anyway. Things are deteriorating.

I believe, actually, that racism is tribalism and that everybody at least has the potential to be racist and it could be argued that all of humanity is racist and if there is no outward manifestation of this it is because of self-discipline and education.

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