Asian Australian Experiences Casual Racism From Neighbor When She Was Asked How Much She Charges For Cleaning

No surprises here. Singaporean Australian poet Eileen Chong came out on Twitter recently expressing her anger and frustration at the casual racism she experienced from a long time neighborur.


  • Chong was putting treats in the letterbox of an elderly neighbour, when another “old, white” resident who is a long time neighbour approached her and asked her how much she charges for cleaning services.
  • Chong was offended by the question as she was racially stereotyped as being a cleaner – and mind you, the person who asked her the question is a long time neighbour.
  • The incident happened at the Sydney apartment block Chong resides.


  • Chong tweeted her frustration saying :

Racism means entering the building you’ve lived in for eight years & being asked by an old white neighbour how much you charge for cleaning,

  • She continues by stating that this is the definition of casual racism:

I have been brought up with such impeccable manners that I merely blinked, & said, ‘Oh, I’m not a cleaner, sorry’. When really I should have said, ‘That depends. How much do YOU charge?

Some white people will really look at an Asian body & think ‘interchangeable person here to serve me’. No shade on cleaners. I’ve worked as a cleaner before, it’s real work. But it’s just a lot,


  • There were many commenters who supported the stance Chong took and shared their own experiences of casual racism.
  • However, with social media, as we all know there are those who will deny that this is an instance of racism, some citing examples that racism is about being denied access to an apartment – which of course is true, but who is in a position to define what is and what is not racist?


  • This is definitely an instance of casual racism because it was assumed by the old, white neighbour that she was a cleaner because of her cultural background.
  • The Western media over decades have negatively portrayed Asians as being the server and/or servants. This stems from colonial views as well as from white provilege/supremacy.
  • Who hasn’t seen many instances in film of TV where Asians are sex workers, cleaners, laundry mat owners/workers, waiters and waitresses etc?
  • Good on Chong for coming out on Twitter with this!

If you would like to follow Chong, please click here to find her Twitter!

Images via Twitter.

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