"Someone asked me if I eat dog and another person told me I speak English well"
10 Daily reports that a Canadian Asian Harvard graduate was called a “sex worker” when she moved to Australia.
Dr Alice Han is an obstetrician and gynecologist who moved to Melbourne in May after she was awarded a research fellowship.
Han is also a TEDx speaker focusing on violence against women. Her fellowship is aimed to help public health services respond to women who are victims of violence.
The Korean Canadian had bought a new car in Brisbane and planned to drive to Melbourne. After her car suffered a flat tyre, a tow truck driver assisted her and dropped her off at a motel at 930pm.
When trying to check in to the motel, the owner assumed she was a sex worker and refused to give a room to her.
“[The owner] asked me ‘are you a working girl? Is that how you can afford the room?’. At first I didn’t know what he was referring to,” Han said, adding that he was “rough and aggressive”.
“He said ‘Your story sounds suspicious, we had a girl a few nights ago with a story like yours working out of her room and so we had to kick her out’,” she said. “I then said, what do you mean? A prostitute?”
Han explained that she was not a prostitute and was a doctor who graduated from Harvard, adding that she had a flat tire and was originally supposed to stay in Coffs Harbour.
“The man became angrier, he said the fact that you are so selfish and inconsiderate in my reception area tells me you’ll be inconsiderate and selfish in the room. We are very selective here about who we allow to stay,” she said.
Afters she was kicked out, Han tried to rebook online and change her booking from her hotel Coffs Harbour.
The Caucasian owner told 10 Daily that Han was rude. “After getting out of bed to let her in after our reception closed, I found her behaviour rude and inconsiderate to book online and not directly with us, that’s all it was about,” he said.
“We get to decide who stays at our premise and I only want courteous people here,” admitting that he assumed she was a sex worker.
“Yes I had a reasonable inquiry about her being a working girl, because why would a lady turn up so late by herself and not call ahead or the insurance company not call ahead?” he said, denying he racially profiled her. “The only one who racially profiled her is herself. I dismiss that entirely.”
“Yes we have some racism in this country but not as bad as some people make out and she just played the race card,” he added.
After reporting the incident to the police, Han booked into another motel in Grafton, where another caucasian man assumed she was a sex worker.
“I was a little disoriented and a man, again Caucasian, offered to help me with directions and before leaving he said to me ‘are you a going to be a working girl in Coffs Harbour?'” she said. “This has to be about my appearance and racial profiling because on both occasions our interactions were so short.”
Over the coming weeks in Melbourne, Han said she was on the receiving end of racist Caucasian men, one of whom asked if she eats dog.
“It’s overt discrimination. Someone asked me if I eat dog and another person told me I speak English well,” she said. “But people don’t seem to think racism exists in Australia.”
“I want people to take something positive away from this. While it was all very upsetting for me, I want people to consider the impact their implicit bias can have on people,” she said.