by Natalie Lam
As East and Southeast Asians, (ESEA) we’re often told that our lived experiences aren’t “real racism”, and it’s led to us keeping our head down and trying to stay invisible when it comes to the discrimination we face.
But what about the fetishization that Asian people experience when trying to navigate modern day dating in the west? What about the perpetuation of casual but dangerous stereotypes and the model minority myth? What about all the times remarks like “chicken chow mein” “konichiwa” or “where are you really from?” have slapped me in the face?
We’ve had enough of being invalidated. Enough of being silenced. We are not living examples of racism not existing. We refuse to be your scapegoat for the spread of COVID.
Racism is prevalent to anyone who isn’t white. For ESEA, it typically comes in the form of micro aggressions, verbal abuse or fetishisation, but since the start of COVID the physical abuse has exponentially increased. ESEA have been the victims of horrific acts of violence.
In the UK, hate crimes against asians have increased 146% (source)
In the US, hate crimes against asians have increased 1900% (source).
This wasn’t, isn’t and should never be acceptable. Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s something we are living with. We do not have the privilege to ignore it.
To say that the past year has been difficult is an understatement.
Racism is undeniably the cause of my social anxiety, and the fear I face having to leave the house has only worsened. “What verbal abuse will I receive today?” “Is someone going to attack me?” “I hope my mask disguises how asian I am.” These are only a few thoughts that cross my mind when I go outside.
The victims of these horrific crimes are predominantly the elderly. It feels like no one is immune. It leads me to question how safe my family are when they’re going about their daily lives. I dread the phone call I might receive one day that someone related to me has become part of the statistics of (what should be an innumerable of) ESEA hate crimes.
Despite the negative, there is always a silver lining. I am realising how crucial and important it is to be proud of my upbringing. I shouldn’t have to hide the things that make me unique. In turn, I am embracing ESEA culture much more; doing my weekly shop at the asian supermarket, trying out Korean and Japanese recipes, connecting with more ESEA people, consciously consuming more content that is created by asian people… the list goes on. I am no longer trying to make asian stereotype jokes to try and win people over. I am no longer ashamed of who I am.
It’s important to remember that if you’re feeling down about what is happening, that is completely normal and okay. Allow yourself to be sad and don’t let anyone invalidate your emotions. I’ve sure had my fair share of tears.
Here are some things that helped me feel better, that might just help you too:
There are so many options that people can do to help, and they’re all really easy too.
1. Sign the petition to Fund additional support for victims of COVID19 racism and anti-racism programmes. It takes only 2 minutes to do!
2. Support asian owned businesses – what better excuse to get your favourite takeout than the excuse of support asian owned businesses? Not only do you get amazing food but they’ll be so grateful too. If fast food doesn’t take your fancy, why not find your new favourite asian artist and buy their stuff? Or visit your local asian supermarket and pick up some treats?
3. Diversify your narrative. It is so important, not just for ESEA but other people of colour too, to make sure you’re consuming content from people of all different walks of life. Listen to podcast and music created by asians, watch new YouTubers, follow news accounts with a focus. Here are a few of my favourites:
Podcasts: Just A Girl Podcast (check out this episode we did specifically on the anti-asian hate crimes), But Where Are You From?, Chinese Chippy Girl, Asian Boss Girl, Rice to Meet You, Bulgogi Podcast
Music: Elephant Gym, Chinese Football, Rina Sawayama, Crossfaith, Crystal Lake, beabadoobee, Japanese Breakfast, Peggy Gou
4. Spread the word. It might feel like imposter syndrome to talk about or raise awareness on a topic you haven’t experienced but the asian people you know need the help. Have conversations with people you know. Share that instagram post you saw or retweet what your ESEA friend has said. Adding to the amplification of a message is way more valuable than you think.
5. Donate! Help those who are trying to help by providing them with the means to do so. There are plenty of causes that are helping to fight asian racism. Check out the list below.
It might feel overwhelming, and you might even get imposter syndrome at times while trying to help, but it will make a world of difference to your ESEA friends and their communities, and that’s the most important thing.
Check out the excellent podcast that Natalie co-hosts: Just A Girl.