Anti-Asian racism deserves much more attention
Racism and discrimination come in many different shapes and forms – in the Netherlands too. Verbal attacks, stereotypes and violence: some people are confronted with these on a daily basis. A group that is often not included in research and the debate on racism is people of Asian descent. The Diversity and Inclusion Expertise Office (D&I) is therefore holding a panel discussion entitled ‘Asian(s) in the Netherlands’.
The number of reports of racism against Asians has increased dramatically in recent years. This makes it important to include people of Asian descent as a category in research and the media, says Jessy Wong. She works at the D&I and is organising the panel discussion on 21 April together with the Pan Asian Collective (PAC).
What about the Netherlands? Is anti-Asian racism a problem here too?
‘Many people are under the impression that anti-Asian racism has only been around for a few years or is mainly a problem in the United States. These are misconceptions. Racism against Asians has been around for a long time and it is important that we see it as a Dutch problem.’
Has anti-Asian racism increased since the coronavirus pandemic?
‘It has become more visible since coronavirus because the first cases were in China. Chinese people and others who were “Asian” in appearance were therefore shunned during the crisis and violence was even used in some cases. People are increasingly speaking out against anti-Asian racism. They are finding each other, for instance on new platforms like PAC, an organisation that is researching the portrayal of Asians in Dutch media, also with students from Leiden University.’
‘It’s a misconception that anti-Asian racism has only been around for a few years or that it is mainly a problem in the United States.’
Why is it important that we pay more attention to anti-Asian racism?
‘Despite the increased attention in Dutch media, there is little awareness in society about this topic. This is because many think that the number of people of Asian descent in the Netherlands is low, when in fact there are around a million of them, a considerable proportion of the Dutch population. Asians are also seen as the “model minority”: a minority that adapts to the so-called dominant culture and is not quick to cause problems. People often fail to recognise that this group faces discrimination and racism. The lack of recognition is out of line with the idea of an inclusive society. This form of discrimination and racism also needs to be taken seriously.’
In the panel discussion, the participants will consider how ‘Asian’ is not seen as a separate category in the media and debates on racism. Can you explain a bit more about this?
‘There is, for example, a knowledge institute, Movisie, which is dedicated to diversity and inclusion. In its new manual for municipalities, Movisie focuses on five specific forms of discrimination and racism: anti-Black racism, antisemitism, anti-Muslim racism, antiziganism (discrimination against Sinti and Roma, ed.) and LGBTI+ discrimination. Anti-Asian racism is not mentioned at all and yet it’s so important to distinguish properly between groups and to know which ones face discrimination. Because what is Asian anyway? Many people associate “Asian” with East Asia and don’t think of other backgrounds. Asians are lumped together when diversity should be more prominent. Ultimately, everyone has to be included in the various research categories.’
‘Asians are often seen as the “model minority”: a minority group that adapts to the so-called dominant culture and is not quick to cause problems.’
How can the University play a role in categorising people with an Asian background?
‘There are several initiatives at the University, but there is always room for improvement. For example, LUC had the Me, Asian?! programme, which focused on bringing the community together. There is also a lot of expertise within the University, obviously within the Asian Studies programme. The D&I Expertise Office is also committed to raising awareness, for example with the Asian(s) in the Netherlands panel discussion. We are also working on various initiatives so that people know how to find each other and know where to go if they are a victim of anti-Asian racism. It is important to create awareness throughout the University, so that, for example, study advisers also know what to do if someone tells them they are facing anti-Asian racism.’
What are your own experiences of anti-Asian racism?
‘I have felt unsafe at times, for example on the train. It’s happened more often since coronavirus. I feel like I’m Dutch with Asian roots, and that I grew up in different worlds. I often find myself in white, homogenous environments, where my background is forgotten. On the one hand, this can feel nice because you belong. But on the other hand, you also want to be allowed to be yourself and for your background to play a role in how you move through the world. I hope that we can get to a point where we can be ourselves completely, also within the University.’
If you have questions about discrimination, racism and inclusion, you can contact the D&I Expertise Office by sending a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Text: Lisanne Bos