I am proud to be Asian

Pippa Hollington - Project Manager,

Thursday 18th March 2021 marked 1 year since our last day in the twentysix offices.

When I reflect on this past year and how incredibly tough it’s been, I have actually had some amazing positives: I bought a house, got a cat and got engaged (lucky him 😉!).

Despite all my happiness, I have also felt a weight on my shoulders that has become heavier as the year has gone on.

When the news came out on the 16th March about the Georgia shootings in the US, where six women of Asian descent were brutally murdered by a man who was described as “having a bad day” – and which came only days after the disappearance of Bennylyn Burke and her two-year old child in the UK - I knew it was time to speak out.

When I read both headlines I was in utter shock. I know that violent crimes and racism against Asians have risen in this past year especially in America, with Covid-19 being dubbed the “Chinese virus” or “Kung flu” by the most powerful man in the world. However, with these latest news headlines and the ‘Stop the Hate’ campaigns, it has become more real to me. 

What led me here

To give you a bit of background on me; I am an ESEA (East and South East Asian) woman. A Filipina born in the Philippines and adopted by white British parents who I lovingly adore. I grew up in Hong Kong until the age of 9, when we moved “back” to the UK with our base in London. I was brought up in a Western household, where my only link to my heritage was our Filipina nanny - a norm amongst expats in Hong Kong.

As I have grown up, I have had conflicting psychologies - I am privileged, I am a daughter of white British parents and I am Filipina. I often feel like I am a white woman trapped in an Asian body.

I have never really had an interest in searching for my biological parents (unlike my adopted Filipina sister), so growing up in a Western household, the ties to my heritage grew more and more distant.

However, after doing some reading, I realised just how many experiences of microaggressions I have in common with other targets of racism.

I was privileged enough to attend a private boarding school in the UK. My year group was predominantly middle class, white British pupils and I used to just awkwardly laugh along when an Asian comment was thrown in my direction.

But they were, and still are, my friends. And surely my friends can’t be racist, right?

The recent cruel and senseless massacre in Atlanta, Georgia, has triggered and dredged up years of memories that I had suppressed: people putting on stereotypical Asian accents or yelling ‘ni hao’ at me (if you’ve met me, my accent is very different). If a group of international students walked past, my friends would say “there goes your people”, and I’d be asked if I eat cats in my country.

As I grew older and went to University, I experienced a different kind of behaviour, where boys would use the term “Asian persuasion”, they’d say “love me long time” and that they have “yellow fever”, as if I should take what they were saying as a compliment.

I believe these things weren’t said maliciously but were a result of general acceptance of casual racism in society. We grew up in a time where Ali G and Little Britain were on TV, so jokes and comments like this were considered “funny”.  In the environment I grew up in, we weren’t taught enough about Asian, let alone ESEA culture, and I am ashamed to say that I didn’t actively try to learn and educate myself.

Racism against Asians was the norm, and these microaggressions and the ingrained cultural ignorance weren’t considered important. I mean, I am Filipina and I remember a boy once referring to me as Chinese, and when I corrected him his response was “same but different”.

Looking back now, I really do wonder how I didn’t realise that what I experienced every day was absolutely not okay.

The current reality

Fast forward to 2021, and the stark reality of racism against Asians is hugely prevalent.

According to a national report in the US conducted by Stop AAPI Hate (a nonprofit organisation that formed near the start of the pandemic to track discrimination against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders), there have been nearly 3,800 reported incidents of abuse - ranging from verbal harassment to physical assault - and who knows how many thousands more incidents that went unreported.

But please do not be fooled that this is exclusively an American problem.

Anti-Asian hate crime is widespread in the UK, with police data suggesting there has been a 300% rise in hate crimes toward Chinese, East and South East Asians in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same period in the past two years, much of it driven by ignorance and racism around Covid-19.

But do you know what my immediate thought was when I read the headlines of the massacre? It wasn’t “it could have been me”. Instead, it was “it could have been my biological brother or sister and I wouldn’t even know”. I have a small amount of information about my biological family, and it’s that I have 4 older siblings. They could be anywhere in the world, although I have no idea if they are alive or not.

All this hate against Asians - the massacre, the disappearance of Bennylyn Burke - and then the murder of Sarah Everard, and I am fearful. Being a woman in today’s society is scary, then with the added pressure of being a woman of colour, it is terrifying.

The fear that my sister and Asian friends could be subject to such violent racism gives me anxieties, such as should I have children, they inevitably will be entering a society that will treat them differently because of who they are and the colour of their skin.

Growing up there were no ESEA women within the public eye that I could look up to as a role model, and I used to wish I had blonde hair and blue eyes because that's what was the norm - something that I am slightly ashamed of now.

And so, I feel it’s my time to step up, shout from the rooftops, reclaim my heritage and band together on Asian rights.

I am proud to be an Asian woman and it's about time that I step out of the shadows and stand up for myself and others.

Please stand with us, whatever your background or identity. Use your voice, stand up for what’s right and help us fight against hate and racism. Racism against ESEA people and our culture is not talked about enough, and often considered non-existent. Call it out wherever you see it, and be an ally and voice for anti-racism.

STOP ASIAN HATE is a topic that is close to my heart and one that I've felt like I haven't done enough to address in my younger years.

So what can you do about it? Like I’ve done, please take the time to read, learn and educate yourself as well as support Asian-owned businesses.

Here are some great articles, resources, and campaigns to get your started:

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