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Anti-Asian Racism and what we can do about it

A message from our CEO, Dr Daniel Fujiwara, about our new report on the impact and social costs of anti-Asian racism in the UK and about the rising hate crimes and racism towards East and Southeast Asian people and how we can all support the #StopAsianHate movement.

The past year has been a difficult and extremely stressful time for East and Southeast Asian (ESEA) communities and people around the world. Racism and hate crimes towards ESEA people have increased dramatically – Asian Americans have reported over 3,800 hate-related incidents since March 2020; according to U.K. police data there was a rise of 300% in hate crimes towards ESEA people in 2020; and in New Zealand, research by the New Zealand Human Rights Commission found that 54% of Chinese respondents had experienced discrimination since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many ESEA people have been victims of racially-motivated murders and physical attacks during this period. On 16 March 2021 a mass shooting in Atlanta took the lives of eight people, including six women of East Asian heritage; Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old Thai man, was brutally murdered in San Francisco in February; Angelo Quinto, a Filipino U.S. Navy veteran, died after police officers knelt on his neck for more than 5 minutes in December 2020; Jonathan Mok, a Singaporean student in London, was beaten up in February 2020 needing surgery for a fractured cheek bone and nose; and last month Dr Peng Wang, a lecturer at the University of Southampton, was attacked by a group of men whilst out jogging.

I know many ESEA people who have been physically attacked and verbally abused here in the U.K. over the past year and I know that our community is currently living in fear every day. It’s important to understand, however, that racism and racial discrimination against ESEA people and communities is not just happening now – it has a long history in the U.K., as well as in the U.S. and other countries like Australia. Much of the focus of anti-Asian racism is in the U.S., where there is a long history of exclusion and extreme violence against early Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Filipino manual labourers: in 1882 Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act – the first major law that restricted immigration into the U.S. of a single ethnic group (the law wasn’t repealed until 1943); in the 1940s over 120,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated in concentration camps along the western interior of the U.S.; and Vietnamese and Filipino communities were repeatedly attacked throughout the 1920s and 30s including by the Klu Klux Klan.

But we need to understand that this is not just an American problem and it is not anything new. In 1946, the Home Office conducted a secret operation to round up and deport around 2,000 Chinese men living in Liverpool who had previously served in the British Navy. The operation ordered Chinese men to be “taken back to the Far East and dumped there”. Many had children and wives in the U.K., but they were taken in secret and without warning; their families were never informed. We also need to understand that what happens in America in terms of anti-Asian racism can have an effect across the world. For example, western stereotypes of Asian males and Asian females were built out of how the first Chinese labourers and communities were treated in the U.S. and how the U.S. army has behaved in East and Southeast Asia. This has impacted directly on how ESEA people are portrayed in the U.K. media today. The Hart-Celler Immigration Act of 1965 facilitated the transformation of Asian Americans into the ‘model minority’ by restricting immigration into the U.S. from Asia to only those with high educational qualifications. This has impacted directly on how ESEA students in British schools and universities are treated and also how ESEA communities are treated by the police and social services. And now the anti-China narrative (which has replaced the anti-Japan narrative of the 1980s), built by the U.S. Government in respect to Covid-19, has impacted the safety and lives of ESEA people living in the U.K.

Speak to any ESEA person living here today and I am sure they will have a story to tell of their own experiences. My own first personal experiences of racism were when I started school in Britain having moved from Japan when I was 8 years old. Indeed, some of the first words I ever learnt in the English language were racial slurs directed at East Asian people. I still frequently experience racism as an adult at university, at work and in my social life and can see it happening now to my children as well.

In today’s society racism against ESEA people comes in many different forms. Bullying at school. Being targeted for crime. The fetishization and misogyny against Asian women. The lack of representation in media, business, politics, and society. Barriers to progression and discrimination in the workplace. Lack of support from the police. Racial slurs are targeted at us for the way we look, for how we speak, for what we eat and for how we parent. We have to westernise our names just so people can pronounce them, because it’s too much effort to ask us. Under-representation and mis-representation of ESEA people are possibly two of the biggest problems faced by ESEA communities today. In the U.K. only three positions out of the 1,099 most powerful positions in business, sport, media and politics are held by ESEA people. In the NHS Filipino healthcare workers make up the third largest ethnic group after British and Irish (with over 22,000 employees). However, there are only a mere 17 Filipino people in senior management positions in the NHS. This issue is known as the ‘Bamboo Ceiling,’ a term used to describe specific discrimination and the prevention of professional advancement experienced by ESEA people in the workplace. The Government Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities – the very organisation whose aim is to address racism in the U.K. – does not even contain a single person of ESEA heritage in its membership. This under-representation is not surprising, given that studies show that if you have an Asian name, you are 50% less likely to be called up for an interview when applying for jobs – we literally have to work twice as hard to get anywhere. All of this has to stop.

Over the past few months, we have been conducting research on the experiences and impacts of racism for ESEA people in the U.K. and we are happy that we are able to share that research with you today. It is very timely given the current global climate around anti-Asian racism. It is the largest ever study of its kind to be conducted in the U.K and our research has some very stark findings. The data show that ESEA people experience high levels of racism in the U.K. – both during the Coronavirus pandemic, but also well before it. Racism experienced by ESEA people impacts negatively on a wide range of wellbeing and mental health outcomes and, as a whole, the negative impact of racism on wellbeing seems to be larger for ESEA people than for other ethnic minority groups in the U.K. We find that the negative impacts of racism on the lives of ESEA people have large social costs, amounting to £36.8 billion, including costs to U.K. businesses and the NHS.

Simetrica-Jacobs is proud to be one of the very few Asian-owned businesses in the consulting sector in the U.K. and we will be supporting ESEA communities and initiatives as part of the #StopAsianHate movement. We commit to conducting more research on anti-Asian racism and to making that data available where we can. We will also be working with non-profit organisations in the U.K. to promote greater representation of ESEA people in U.K. business, academia, politics, leadership positions and in society more widely. As society, there are also ways that everyone can help and contribute to the cause and movement and to address anti-Asian racism in our society. Right now, this is what you can do to support East and Southeast Asian communities:

1. Promote dialogue – #TalkAsianHate

If you have been a victim of anti-Asian racism or hate now or in the past, speak up. Let your family, friends and colleagues know. If you have witnessed anti-Asian racism or hate – be an ally and speak up. It can be difficult to do this, but this is our moment to name it, confront it, and shine a light on it to make progress.

2. Support

Many of your East and Southeast Asian friends, colleagues and neighbours are hurting and feeling scared right now. Acknowledge this and support them and show that you stand in solidarity with them. There are a number of websites explaining how you can support ESEA communities. Marie Claire is a good example and a great set of resources for Asian-Americans can be found here.

3. Education

Throughout the past year whilst I have become more vocal on this issue there has been a clear trend in how people have responded. Many ESEA people have thanked me for raising these issues and speaking out, saying that this has gone on for too long and something needs to be done. On the other hand, my non-Asian friends, colleagues and acquaintances have invariably been surprised that East and South East Asian people experience racism at all. This really shocked me, and I think we need to better educate people about this issue. We should be aware of what is happening here in the U.K. and for reasons mentioned above in the U.S. too. Here is a selection of resources to get you started:

U.S. resources:

The long, ugly history of anti-Asian racism and violence in the U.S.

The long history of racism against Asian Americans in the U.S.

Asian Americans Are Still Caught in the Trap of the ‘Model Minority’ Stereotype

Berkeley expert: In times of crisis, anti-Asian violence is an American tradition

Anti-Asian violence is often inseparable from misogyny

What is the ‘bamboo ceiling’? Here’s what Asian Americans want you to know

U.K. resources:

It’s time we stopped downplaying the UK’s anti-Asian racism

Stark reality of anti-Asian racism in the UK

“I Need To Use My Voice”: 12 Young Women On The Realities Of Living With Anti-Asian Hate

Yellowface and racism against Asians is just as important as other prejudice

4. Donate

A number of non-profit organizations and community groups exist to provide resources and assistance to ESEA communities. If you are able to, please donate to these causes. Examples of organisations doing important work in the U.K. are:

End the Virus of Racism

Kanlungan

Southeast and East Asian Centre (SEEAC)

Besea.n

Asian Leadership Collective

ESA Scotland

5. Be more inclusive

U.K. companies, organisations and the Government must actively ensure the inclusion for ESEA people. There is a paucity of support, groups or resources for ESEA people when it comes to equality and diversity programmes at many organisations. We can change this by recognising that ESEA people need to be a part of the equality and diversity conversation and play an active role in it. Make sure your company or organisation does enough to ensure that ESEA people and employees are properly represented.

#StopAsianHate

#TalkAsianHate

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