Today I would like to welcome my wonderful friend Miki to Happy Alex. As part of our collaboration, she has written an incredible post about her experiences with casual racism. I am really honoured to have Miki on my site and the post she has written is probably one of my favourite posts I have ever read on WordPress. Please take the time to read her wonderful work and if you have the time read my post on her blog here.
hiya, i’m miki from jumping into the fog! alex and i are doing a collaboration around the topic of casual discrimination – she’s already done an amazing post on my blog about casual homophobia (read here) and LGBT discrimination, which everyone should take a look at. in this post, i’ll be looking at casual racism and my personal experiences with it.
as some of you guys might know, i’m a POC. that stands for Person of Colour, although i don’t really like that term too much – it’s too catchall and lumps together all non-white people, despite there being huge differences between how people of different ethnicities are treated in different parts of the world. i prefer to just call myself south-east asian, because that’s what i am. i love my country, my culture and my background, and as a 1.5 generation immigrant (i moved to the UK when i was six months old – i’m not a second generation immigrant, as i wasn’t born in the UK, but i’m not a first generation one either as i don’t remember living in the country I was born in) i really do try my best to remember where i came from and to not lose my roots. however, being asian in a mostly white country isn’t all rosy. it may not be as apparent as it may have been fifty, or even twenty years ago, but racism is still pretty prevalent in today’s culture. instead of being blatant exclusion or name-calling, racism today takes a more casual, covert form. i personally haven’t experienced any major, obvious racism, but i have experienced countless amounts of casual racism – nothing to be particularly offended about, but definitely showing that as a whole, our culture is far from being equal.
for myself, and other asians, both from east and south asia, the model minority stereotype is particularly harmful. a model minority is defined as a minority ethnic group that is generally better off than average – they have a higher percentage of college degree holders, lower teen pregnancy and drug addiction rates and a lower crime rate, as well as other variables. although this success is definitely something to be celebrated – there’s nothing wrong with doing well against the odds – it produces harmful stereotypes and a new type of discrimination. the stereotype that all asians are workaholics who are obsessed with science, maths, and playing the piano/violin comes from the model minority stereotype. sure, it exists for a reason – a disproportionate amount of asian kids excel at these things, but it’s important to not generalise. while i may love physics and am grade 8 at piano, i don’t want people to think that’s all i am. my love for classical music is overshadowed by my passion for rock and indie, and i’d love to study english lit at university. shocker, right? no matter what society might say, i’m a real person, not a calculator.
a lot of casual racism isn’t even intentional, but still very damaging to the recipient. i’ve been asked the question “where are you really from?” so many times, and although i understand people ask me this out of pure curiosity, with no bad intentions, it still implies that i am not really british. if you’re going to ask somebody something like this, a less offensive alternative would be “what is your ethnicity?” or “what’s your cultural/ethnic background?”. i’ve lived in england for the vast majority of my life, and have a british passport. i’m more british than say, one of my polish friends, who has lived in england for only a few years, yet he never gets asked this question and i do – because he’s white and i’m not. however, he has quite a strong eastern european accent, and often gets told that his “english is good”. that’s another example of casual racism, folks! it’s condescending and really damages somebody’s confidence, as this statement implies that their english is still not perfect, and it’s still apparent they’re “foreign”. oh, and please don’t simply assume things about non-white people, and their ethnic background. hell, don’t assume things about anybody. that’s even worse than asking them where they’re “from”, as it shows the prevalence of stereotypes and the ignorance people have about race. just because i look asian (i look incredibly generically asian – people, including people of my ethnicity, cannot usually guess my background), does not mean i am chinese. i think one of the strangest experiences in my life was from a few years ago, when i was new to my secondary school and nobody really knew me. i was in the dining hall with a friend, looking for a place to sit, when some random older white girls came up to me and started speaking mandarin at me. i was incredibly confused for a while, and didn’t really know what to do. i think i just replied with a very scared “i’m not chinese” and ran off.
so, what can you do to combat casual racism in everyday life? of course, it’s always good to call people out when they say, or do something that might be considered racist, no matter what your ethnicity, but this becomes tricky when you approach the topic of jokes regarding race, especially at the expense of somebody else. i’ve been the subject of countless asian jokes, which i personally don’t mind – i’m thick-skinned and a little bit of a masochist, and enjoy making jokes about other people myself, but obviously others are going to think differently. it’s important to always think about the context you’re making a potentially offensive joke in – are you telling it to somebody who might mind? are you going too far? racism is a hugely important issue, and it’s important we recognise that it exists, in any form we can.
I’ve just written a post over on Simply My Life too, read it here!