I happened to see the recent news coverage on racist and xenophobic attacks on East Asians in Australia, the US and Europe, including the latest one involving a Singaporean Chinese student in the UK, which are related to coronavirus fears. For example, one article reported:
“Since knowledge of the outbreak first occurred, disheartening incidents have been reported in Australia, Europe, and the US of people of east Asian appearance being verbally abused, kicked off public transport, denied entrance to shops, spat on and even violently attacked.”
I think that it is a wake-up call for East Asians, especially Chinese, to realise that despite their efforts in trying to act like “honorary Whites” or being labelled as “model minority” (which is anti-Blackness in disguise), in reality, they are treated no differently than the rest of the people of colour, aka Black and Brown people, by the majority White demographics in the West who use systemic racism and White supremacy to their advantage.
It highlights the fact that racism is more than just about skin colour — it is also rooted in economic privilege and classism. For that reason, “reverse racism” doesn’t exist. For example, it is impossible for a privileged White to be subjected to racism from a person of colour who belongs to a less privileged demographics or identity. (The same can be said of a privileged Chinese in a Chinese-majority country who benefits from the system at the expense of the minority races.)
If anything, instead of simply calling out racism in these recent incidents in the West, the East Asians should also, individually and collectively, take a long hard look at their own internalised self-hatred towards their own race and towards those who are of darker skins, and ask themselves whether they have been complicit in their own systemic racism and light skin privilege that has resulted in the marginalisation of Black and Brown people all this while.
After all, where have the Chinese and other East Asians been when activists, such as Sangeetha Thanapal, have been pointing out that the other Asians who are of darker skins are not represented equally in the movie “Crazy, Rich Asians” (which “is simply the ongoing systematic erasure and oppression of Singapore minorities on a global screen”)?
I, for one, do not sympathise with the Chinese or East Asians who continue to be wilfully ignorant or in denial of their own light skin privilege, even if they become targets of race-motivated attacks due to coronavirus scares in the West, until or unless they own up to their programmed desire to become like Whites or worship White, and they consciously seek to divest themselves from the oppressive racist light-skin privileged system and stand in solidarity and speak up for the marginalised Black and Brown people in their midst.
As for me, dealing with social injustice, such as misogyny, systemic racism and racial privileges, has become part of my personal awakening journey. When we realise we share a common destiny and humanity with the marginalised minorities and participate in their pain and suffering, we are compelled to stand in solidarity with them.
As the late civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr once said, “no one is free until we are all free”. It is a perennial reminder and inspiration for me, hence I want to share my knowledge and observations of such issues through writing from the perspective of a Southeast Asian Chinese man. And in the process, I will also continue to challenge myself to be aware and conscious of how I can choose not to participate in the system that continues to oppress and subjugate the less privileged.