Growing up in Asia, I have witnessed racist, anti-black sentiment coming from my people, as well as the general Asian population. From blackface to the utterance of the N-word on a regular basis, this issue must be addressed.
In my country, Malaysia, black people have been denied the right to rent homes (see image below), a blackface parody was created recently, and an innocent Nigerian PhD student died while in immigration custody only last year. As much as we pride ourselves in being a multicultural country, able to coexist peacefully, such racist behaviour is indicative of the fact that we are still unwelcoming. Even among people I know, the N-word is used carelessly in conversations, which shows how ignorant and unaware people are of the history of the racial slur. These examples are only the tip of the iceberg. Colourism has affected the way Malaysians see immigrant workers, as well as Malaysian Indians; these communities have been victims of police brutality and discriminated against for decades.
Our next-door neighbours are no better than us. Many of you may have heard of Rich Brian, an Indonesian rapper based in the US. Although recognised as representing the Asian community in the music industry, he is equally guilty of appropriating and disrespecting the black culture. In 2016, he released a song entitled ‘Dat $tick’, which contained the N-word. While he has apologised for the use of it, and brought awareness to the BLM movement, he is a key example of the ignorance that harbours Indonesia. This happens because of the stigma of Africa, and it is bolstered by the belief in colourism.
Going up north to China, Zhong FeiFei, an African-Chinese contestant of the reality show, Produce Camp 2020, has been the victim of racist attacks. Despite being the country’s citizen, she has received hate towards her African heritage by netizens on social media. It is tragic that they chose to ignore her academic achievements (an undergraduate of Boston University and a current graduate of John Hopkins University) and talent, and instead focused on her race – which should not be a judge of her character. China has also been known for mistreating black people and holding prejudiced views against them. This has become even more prominent in the wake of COVID-19, where they have been unwelcome by citizens.
In South Korea, the country’s idols have also contributed to the racism against black people. Blackface has been worn by several well-known celebrities, such as Park Jin-young, MAMAMOO, EXO-CBX, G-Dragon and, unfortunately, many more. Some have apologised; others haven’t. Some have repeated their actions and chose not to acknowledge it. Because of these racist behaviours not being called out, they have a consequent effect on the society’s mindset. They are essentially telling everyone that such offensive activities are a form of humour, which then fuels anti-blackness. However, there are more racist actions that are contributing to this sentiment, such as the vernacular use of the N-word and the degradation of their skin colour.
On the Chinese-owned app, TikTok, black creators are having the videos that criticise racism against them censored. Why are they being silenced? What is so wrong about expressing opinions? This is worrying because their voices will not be heard, and change cannot reach everyone. In response to this, ‘blackout’ days have been established – non-black creators do not post anything for black creators to have their content shown instead.
This article only highlights a few examples of racism that occur in the Asian community right now. The harsh reality of it is that there are so many more stories that have gone unheard. What we can do to combat this issue, and to honour the #BlackLivesMatter movement, is to support the black community through signing petitions and donating to their cause. Finally, to my fellow Asians: please take it upon yourself to create change in your own country and ensure that racism will no longer be tolerated.
Ways to Help: https://blmsites.carrd.co/