I am probably as confident an individual as you might find in the world today. I’m not perfect, but then no-one is, for to be human is to make mistakes and, with hope, to learn from them.
Understanding that my confidence and sunniness are the core of my self, amid the global wave of anti-Asian violence – – physical or mental, verbal or implied – – I feel that I have to speak out. Speaking truth to power is simple enough, but speaking truth to hate is harder, for there is no centre, no leader, no one person who can make it better, who can fix a fractured world.
Racism is not only the overt name-calling, or even the physical devastation of a group of humans due to their skin colour, their genetic origin or their cultural beliefs; racism is insidious, the violence of silence, the denial of cultural difference, the innocent act of pretending that someone is other, minor, not human.
It’s in Starbucks being a brand that writes people’s names on their coffee cups, only to balk at Asian names, spelled out in English. It’s in the cashiers at major supermarkets turning silent at sight of an Asian face. It’s in colleagues at a chain bookstore turning a blind eye when a customer says, “You must know about yoga books,” when you are standing in the fiction section.
Racism is about being made to feel invisible in a country of which you have been a part since birth. I know my history, of Hong Kong, which was never a colony but a protectorate of the British Empire, forced by violence from China’s imperial grip and turned into an international powerhouse in a century of dazzling, chaotic design; of Britain, from Tudor European cousin to upstart Elizabethan seaborne empire, to glittering Hanoverian court and triumphant Victorian empire, to a new Elizabethan global superpower and once again a European pariah; of the United States, and Canada, and Australia and New Zealand, and South Africa, and Burma and Myanmar, and India and Bangladesh and Pakistan, and the other parts of the Commonwealth, the vast, dizzying array of peoples and cultures that still find a nexus on the UK, with all its fault lines and obsessions and successes.
Racism denies all this, the history, the people, the world, and focuses all that denial into a single point, a thin end of the wedge where an opinion – – uneducated, unaware, unquestioned – – has more value than a truth. Where a petulant ex-newspaper editor can deny the lived experience of a mixed race woman who married into a royal family. Where a family-oriented holiday camp turns away guests based on their names. Where Black footballers get bananas thrown at them on-pitch.
If I were any less confident, I would roll into a ball in sadness, hoping that the world would go away; but instead I am on fire, as I always have been, fired up about the power of diversity, of representation and ownership and speaking out, of challenging the denialists, on questioning the status quo, on asking “Why?” and “Why?” and “Why?” again and again.
Saying “No offence meant,” means that you intend to offend. “Where are you really from?” implies that I don’t belong here. “You speak English well,” means that you think that my mother tongue is another language.
No. No more. No more hate.