Are you looking for ways to support friends, family or the community of East or South East Asian (ESEA) people? Here are 10 ways to safely call out any racist comments or hate crimes.
1. Recognising ESEA hate
How we are treated as we move in different environments such as school or among friends and family is affected by who we are. Even if you don’t identify as ESEA, recognise that many ESEA people are likely to feel scared or anxious right now. Look up recent news articles and read about the ESEA experience to help you recognise what ESEA hate might look like.
2. Trust your Instincts
Some cases of anti-ESEA hate might look obvious, for example, you might hear a racial slur or see someone pulling back their eyes to mock ESEA people. Other times you might see a newspaper article or TV show portraying ESEA people in a negative or stereotypical light. No matter how subtle or lighthearted the racism seems, remember that the impact on ESEA communities is huge, so remember to go with your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t.
3. Do you have the energy?
Think about your mental health and if you have the energy to call out anti-ESEA hate. Although you are doing something positive to fight racism, it can potentially be an exhausting process. Take a moment to think about whether you have the capacity to deal with the negative response you might get from calling out racism. There are other ways to respond or help if you don’t feel like reacting immediately, such as talking about it with friends, writing an article or raising money for a cause.
4. Do you feel safe?
There might be times where you will personally see racism happening, for example in the street or in a group of friends. Confronting these situations might be met with a negative reaction, so make sure you are with people you trust and the situation doesn’t feel too dangerous. If the situation grows tense, see if you can encourage people close by like security guards or shopkeepers to diffuse the situation instead. If there is an ESEA person at the centre of the harassment going on, try to see if you move them away from the situation to a place of safety.
5. Record and document
Do you have a phone or computer? Record, write down and screenshot anywhere you see anti-ESEA racism because it will help you remember clearly what went on if you ever want to talk about what happened afterwards. It will be really useful for complaint forms or even reporting to the police. However, if you don’t manage to because there wasn’t an opportunity, don’t worry and don’t let anybody try to convince you it was all in your head if you ever try to talk about it. If you’ve recorded someone else suffering racist abuse, make sure to let them know, offer to share it with them and get permission from them on if and how they want it shared.
6. The news can be biased
A big part of why so many ESEA people are suffering racism now is because of how they are portrayed in newspapers or on TV. Sometimes politicians and even celebrities have said things that have made ESEA people look bad. This article shows some examples of how ESEA people can be portrayed in a bad light.
Be curious and question what you’re watching if it shows an ESEA character or is talking about the ESEA community. Writing a complaint to the broadcaster, magazine or newspaper will help them to realise that what they have done is really harmful. The more people write and complain, the more likely we will see change.
7. Calling in vs calling out
Try to practise calling in, especially if you are among friends or family. This means understanding that the racist things they are saying or doing is mostly due to ignorance. Try to gently help them understand why something they are doing or saying is harmful to ESEA people. Everyone is human and it’s easy to say something racist without realising what the impact can be. People can get a new perspective if we take the time to talk it through with them.
8. Take the time to talk
If it’s someone you know or a stranger who has suffered harassment, make sure they are safe, reassure them and guide them to resources that can help them process what went on.
Here is a list of resources that can help. Sharing your experiences, thoughts and feelings with people you trust such as friends, family or a teacher will help you process your experiences with racism, whether you have called it out or have been harassed yourself. Being heard and having your feelings recognised goes a long way to helping you to move on from the experience and be ready if it ever happens again.
9. Practise self-care
What do you do to chill out and relax? Perhaps it’s listening to music, going for a walk, playing games or just reading. Make sure to look after yourself and re-energise after you have been exposed to racism. It can bring out a lot of upsetting thoughts and feelings that can feel exhausting, so make sure you are able to get a sense of calm or peace again before taking next steps, whether that be reporting it, talking about it or getting on with your day.
10. Stay hopeful
It can feel overwhelming knowing that there is racism in the world when all we want is for everyone to be treated fairly. Remember that by learning and doing what we can to call it out, we are able to make a difference.
There are lots of great things about ESEA culture too. Look for books by ESEA authors such as Maisie Chan or Natasha Ngan. Our food is another place to celebrate ESEA culture! Restaurants and takeaways run by ESEA people have been affected really badly during the pandemic. Try making the local Thai, Vietnamese or Chinese takeout the choice for Friday night!
There are also online communities like besea.n (IG: @besea.n) who are there to support, uplift and spotlight inspirational people in the ESEA community, with lots of resources to learn about ESEA culture.
Amy Phung is a London-based graphic designer, illustrator and animator and the co-founder of besea.n. besea.n is a non-profit, grassroots organisation founded by six East and South East Asian (ESEA) women, whose mission is to tackle negative stereotypes and to promote positive media representation of ESEA people in the UK.
Their work includes anti-racism campaigning, providing resources, holding organisations accountable, working with other social justice groups, spotlighting prominent ESEA voices and establishing a supportive community to validate experiences. Learn more on their website: https://www.besean.co.uk/
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This article is part of our #StopAsianHate series in partnership with ASOS. Visit our hub for more info, tools, tips and ways to take a stand against Asian hate.