The first time I remember experiencing racism was when I was in primary school and my friends were tugging back their eyelids and saying look! They’re now “Chinese“. I didn’t understand at the time and just laughed along. Because they were my friends, they knew I was half Chinese, so they wouldn’t be racist, right?
To give you a bit of a background, my secondary school was 85% white (back then – my hometown is a lot more diverse now). I was fine in my first few years of it but one day a guy dropped the ultimate bad word, “Ch*nk“. I knew it was a bad word because everyone around me looked a bit uncomfortable and said nothing. And from then on he kept dropping it, and even in Science class he said how he wished all Chinese people to be jetted off to Mars because you know, “they’re all bad people because they’re causing so much pollution [sic]“.
And so began my journey to hating that part of my identity and wanting to bury it forever. Wanting to be like my friends and abandon my Chinese side. Anything so that those awful people would leave me alone.
Annoying white band: Courtesy of our hotel
It took me years and years to accept who I am, and I found love in that part of myself through the internet. I was on Bebo one day when I realised that there was a group/page called “Proud 2 b A$ian“ (or something along those lines). There were photos and posts made by other asians speaking out their love for their culture so I joined that one, and then another. It sounds cheesy but the more I witnessed their love, the more I learnt that this part of myself can be loved. It was as if I had thrown off my mask and a great weight was lifted off my shoulders.
This simple act of seeing other people being happy with who they were on a social site completely changed who I was. I slowly grew back into that half of my identity, and began to delve deep into that side of my culture. Sixth Form was of more open-minded people; people had started to grow up, that guy didn’t make it to college, and I was happy. The building bricks of my identity was slowly forming a battlefront, and I was ready to call out whoever dared to be racist.
After years of subtle abuse, I was proud to be me.
So when I experienced casual racism at uni when my friend called me “China” in a somewhat malicious tone I didn’t hide away, I told her to go f*ck herself and turned my back on her. I don’t remember her apologising, but it worked. She never called me that again.
And when a stranger made fun of my Chinese family’s name at my friend’s party I called him a f*cking “James Blunt”. I didn’t need any support from my friends – they didn’t really help anyway – and I was ready to throw a punch at him if I wasn’t so lazy of a person (or a chicken). Fighting physically is definitely not my strong point, so I was satisfied in just doing it mentally and gave that dick the cold shoulder for the rest of the evening.
I will not allow anyone to make me feel ashamed of myself ever again. I will not let them reduce me into believing that a part of myself is strange, “exotic“, even “alien“.
If you have ever experienced racism in your life then I’m so, so sorry. It’s something that no one should go through. Be proud of your own culture, talk about it as much as you want, and don’t let anyone get you down.
Be proud of who you are.