Pic credit: Good Housekeeping

There, I’ve said it. Did I say it loud enough in big bold caps?

I’m betting you don’t even know our term to describe us. It’s ESEA. As in East and South East Asian. Not Oriental. Not Chinese, unless you believe British solely means English. Not Asian either, because our South Asian cousins bagged it first in this country.

I am responding to a certain amount of fellow wokesters who embrace using pronouns, stick to vegan January and socially distance themselves when marching on human rights protests. These are same people who remain silent when an eighty year old man of Thai heritage is murdered in the street. These are the same people that turn the page or channel when a Burmese toddler is stabbed with his kid brother while having lunch with their dad in a takeaway. These are the same people that avoid Chinatown ‘just in case’ someone’s brewing Covid in their kitchen. These are the same people that see nothing wrong with pairing pictures of ESEA people to Covid related headlines in the news, as it’s happened to other marginalised communities before. These are the people that sit on their self appointed Equality and Diversity high horse gleefully saying ‘it’s your turn now’ at the Jonathan Moks and Filipino nurses dying in large numbers while looking after them and their loved ones. You treat anti racism as if it’s something that can be easily bought and flaunted like an in season handbag.

I grew up with violent anti ESEA racism. Long way before Covid. Y’see not all East/South East Asians fit your ideal image of a middle class chess grandmaster whose biggest challenge is choosing a piano tutor for their kids. As a kid I grew up areas where the gammonry, who are the more blatant racists use to show that multi culturalism means poverty. I grew up with my mum who got mugged numerous times when she was picking my sister up from nursery. I grew up witnessing my sister getting beaten up by the kids down the road from us and being abandoned in the middle of the motorway by her seniors at infant school (and the school did sod all to investigate). This was all happened purely because ESEAs were considered a ‘soft target’, as opposed our new and updated product label ‘Diseased and soft targets’. Covid didn’t exist back then and neither did it’s older sibling, SARS. I grew up angry that people would literally want to shove aside, a single mum with her kids who dared to walk in public areas like other human beings because ‘these stupid Chinese people were taking up too much space’. I was even angrier that we weren’t encouraged to say anything back and if we were, we were told that we were imagining things.

We don’t need what you pass off as sympathy. You’ve pretty much shown us ESEAs who you truly are. Anti racism only fits your agenda when it’s trendy enough enough to wear on a T-shirt. Even still, when our vulnerable are getting physically attacked you find it appropriate to ‘remind’ us of the racist culture of some of our individuals or a city most of us have never been to, thousands of miles across the world. It’s almost as if you think we are ‘All the same’. Hmm, where have we heard that before. We’re that race you’ve kept in your mind palaces labelled as safe to discriminate because you’re running out ethnic minorities to generalise for your ten page essays.

I am not speaking for you when it comes to Sinophobia. I am not speaking to address your feelings. These are my experiences as a person of my race. I am speaking for my well-being. I am speaking for my family, my ESEA friends and community. I am not asking for your pity. Every argument against ESEA representation ‘helpfully’ suggests that we should stick up for ourselves in order to be heard. Perhaps you were expecting high flying kicks and karate chops while magically floating in the air? What a shame we’re daring to grieve for ourselves instead. We have that damn right to feel hurt and express our pain as human beings. We are constantly met with patronising lectures dictating our race to us and linking it to ‘white adjacency’. Did we ask you to define our culture and experiences to us? Or was that out of your charitable wee hearts to donate western terminologies to those who you think can’t understand English? Are you expecting us to be grateful that you’ve picked and chosen what should apply to us as a race? Fuck you.

As ESEAs what we don’t want is to be spat at or stalked. We don’t want to be raped and left to die in a park or beaten up on public transport. We don’t want to be harassed or attacked while doing something as mundane as taking out the bins, waiting in a queue or taking the kids out on the (on and off) school run. We don’t want to see our parents’ businesses go bankrupt or targeted for robbery. We don’t want to constantly look over our shoulders each time we go out or worry on whether or relatives are going to come home safely from walking down the fucking street for a simple stroll. We don’t want our kids being bullied at school or nursery or given the beeline because of ignorant parents who think cancelling a Chinese takeaway cures them from Covid. We don’t want to be associated with a stupid virus that has been handled shoddily by certain, ahem, influential countries. Is that too bloody difficult to ask? Because ‘sorrys, sympathies and oh, that’s terribly unfortunate’ does diddly squat for anyone going through this. Especially when it’s coming from anyone who’s devoid of real empathy in the first place.

Muslim, queer writer of BESEA heritage. I have a lot to say.