Anti-Asian Discrimination Flared In The Netherlands During The Pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic in the Netherlands has brought an increase in anti-Asian racism, several people of Dutch Asian descent tell 9-to-5. This discrimination has been taking a toll on them, both mentally and emotionally. 

One day, at the beginning of the pandemic, Selina Mak was biking home when two girls started shouting racist comments at her. “They imitated the Chinese language and bowed their hands at me,” she says, “I felt absolutely helpless and alone.” 

The early days of the Covid-19 pandemic was a period of significant stress for the Asian community in the Netherlands. “I’ve noticed that the discrimination has gotten worse because of Corona,” says Mak, “I thought people would find me gross, as the virus originated from China and that’s where I am from.” 

In a blog published by the University of Groningen on anti-Asian prejudice, Edwina Wong states that “Asians are among the most negatively impacted racialized groups in Europe to be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.” In the Netherlands, reports by the European Network Against Racism show that racist hate speech is one of the many issues that have negatively affected the Asian community. 

“I am certain that anti-Asian hate has gotten worse due to Corona,” adds Cynthia, who is of Dutch Asian descent and works as a music teacher in a city just outside of Amsterdam. “The discrimination was already there. It’s only just now been brought to light.” 

Not everyone has the same views on anti-Asian discrimination. Kun Hu, who grew up in China, acknowledges that the discrimination currently exists, however he argues that there is no such thing as real anti-Asian hate. 

“In my opinion this hate is focused on the country itself,” he says. Hu believes that Covid-19 and the current political regime are what contribute to China’s bad reputation. “We just need to focus on making China a better country,” he adds. 

Wong, however, believes that there has always been anti-Asian hate present in societies, as she stated in her blog. The question then is how to tackle it. 

This discrimination appears to be deeply ingrained into the Dutch culture. Mak experienced this from an early age. “It began when I was little. In elementary school everyone would sing the ‘Hanky Panky’ birthday song and use slanted-eye gestures,” she says. “I would cry every time. I already knew I looked different. This made it even worse.”

In many Asian cultures, the typical response to discrimination is to ignore it. However, the global pandemic has forced people to discuss Anti-Asian racism in the West, including in the Netherlands. “I’m not saying that the pandemic was a good thing, because it definitely was not,” says Cynthia, “but it is good we are acknowledging that anti-Asian racism exists.”

“I’m still quite pessimistic, though”, adds Cynthia. “I think once Covid-19 settles down, the attention regarding racism will move on to another group.” She is determined, however, to continue raising awareness on anti-Asian hate in the Netherlands. 

Photo Credit: Emily Zaal

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