Young Asians Defy Racism Norms in the Netherlands

As 9to5 reported in an earlier article, the Netherlands has seen an increase in anti-Asian racism since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. After having been blamed for the spread of the Coronavirus, Asians are now taking a stance. Three Asian people tell how they are straying away from racism norms instilled upon them by parents and Asian cultures.   

Two years ago, Seo-Jun*, and her friends decided to stop by a kebab shop in Groningen for a late-night snack. A German guy came up to her and, among other things, started “very belligerently singing ching chang chong,” recalls Seo-Jun, who is from China. 

She firmly asked him to stop, yet the man persisted. 

“The restaurant was full, but no one did anything. It wasn’t until my friend stepped in that someone came to help,” she says. 

Out of nowhere the guy started punching two of her friends. “We were scared they had concussions after, that’s how intense it was,” she says. 

After the incident Seo-Jun’s roommate told her that if only she had not provoked the guy and minded her own business, that the incident would have never happened. 

“What she said stayed in my head for so long I started questioning myself, even though what I did was rightly standing up for myself,” says Seo-Jun. After the incident she was diagnosed with PTSD because of how traumatic the incident had been. 

Photo Credit: Emily Zaal

Keeping quiet is one thing that Asians are taught at a young age and “when someone is racist, it is often dismissed as a joke,” writes Susan Zijp in an article about racism against Asians in the Netherlands for ELLE magazine. 

But according to Seo-Jun, racism should not be treated as a joke anymore. “I feel very privileged that I am able to stand up for myself in these types of situations”, she says, “but I know there are so many people that go through discrimination and do not have access to resources or support systems.”  

Asians in the Netherlands recognize that their culture has enforced this habit to keep quiet. 

“I’ve been yelled at on the street before with my mother,” says Elizabeth Fu, who is Chinese and has lived in the Netherlands for the past twenty years. “She taught me not to get upset about it because it only puts me in a negative headspace.”  

“My parents would have never reported discrimination here,” adds Guan Her Ng, whose parents are from Malaysia. “But I’ve realized that today’s generation has a greater interest in combating this discrimination.” 

Apart from the rise in anti-Asian discrimination during the pandemic, there is also some good coming out of it in that “we are acknowledging that anti-Asian racism exists,” says Cynthia who is of Dutch-Asian descent and works as a music teacher near Amsterdam.

The Asian community hopes that by bringing the discrimination to light change will follow. “I just hope my children won’t have to go through the same discrimination that I have,” says Fu. “Especially not in a country where they should feel at home.” 

*Not Seo-Jun’s real name. She would like to remain anonymous due to PTSD from the hate crime.

Photo Credit: Jon Tyson on Unsplash

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