Are there any angry Asian-Dutch girls here? My name is Janet. I am a Chinese girl who’s born and raised in the Netherlands.
As an Asian minority living in a white community, I can relate to your personal stories. Since I was little, I’ve been called slit-eye and “poepchinees” (translated as “poop Chinese”, which is a normal Dutch word, sadly enough). When I was 11, I started my first day at a new school. Another kid on the playground yelled “Look, a Chinese. What the hell is a Chinese doing at our [white] school?” Such a warm welcome. One time, a random guy at a party asked me about Asian women’s sideways vaginas. I was angry, but my boyfriend at the time told me to “relax”’. He told me the guy was “not a racist and actually very nice”. Well, fuck you very much. Two guys once followed me down the street and kept shouting words like konnichiwa, happy ending and ching chong.
A lot of Dutch people think racism doesn’t exist in the Netherlands. They act like this country is “post-racial”. To them, every racist remark and microagression is “just a joke, lighten up”. Someone even said it’s “typical Dutch humor”.
There’s an old Dutch children’s song called “Hanky Panky Shanghai”. It’s basically a nonsensical song that mocks Asian languages. They might as well called it the Ching Chong Song. This video (1:14) shows little children internalizing “innocent” racism by singing it at a birthday party. The video is from 1997, but schools are still doing this. I would always cringe when they sang this at my elementary school. I didn’t understand why everyone (even the teacher) was mocking my language and my culture. The kids would pull their eyes back and say “This is how you talk right? And you don’t have to pull your eyes back, because your eyes are already slanty.”
Last year, a Chinese contestant on Holland’s Got Talent was ridiculed by the Dutch judge. This was exactly the racist shit I encounter every day. It made me angry that the Dutch media and people dismissed the racism. To them, it’s “an innocent joke”. This was it. Enough is enough. Then, a lot happened:
I wrote an article about dealing with racism as an Asian in the Netherlands, which got published in a big Dutch newspaper (NRC). I also created the platform “Number 39 With Rice”, a Facebook-page that attracted 4,000+ likes in a few days (it may not sound much haha, but The Netherlands has a small population of only 16 million people). My platform attracted attention from the media and I was invited to a very well-known Dutch television show to talk about racism (which garnered 1 million live viewers). It felt amazing to stand up for myself and others. A month later, 39 Chinese restaurants reacted to the racism by offering a 39% discount to their menu item number 39. The Asian-Dutch community finally spoke up.
After that, I’ve got a lot of hate mail from white people who told me to “go back to my own country if I don’t like it here”. I should be able to “take a joke”. Even a few Asians told me to shut up and not cause a “stir”. Fuck that.
My biggest inspirations were my Asian-American sisters, like AAGU, Fascinasian, Angry Girl Comics, Kristina Wong and Jenny Zhang from Rookie. Although the hate crime rates in the US are much higher than in The Netherlands, to me the US is a place where minorities can stand proud and fight back. I would love to study a semester in the US en meet Asian-American sisters who are also proud and loud. We don’t have Asian organisations in the Netherlands that speak up against racism. Growing up, I’ve never had empowering Asian rolemodels. I felt lonely and blamed myself for being “too sensitive” when someone called me slit-eye. And now, on my platform, other Asians tell me they admire my fire. I feels good to be a rolemodel and inspire others to stand up for themselves. No, you shouldn’t be silent when someone mocks you language, culture and heritage. Tell them they’re rude, or re-appropriate stereotypes by telling them “Yes indeed, my mother’s maiden name is Ching Chang Chong” or “That waitress in the Chinese restaurant is my sister” (something I’ve learned from Jenny Zhang). Be ahead of the game, show them how ridiculous stereotypes are and most of all: stand proud.
After everything I’ve done for the Dutch Asian community, there are still days where I feel powerless and just want to bury my head in the sand. It sucks to deal with racism. It sucks to think about it. Till the day I die, I will encounter racist assholes. My children will have to deal with them, and their children, and so on.
Most Dutch Asians would rather be silent, suck it up and “stand above it”. But they’re not standing above it. They’re ignoring racism and rather act as the “model minority”. Although they say they admire my guts, they do not want to stand up against racism. I feel different, as if I don’t belong with the white AND Asian people.
Yesterday, it hit me. I felt lonely as hell. I love my Dutch friends. But no matter how much they tell me they support me, they will never truly understand how it feels to be Asian in a white community. I have always been the only non-white person in my friend groups. I really need to go out there and find more Asian friends. I need my brothers and sisters. I can not fight this battle alone.
As a Bangladeshi rooted woman born and raised in the U.S, I often struggle with how I related to revolution and language in the homeland and how to translate it into my work today. The above video is a beautiful TedX talk by the Bangladeshi musician Anusheh Anadil and her talk about the intersection of arts, folks music, language, grassroots politics and feminine energy.
One of the things I’ve been sitting with lately has been the intersection of music, revolutionary change and the use of Bangla language. It’s particularly and personally frustrating at this intersection knowing the language of revolutionary change is so close in blood, yet the only one that flows from my tongue is that of the colonizer. I think Ahusheh’s talk leaves a lot to think about - and primarily the message I’m re-reminded is how love needs to be the driving force in all that we do.
Check out Anusheh Anadil’s song Dhik Dhik on her album Bahok here.
Louder than words: Brazilian graffiti clashes against the World Cup
While the protests that took place during last summer’s Confederations Cup were overwhelming and affecting, recent news out of Brazil suggests that what we saw last year might have only been a precursor to a larger movement set to convene just as the World Cup looks to kick off in less than two weeks.
From teachers to doctors, artists to indigenous populations, the Brazilian population is once again uniting against a perceived neglect on the part of the Brazilian government. With taxpayer funds gone missing, local businesses shunned in favor of multinational conglomerates, and many Brazilians left in an unstable position as both housing costs and forceful evictions increase, Brazilians are angry, and rightfully so.
But while last summer’s protests focused upon mass gatherings as a primary means to garner international attention, organizers and frustrated Brazilians have shifted tactics, utilizing a variety of platforms to spread their message. And what could be more arresting for visitors to Brazil than anti-World Cup graffiti in the cities hosting matches?
the other day there was an exchange that passed over my dash where a non Black poc was upset with a Black artist’s use of Japanese text in their work. and i understand frustrations abt our own cultures being appropriated but i think non Black poc really need to check themselves before coming for Black ppl abt something like that. ive seen latinxs do it, ive seen desi ppl do it, the exchange im talking abt was by an asian person and im just like frustrated with it, im so over it
im not saying Black artists are beyond critique for everything but i feel like if you are trying to have a critical eye towards how Black people appropriate your culture, are you really willing to turn that critical eye towards yourself and be real abt your own investment and engagement in Black culture?
are you willing to reflect on how widespread the appropriation of Black art(s), music, language, fashion, like literally everything is, and what your role is in that?
like why is it that other poc feel entitled to “appreciate” so much Black culture but are so quick to get defensive when they think Black people might be appropriating from them? what is your attachment really to Beyonce, Rihanna, Nicki, Ciara, TLC, Missy, or any Black cultural producer? why are you even listening to Cakes da Killa in the first place?
just because you are alive while smth is on the radio doesnt mean it belongs to you. just because you have access to something doesnt mean its there for you. but here we all are, right?
and who has more to lose from having their culture in the public eye, really? who’s lives are literally endangered by the culture we consume?
Did you know that after they switched to blind auditions, major symphony orchestras hired women between 30% to 55% more? Before bringing in “blind auditions” with a screen to conceal the the candidate, women in the top 5 major orchestras made up less than 5% of the musicians performing.
so I believe it was actually more complicated than that, in interesting ways. Because at first, when they did blind auditions, they were STILL hiring more men.
…Then they put down a carpet, so that high heels didn’t clack on the floor, and BOOM women were suddenly getting hired.
The testers didn’t even know that’s what they were picking up on, which just goes to show how tiny of a cue it takes for misogyny to kick in.