“Racism against East and Southeast Asian people has been normalized in Dutch society under the guise of ‘funny’ or ‘pleasant’,” says Maud, Action program manager at Asian Raisins. During the corona pandemic, she came across Asian Raisins and immediately became a member. Since then, she has worked on a manifesto against anti-Asian racism, put anti-Asian racism on the agenda at other grassroots movements and coordinated the Stop Hanky Panky Shanghai campaign. She has been nominated for a Young Impact Award for her work on the campaign.
Can you tell us a little about your life and what motivated you to commit to diversity and inclusion?
Sadly, far too often, I have noticed that racism towards East and Southeast Asian people – yes, including me – has become extremely normalized. It is supposedly ‘funny’ and ‘enjoyable’. You just have to play along. Especially as a child and teenager, this led me to have negative thoughts and feelings about East Asian people. Extra painful, because I am of course Chinese myself.
But diversity and inclusion is about equality. I don’t know what the origins are, but I have never been able to stand injustice. For me it is nothing more than some empathy and empathy. I believe that every human being of flesh and blood should have the same rights to freedom, development and happiness in life. However, I have noticed that even such a basic human rights idea is labeled as “left-wing”. And why? Because it wouldn’t be feasible? This is indeed not feasible if people just keep nodding yes and confirm the status quo. But change is possible.
When I came across Asian Raisins during the corona pandemic in 2020, I immediately joined the Facebook group. The similar experiences of other East and Southeast Asian people in the group with racism were validating.
What specific initiatives or projects have you undertaken to promote diversity? What was the purpose behind these initiatives?
I’m not a big fan of the term diversity to be completely honest. The world, and the Netherlands in particular, is megadiverse. The problem is that we often don’t get to see the diversity. That is exclusion, whether consciously or unconsciously. From Asian Raisins I was involved in writing the manifesto agenda against anti-Asian racism that was presented to the National Coordinator against Discrimination and Racism (NCDR).
I am also very proud of the national sticker and flyer campaign for our Stop Hanky Panky Shanghai campaign (StopHPS), in which I played a coordinating role. In June, we handed out stickers and distributed flyers with dozens of volunteers with the aim of collecting more signatures for our StopHPS petition.
This was extremely inspiring. We had organized ourselves en masse to carry out a specific form of protest. Moreover, the choice for stickers and flyers in several parts of the country was very deliberate. For example, a demonstration in Amsterdam would not cover what we wanted to achieve. While Amsterdam is not easily accessible for many people from our communities, it is also not representative and recognizable enough for East and Southeast Asian people who live in Overijssel or Limburg, for example. It is especially important in these parts of the country that children who are exposed to the racist song get the idea that they are not alone. I really missed that when I was a child.
What are some of the most important lessons you learned at Asian Raisins? And in particular your involvement in the Stop Hanky Panky Shanghai campaign?
Above all, I have seen how incredibly important it is that Asian Raisins exists. I am not only talking about the social change we bring about, but also about what we can do for the people in our communities with our actions and projects. Every week we receive messages from followers of our Instagram account or via our email address in which they express how happy they are with the StopHPS campaign or the existence of the Facebook group.
The moment that I remember most during the StopHPS campaign was just after I had spent the day handing out stickers and flyers in Utrecht. It was the same day as Pride in Utrecht. I went there for a while and through a friend I met a Chinese-Surinamese man who thanked me for five minutes and told me what the campaign means to him. He also had to listen to the racist song in class. This campaign makes him feel seen and heard and he can start a conversation with his colleagues, family and friends about the negative effects of the song. The fact that he shared this with me was very special and it gave me great satisfaction.
How can we as a society create more awareness about the importance of diversity and inclusion?
If it were up to me, it’s simple. Don’t think, just do. Give people from marginalized groups and underrepresented communities the place they deserve, in all levels of society. On the labor market, within your own sports team, in your family, circle of friends, on talk shows, in politics… If you really want to be an ally and believe that everyone deserves the same opportunities, then from now on you will sometimes give up your place to people who deserve it to be seen and appreciated, but are not because of their disadvantaged position. Don’t just say that you think it’s so bad, but take concrete actions by explicitly putting them forward for opportunities instead of taking this place yourself