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On March 18, 2024, the research report “Research on experiences of discrimination and racism among people of (South) East Asian origin in the Netherlands” (EDAN, report in Dutch) was released. As the first systematic and scientific study on racism against East and Southeast Asian people in the Netherlands it received widespread media attention and reignited related discussions in society. But what does Asian Raisins think of the long-awaited EDAN?

Research Summary

The research shows that over 1/3 of people of East or Southeast Asian descent in the Netherlands experienced racism in the past year. These figures are comparable to other marginalised communities of colour. Additionally, people of Chinese descent experience as much racism as the most stigmatised community of colour in the Netherlands, namely people of Moroccan descent. The racism primarily occurs in public spaces, education, and in the workplace or while job hunting. This includes unfriendly treatment, hurtful jokes, being yelled at or bullied, being treated unequally or with suspicion, and underestimation of intelligence.

A crucial cause of this racism is the assumption that individuals originate from East or Southeast Asia. At the same time, racism leads to both psychological and physical problems on a personal level, and to lower engagement in Dutch society at a societal level. Based on these results, EDAN concludes the peculiarity of the degree of racism experienced in regards to their model minority position (article in Dutch). Furthermore, recommendations are made for incorporating anti-East and Southeast Asian racism into general anti-discrimination policies and to encourage dialogue about the experienced racism. 

‘Surprising’ outcome is only the tip of the iceberg

For many, EDAN’s results came as a shock. Due to the model minority myth, East and Southeast Asian people are perceived as thriving in Dutch society. However, these experiences are anything but new. Since 2020, we have been campaigning against anti-East and Southeast Asian racism in the Netherlands. We systematically bring this overlooked form of institutional racism to the attention of institutions and the government by sharing our own experiences of racism. That this racism is deeply rooted throughout Dutch society, from education to the job market, is self-evident for us. 

We undoubtedly assume that more people experience racism than reported. Firstly, because (anti-Asian) racism is so normalised in the Netherlands. Therefore, it is difficult for many East and Southeast Asian people to recognise and report it as such. Many have internalised racist and stereotypical beliefs. Secondly, it is plausible that the actual figures of racism are significantly higher due to the lower trust of our communities in institutions, as was also indicated by the research. Our experience as an informal hotline for anti-East and Southeast Asian racism suggests that our communities make very limited use of institutionalised anti-discrimination services. Partly because reports are usually not taken seriously by mostly white handlers.

Friendly conversation is not the solution

In response to the research results, the responsible Minister of Social Affairs and Employment stated that discrimination is unacceptable and must be prevented. Therefore, everything is being done to achieve this, but not really. With a meagre €50K, the minister dutifully adopts EDAN’s recommendation to organise reflection sessions with the East and Southeast Asian communities: three sessions to raise awareness through dialogue. 

Asian Raisins feels that the minister is completely missing the mark with this and is abandoning a great opportunity to seriously address anti-East and Southeast Asian racism. Preventing racism is not achieved by, once again, bringing communities together to talk about the extent and form of racism they experience. This was already clear as day and EDAN empirically underscores this. (What else was the research conducted for?!). Especially not when these specific communities have already had numerous such reflection sessions. The experiences are already documented and available upon request. In fact, the National Coordinator against Discrimination and Racism (NCDR) has had access to this input for a while thanks to the town hall session on anti-Asian racism that was organised at the repeated insistence of the communities. 

Parts of the East and Southeast Asian communities have therefore already commented on the total nonsense of organising reflection and dialogue sessions as a follow-up to the study. Unfortunately, they were once again not involved by the government in the formulation of recommendations to the Second Chamber. This passive attitude shows that the government prefers to talk about, rather than with, East and Southeast Asian people. This is exemplary of anti-Asian racism: it is not taken seriously and not recognised to such an extent that people still live under the illusion that it can be solved with some talking. Even after a study like EDAN, which was only requested to be carried out in 2021 because, for precisely the same sad reasons, the political party DENK submitted a motion on it.

What then?

Stop putting money into commissioning more research and organising more talks on anti-East and Southeast Asian racism. Instead of involving our communities in a plan drafted by a white research institute to gather knowledge that is already available, let our communities determine the approach to combatting anti-East and Southeast Asian racism. After all, our own lived experiences and resulting ideas offer the strongest antidote to the racism we are exposed to. All that is needed is the budget to facilitate this and trust that the East and Southeast Asian communities in the Netherlands know best what a racism-free society looks like for them.

In conclusion, Asian Raisins urges the minister to:

  1. Seize EDAN as a turning point in Dutch history;
  2. Finally take East and Southeast Asian people in the Netherlands as well as the structural and institutional racism they face every day seriously;
  3. Make us the owners and leaders of our path to liberation.

Give us the confidence and autonomy, give us necessary resources, give us our voices, and listen to our own plans. Only then will we come closer to a representative, inclusive, equal, and ultimately racism-free country.

By clicking the button below you can read the letter (in Dutch) we sent with our demands to the minister that was initiated by us in collaboration with Pan Asian Collective and Tom Zwart and which has been signed by 35 organisations and 12 people who are either from or tied to the Asian communities in the Netherlands.