Abolitionist Approaches to Hate Crime zine

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A b o l i ti o n i s t A p p ro a c h e s to “Hate Cr i m e ” R e m e m b e r & R e s ist

CONTENTS Editors note . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Against ‘Hate Crime’ Against ‘Hate Crime’ essay Remember & Resist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Workshops Intro to workshops . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Workshop discussion maps ..................... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 R&R report on Protection Approaches workshop . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 Solidarity, community Dear Yellow People Pear Nuallak . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 Bridging and building solidarity between Southeast and East Asian communities: a conversation with June Bellebono, Francesca Humi,

Sayang & Georgina Quach ...................... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48 Against diaspora? When ethnic identity fails to organise A. L. . . . . . . . . . . . 54 Healing, safety, needs How do we heal? Lisa Meech with Enkuush, Anna & Erica . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 Pods and Podmapping Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective . . . . . 70 Bystander Intervention Guide ................. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74

Cover art by Tessa Qiu. Illustrations by Hanna Stephens (p.20-31), Pear Nuallak (p.43, 45), Emma Yuan (p.62-69) and Siân Williams (p.75). Collages by Hanna Stephens (p.7, 19, 39) and Kay Stephens (p.61). Graphic design by Kay Stephens. Published September 2021.

Remember & Resist is a collective formed in October 2020, initiated by members of daikon* zine and the Remember the Essex 39 campaign. We seek to expand abolitionist thinking and practice within East and Southeast Asian community organising in the UK, through political education and campaigns, while building solidarity with broader abolitionist movements. Instagram: @remember.resist Twitter: @remember_resist Website: remember-resist.co.uk Email: remember.resist@gmail.com


EDITORS’ NOTE This zine is the product of more than a year’s worth of thinking, organising, and mobilising with and alongside East and Southeast Asian abolitionists. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, we as members of Remember & Resist like many others developed a strengthened awareness of our necessary interdependence – with one another, our loved ones, and our wider communities. We also grew increasingly uneasy with efforts on the part of some people to appeal to carceral systems that we saw as the antithesis of aid and care. We knew all too well that the state would not save us; only we could save us. Over the past year, we have also learned that making a commitment to care requires courage and integrity, and that it is more than a statement of principle but one that we live out in our actions. It is this orientation towards otherwise that has formed the basis of our work; and it is otherwise towards which we continue to agitate. We look forward to building together with you.




AGAINST “HATE The original version of this piece was published on the daikon* zine blog in May 2020, the audio version of which is available via the blog.1 This version contains edits from June 2021.

There has been a sharp increase in reported attacks on East and Southeast Asian people in the UK since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak. Last spring, the Met Police initiated a hate crime forum involving Chinese community groups, and community members called for an inquiry into hate crimes – in response to which Home Secretary Priti Patel vowed to ensure all “criminals face justice”.2 More recently, the charity Protection Approaches was granted £70,000 to run workshops on how to report hate crimes for Chinese community groups across the country.3 After news of the shootings in Atlanta (US), there has been another wave of discourse on ‘anti-Asian racism’ – with many sections of our communities again employing the language of hate crime. This piece is written primarily for people racialised as East and Southeast Asian in the UK as something in-between an intervention and a resource on why hate crime legislation does not keep us safe and the harmful effects of hate crime discourse. Even for those generally distrustful of the police, reporting ‘hate crimes’ and expanding hate crime policing might seem like an exceptional case where the police are at least deploying their powers against racists. However, we believe a genuinely antiracist response to racist attacks must reject the involvement of the police, which only endangers communities already targeted by police, whilst legitimising the police’s role in subordinating racialised and marginalised communities. Building on mutual aid organising under Covid-19, we should instead be developing autonomous practices of community care and safety, and resisting state and police violence everywhere.

1. ‘Against “Hate Crime”’ (May 2020), daikon* blog [https://www.daikon.co.uk/blog/againsthate-crime] 2. ‘East Asian British community calls for inquiry following three-fold increase in hate crimes since coronavirus pandemic’ (May 2020), ITV [https://www.itv.com/news/2020-05-22/eastasian-british-community-calls-for-inquiry-following-three-fold-increase-in-hate-crimessince-coronavirus-pandemic] 3. ‘Project Launch: Confronting COVID-Related Hate’ (December 2020) Protection Approaches [https://protectionapproaches.org/news/f/project-launch-confronting-covid-related-hate]. For a critique of the Protection Approaches workshops, see p. 32.



Remember & Resist

Does hate crime law protect us? The hate crime approach puts police and the criminal justice system in charge of addressing racist violence – i.e. it is an approach based on surveillance and punishment. A central feature of hate crime law is delivering harsher sentences for ‘crimes’ when they are motivated by hate. But does punishment transform behaviour? Does it heal us? There is no clear evidence that harsher punishment has deterrent effects, nor does it provide healing or support to victims or survivors. In fact, in most cases, hate crime reports do not lead to any form of action, with cases dropped and victims often treated dismissively by police. In some cases, victims of ‘hate crimes’ themselves become criminalised when police get involved. Recently in Liverpool, a Chinese and an Indian international student were racially abused by a group of white men. The students were both charged with ‘affray’ after getting into a physical fight with the men harassing them. ESEA community groups appealed to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to drop the charges – they were not dropped, but they were fortunately found not guilty. In a similar case, Siyanda Mngaza, a 22 year old disabled Black woman from Cardiff, is currently serving a four year prison sentence for ‘grievous bodily harm with intent’ after defending herself from a racist attack. These cases illustrate how ideas of victimhood are deeply racialised in ways that often frame people of colour – particularly Black people – as aggressors. However, it is important that our responses to cases like the above do not rely on framing ‘innocence’ as a condition of safety and care for survivors. Whether or not this is true of the above cases, those subject to racist violence may well have been violent themselves, they may well be ‘criminals’. This does not mean they are deserving of racist abuse – no one deserves this. Yet hate crime requires us to define a clear perpetrator and victim when the reality may not be so simple, often forcing us to demonstrate or fabricate the perfect ‘innocence’ of hate crime victims – in turn, reinforcing the idea that only those who are ‘perfect victims’ are deserving of justice or protection from violence.4

4. See ‘Against Innocence: Race, Gender, and the politics of Safety’ by Jackie Wang for a discussion of the anti-Blackness of ‘innocence’ as a concept [https://www.liesjournal.net/ volume1-10-againstinnocence.html]


Hate crime policing also does nothing to help people routinely targeted by police, who are apparently supposed to rely on them when they suffer racist attacks. For instance, migrant workers in Chinatowns and Vietnamese nail bars who experience racist abuse are supposed to seek help from the same police that conduct violent immigration raids in their workplaces. For undocumented people who are criminalised simply for living and working in this country, reporting hate crimes means risking arrest, even detention or deportation. Precarity can increase vulnerability to racist harassment or attacks, e.g. having to stay in a job with a racist boss, being unable to fight back due to insecure migration status. Hate crime law does little for people locked up in prisons, where racist abuse is rife. In other words, those who are in many ways most vulnerable to racist violence are least protected by hate crime law, and are in fact actively endangered by police involvement. In some cases, hate crime law is actively used against marginalised people. A recent report has also shown that a disproportionate number of hate crime sentences are actually for verbal harassment of police officers by people in police custody, i.e. people who are already criminalised. In a recent case, a drunk homeless man was jailed for 16 weeks for calling officers ‘English bastards’ and ‘lesbians’ when they reprimanded him for swearing outside a police station.5 Recently, trade unionist Howard Beckett was reported for hate crime for tweeting that Priti Patel should be deported, in response to the attempted racist deportation of two asylum seekers in Glasgow under her watch. However misplaced these comments are, the point is that it is those with power who can best utilise and navigate the law to achieve their own ends – expanding criminalisation and policing only expands the state’s power over us. When we rely on police and the criminal justice system to address racist attacks, we risk further endangering those who have already been harmed, and end up spending precious energy and resources on fighting the police and Crown Prosecution service rather than prioritising our needs for healing, support and safety.

Divide and rule The reality is that hate crime legislation was never meant to protect us. It is a way for the police to appear that it is on our communities’ side in an attempt to gain legitimacy. It functions to divide communities along lines of race and class by appearing to offer protection to those minority citizens (e.g. middle-class East

5. ‘Special Investigation into Hate Crimes’ (March 2021), Law Gazette [https://www.lawgazette. co.uk/features/gazette-special-investigation-hate-crimes/5107953.article]


Asians) who are generally shielded from the impacts of police violence, whilst justifying the expansion of policing and surveillance powers which primarily target poor, Black, brown, Muslim, and un(der)documented communities. Indeed, ‘hate crime’ legislation is increasingly being connected to counterextremism infrastructure under the term ‘hateful extremism’. This a system that has hugely expanded surveillance and criminalisation of Muslim communities over the past 20 years and counts a number of left-wing groups amongst its targets. We have also already seen how the expansion of police powers during Covid led to the criminalisation and harassment of disproportionately working class and Black people. We don’t need more police patrolling the streets – and harming marginalised people – in the name of ‘our’ ‘safety’. This attempt to win over sections of our community with ‘hate crime’ law must be situated within a broader pattern of state co-option of anti-oppression struggles – designed to divert our energies towards bureaucratic and reformist politics that only benefit a privileged fraction of our communities. This has historical precedent in the expansion of the Race Relations industry in the ‘60s and ‘70s, which sought to contain grassroots anti-racist struggle. In the mid-70s, the then-Labour government was anxious about militancy amongst the growing “British born coloured population”. Their solution, as A. Sivanandan writes, was to “pass a Race Relations Act which would encompass whole areas of discrimination and vest the new Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) [...] with a few more powers to deal with it – and develop in the process a class of collaborators who would manage racism and its social and political fall-out [...] and stamp out the breeding-grounds of resistance.”6 At the same time that these minimal concessions were made to racialised communities within Britain, the state was busy introducing ever more restrictive immigration control to prevent the further entry and settlement of non-white people from Britain’s former colonies. A recent example of such co-option is the police’s declaration that it will record misogyny as a hate crime amidst ongoing protests against increasing police powers (via the Police Crackdown Bill), following the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard by a police officer. It is no coincidence that this was announced at a time when the police are encountering a crisis of legitimacy, amidst a national conversation on misogynistic violence. Calls for enhanced policing of misogynist hate crimes are dividing a movement that has coalesced around demands to abolish the police altogether.

6. ‘From Resistance to Rebellion’ (1981), by A. Sivanandan, Race & Class [https://libcom.org/ files/ambalavaner-sivanandan-from-resistance-to-rebellion-asian-and-afrocaribbeanstruggles-in-britain.pdf]


When hate becomes criminalised, it is the state that gets to set the agenda and priorities for fighting ‘hate’ according to its interests. Another legacy of governmentled divide-and-rule strategy is the division of racialised communities into ethnic or national groupings. This forces different communities into competition with each other for state recognition and limited funding for their causes, which erases certain communities and discourages building across difference to fight the systems that oppress us all. In relation to hate crime, this not only discourages criticism of the police and state agencies, but encourages a focus on specific ethnicised forms of racism, which doesn’t account for the intersections of race, class, gender, ability, etc. and is disconnected from a broader anti-racist struggle. It is important to recognise that it is not just East and Southeast Asian people experiencing Covidrelated ‘hate crimes’ – last year, a Black transport worker Belly Mujinga died of Covid-19 after a man spat on her claiming to have coronavirus; the Monitoring Group reported increasingly violent language used towards Black people during lockdowns; and far-right groups circulated antisemitic conspiracy theories whilst spreading fake news that Muslims were violating social distancing guidelines. While it is important to recognise the specificities of different racisms, we need to be paying attention to the various ways that existing racisms are emboldened and used to scapegoat marginalised people in times of crisis, and build on-theground coalitions beyond and against the state – whose policies and media narratives are always the cause of flare-ups in racist attacks, and who enforce a system that places racialised communities at closer proximity to violence and death.

The ‘Model Minority’ and Anti-Blackness It’s worth noting that at the same time as engaging Sinophobic tropes, the mainstream media provided a fair amount of (sensationalist) coverage of anti-Chinese hate crime, when by comparison there has rarely been such a focus on anti-Black or antiMuslim hate crime. We cannot simply see this as an extension of benevolent concern to East Asians on the part of moneyed media – again, it is inseparable from white supremacy’s strategic instrumentalisation of East Asian communities as a way of framing certain racial groups as more deserving of care and protection due to their position as ‘hard-working’ and ‘law-abiding’ model minorities. The flipside of this is the continual denigration of Black and Muslim communities, against whom violence is normalised. Some East Asians granted media platforms to speak out about racism actively participate in this denigration by upholding model minority myths, placing


trust in the British state and police. Appeals to the moral purity of East Asian victims of racist attacks must be understood as an attempt to demonstrate our proximity to whiteness, and in turn, our entitlement to safety and protection by the state – legitimising violence against all those who cannot or will not meet such standards. In general, we must understand how our willingness to work with police and petition the state for change feeds into model minority myths. It positions us as well-behaved minorities who are prepared to engage on the state’s terms and follow state-mandated procedures, unlike Black communities whose resistance is often stigmatised as ‘rioting’. It also distances us from ‘criminality’ associated with Black and brown communities – ‘we’ are victims under threat from ‘criminals’ who deserve surveillance and punishment for ‘our’ protection.7 The model minority myth is not just about stereotypes around being passive or good at maths, but about a system that claims to promise a degree of safety in exchange for upholding white supremacist carceral capitalism. It’s also important to consider the effects of racism in the policing of perpetrators. In the context of anti-Black racist ideologies that frame Black men in particular as prone to violence and criminality, we can expect racialised assessments of risk to inform how and whether hate crime cases are pursued – both by the police and by members of affected communities. Indeed, last year, a video of a Black man calling for Black people to attack Chinese people (in the wake of news about racism towards African migrants in Guangzhou) was shared on the Met Police’s ‘Chinese and Southeast Asian’ hate crime forum, to which some Chinese community leaders responded with demands for punishment and calls for massive escalation – to report it to the Chinese embassy to warn Chinese people globally of the threat. This response betrays not only anti-Black panic, but responds to “inter-racial tensions” – which feel increasingly global in scope – with further violence, rather than understanding its material causes and building analyses and ways of organising that undo violent systems.

Individualising racism Like all criminal justice approaches, ‘hate crime’ displaces social problems onto individual ‘criminals’, whose punishment provides the appearance of having addressed the issue. In other words, hate crime law provides us the illusion of safety, while the conditions that give rise to racist abuse remain intact.

7. See ‘Safe Asian Americans’ by Tamara Nopper on the carceral logic of the model minority myth [https://aaww.org/the-carceral-logic-of-the-model-minority-myth/]


Although we need to develop strategies for dealing with racist attacks when they arise, the ‘hate crime’ framing can distract us from recognising them also as symptoms of deeper issues to be tackled. Clearly it was useful for Western states to find in China a scapegoat for their catastrophic responses to the pandemic. Indeed, polling from last May suggests that – at least at that time – British people blamed the Chinese government more than they did the British government for the spread of Covid-19 in the UK. We must also understand that racism is easily activated and legitimised precisely because it is deep-rooted and historical. Although we are in many ways still recovering and constructing ‘ESEA’ histories in the UK, it is clear that the virus’ origins in China meant that it would always already be racialised in the West, its genesis and spread seen through the lens of longstanding Orientalist and Sinophobic ideologies that frame ‘yellow people’ as dirty, diseased and an invasive threat – tropes often reinforced by a diaspora politics of respectability that distinguishes ‘us’ assimilated Asians from those ‘uncivilised’ ones. In the background of the current climate is the US empire’s attempts to maintain its hegemony within globalised capitalism in light of China’s growing political and economic power. Although anti-China narratives are primarily being peddled by US politicians and media, they are also being condoned and perpetuated here in the UK. This is something we’d do well to pay attention to and critically strategise about. Growing ‘New Cold War’ narratives around the US and China – exacerbated by the current crisis – will likely contribute to a racist climate for those of us racialised as Chinese in the West beyond this moment, while hardening authoritarian nationalisms on both sides of this false dichotomy. This will only intensify underlying crises of global capitalism, hitting hardest those already suffering the most particularly in the Global South. As East and Southeast Asian diaspora organisers, we are very much alive to the fact that there exist various and complex dynamics between and within our homelands that are not reducible to their relationships to US imperialism. While organising collectively in the diaspora creates new opportunities for solidarity, this cannot be achieved without nuance and critique. Staking out a genuinely internationalist, genuinely anti-capitalist politics is a serious challenge that we must meet. All this is obscured by a narrow focus on the policing of ‘hate’ divorced from its proper political context. This focus has only been reinforced by the mainstream media framing of racist attacks as ‘hate crimes’. In line with a broader liberal tendency to individualise structural oppression, racism here tends to be framed as primarily interpersonal, rooted in the irrational prejudice of individual bigots or those particularly impressionable to racist conspiracy theory.


The limitations of ‘Covid Hate’ and #StopAsianHate The discourse around ‘Covid hate’ has also tended to slide into equating ‘anti-Asian racism’ in general with interpersonal racism towards people racialised as Chinese. As well of obscuring the long history of Sinophobia by tying anti-Asian racism to the pandemic moment, this also positions Chinese people as the primary victims of antiAsian racism in the Western diaspora, with other East and Southeast Asian people seemingly affected only by extension or misperception. This has led to some people who may be racialised as Chinese to distance themselves from Chinese-ness – e.g. through asserting their non-Chinese-ness or British-ness – but it also importantly obscures the fact that in the UK, many East and Southeast Asian small businesses have for a long time been subject to immigration raids; that last year, 39 Vietnamese migrants died at the hands of increasingly securitised borders, particularly in the UK and Europe; and that many Filipino domestic workers in this country hold visas resembling indentured labour contracts. Why is this violence less visible as ‘anti-Asian racism’? The focus on individualised ‘Covid hate’ also obscures the reality of structural pandemic racism, which Black communities are bearing the brunt of. ONS statistics from last year showed that Black people are four times more likely to die from Covid-19 than white people, with Bangladeshi and Pakistani people almost twice as likely. Over 90% of doctors that have died are from so-called ‘BAME’ (Black and Minority Ethnic) backgrounds. In the height of the pandemic, the British government failed to provide adequate PPE to all key workers, failed to provide welfare support for key workers and renters, kept people locked up in prisons and detention centres, and maintained a hostile environment for migrants, on top of restrictive visa conditions. These are just some of the murderous policies of inaction that exacerbated existing inequalities and has led to disproportionate deaths of people of colour – willingly sacrificed just so that Britain could continue business as usual. This is quickly being forgotten with triumphalist narratives around the vaccine roll-out. Within East and Southeast Asian communities, migrant workers continue to be hit the hardest by the pandemic, with the Filipino community suffering the highest death rate amongst healthcare workers.8 Even at the height of the pandemic, many Vietnamese undocumented workers in our networks with Covid-19 symptoms were not accessing healthcare for fear of being charged fees they cannot

8. See ‘A Chance to Feel Safe? Precarious Filipino migrants amid the UK’s coronavirus outbreak’ published by Kanlungan and RAPAR [https://kanlungan.org.uk/wp-content/ uploads/2020/07/A-chance-to-feel-safe-report.pdf]


afford or being reported to the Home Office. This state racism is not accidental or exceptional, but is part and parcel of Britain’s long imperialist tradition of securing its own interests through the exploitation of racialised and colonised people. Such structural racism is obscured when ‘hate’ and ‘hate crimes’ become exemplary of racism. By reframing racism as interpersonal and criminalising racist individuals, hate crime law allows the state to write its own racism out of the picture. More recently, following the murder of eight massage business workers – including six Asian women – in Atlanta, the hashtag #StopAsianHate that emerged in 2020 regained popularity. While it is important to connect Atlanta to the rise in racist attacks on Asians during Covid-19, this can obscure the specific intersections of gender, class, race and migration status – in the context of global capitalism and histories of colonisation – that made the victims targets in this case and generally make people like them vulnerable to violence. These are structural issues that are not reducible to ‘hate’ and have existed long before the pandemic. As Yves Tong-Nyugen, an organiser with Red Canary Song,9 said, “Am I surprised that this horrific instance of violence where multiple people were killed happened in a massage business? No I’m not. This violence occurs on a near daily basis, it happens all the time. Literally yesterday massage businesses were raided here in New York. It happens all the time. I’m surprised by the media coverage. It’s been going on for so long.” Moreover, as some have pointed out in relation to the Atlanta shootings, ‘hate’ doesn’t quite capture specific kinds of dehumanisation by those who claim to ‘love’ Asians, who desire us and fetishise us.10 We need to think deeply not only about how the language of ‘hate’ can put in mind ‘hate crime’ and criminal justice solutions, but whether the very notion of ‘Asian hate’ is a useful concept for our liberation.

Community care and building alternatives Any community response to racist attacks must keep everyone safe. Channelling energy into punishment of individual perpetrators delivers just that – punishment, not safety – whilst failing to address the root causes of racism and its manifestations, and ignoring the structural racism of the police and structural

9. “I want you to care when people are still alive”: Yves Tong Nguyen of Red Canary Song, Time To Say Goodbye podcast [https://goodbye.substack.com/p/i-want-you-to-care-whenpeople-are] 10. See tweet by @linhtropy [twitter.com/linhtropy/status/1374080350624772096?s=20 ]


racism in general. We need to recognise the police as an institution that upholds white supremacy, and resist carceral and punitive approaches to racist violence. One of our intentions with writing this piece, running workshops and making this zine is to collectively flesh out alternative approaches to addressing interpersonal racial violence. We offer the following as places to begin: ◊ Developing healing spaces where we can get recognition and validation from each other, instead of from the state and media who








own ends. Creating spaces where we can share experiences with others who understand in order to feel less isolated and alone. ◊ Reducing isolation & building community. East and Southeast Asian communities have historically been dispersed due to the industries that migrants find themselves in. Lack of community and support systems make people vulnerable to violence and its after-effects. ◊ Tackling the root causes of isolation and lack of support, such as gentrification which breaks communities apart, and austerity which and





support and











◊ Building solidarity between different East and Southeast Asian groups, across class, and intergenerationally through community support work, grassroots anti-racist union work and other forms of mutual aid. ◊ Building analyses that connect anti-Asian racisms to other forms of

racism and forms of oppression with a global perspective: there is racism in our ancestral homelands that many of us benefit from and a system of global capitalism that underlies processes of racialisation. ◊ Skilling up so that we can practise bystander intervention, deescalation,








intervene or stand up for ourselves in situations of harassment. ◊ Speaking their










don’t for



example, own







community organising.


Much of the work we need to do is slow, building work doesn’t have the immediacy that calling the police does, but that’s assuming the police do something good and helpful. We are not going to dismantle a 400+ year old system of racism, colonialism and capitalism in a day: we need to come together to identify what we actually need and build those infrastructures together that can keep us all safe.



As of August 2021, we have run four rounds of our Abolitionist Approaches to ‘Hate Crime’ workshops. We ran series in January, February and April 2021,

and a further series in July 2021 in collaboration with ESEA Against Racist Virus, which was adapted for an international student audience. This section of

thezinebuildsondiscussionsandreflectionsthatcameoutoftheseworksho and ongoing conversations. We have excerpted the event description below.

Abolitionist Approaches to ‘Hate Crime’ workshops This is a two-part online participatory workshop series for East and Southeast Asian (ESEA)* people to strategise together in the wake of heightened racism during the Covid pandemic.

This workshop is designed by and for people who are racialised as East and Southeast Asian in the UK context, but we do not police who identifies with the term ESEA. Our workshop is predicated on a critical understanding of ‘race’ and racism as a structure of domination over racialised communities. We understand the limitations of the umbrella term ‘Southeast and East Asian’, given the different ways that global structures of racism, capitalism, and imperialism have impacted our respective communities and their diaspora. We acknowledge that many ESEA people are racialised as Black and brown, and that our experiences of racism are very different. Your inclusion is not predicated on having any ties to a ‘homeland’ that falls neatly within the man-made borders of ‘East and Southeast Asia’, nor any need to prove yourself to be culturally ‘Asian enough’.


The workshops Content warning for workshops: discussion of racist harassment and attacks, police brutality The first workshop, What’s wrong with hate crime? will explore issues with the ‘hate crime’ framing of racist attacks and its implications. There will be a short presentation, after which we will read a short text together and discuss in breakout rooms. The second workshop, Strategies for community care, will explore how we might respond to racist attacks and climates without relying on police. In breakout rooms, we will strategise about responses to scenarios based on real events. The workshops will be taking place on Zoom. As these workshops are designed in two parts, we ask participants to commit to both workshops in a series. No prior knowledge or experience is required to attend the workshops, but they will be participatory. For those who do not wish to participate or are unable to attend on these dates, we will share the resources online1 and additionally plan to make a zine following on from the workshops as an open resource.

The following pages contain quotes and discussion points that came up in the breakout rooms for our What’s wrong with hate crime? workshop.

1. Workshop resources https://tinyurl.com/69ea8d6m


“If you don’t have that

Desire for societal recognition

network of friends or support,






the police is the only option you have to turn to. It’s true they don’t provide support but


people turn to police for a sort of ‘witnessing’ when they don’t have


a community to do that with.”




support think


network that








Can be difficult to step away

“Lack of community and ‘visibility’


might make us want to turn to the





way or a desire for immediate

police or media or the state to be

solutions, especially when people

‘recognised’ - or it may leave us

are feeling emotional or hurt

isolated with no choice to turn to the police - but there is an alternative, which is building coalitions and


communities outside institutional structures.”

OF POLICING Don’t feel confident or supported to






issues ‘conflict’




ourselves -

bring with



What is data actually used for





policing? How is it useful for us?








are often just trying to




may use “hate crime”




Who to

support members





Who is able to place trust





“For my parents, being able to be protected by the police is part of successful assimilation, being seen as legitimate in

Bystander intervention can feel limited

the British eye. The idea that

in the face of emboldened fascism,

police act as a barrier between

Covid racism and anti-migrant sentiment

‘decent people’ and a vague category of non-respectable/

Do police prevent these

racist people is deeply sown

things from happening?

into their view of the world.

What would the impact of e.g. police patrols actually would

be? they


It’s difficult to engage them in conversations about this.”



“Seems like a liberal, individualising


way to deal with things - where does


the ‘hate’ come from? What comes to


be defined as a ‘crime’? It misses the


division focusing





structural aspect. There’s a lot about blame but blame in a way that doesn’t


allow people to understand why things happen?”





‘hate crime’ views incidents through

Focus attacks school,














“Police record hate crimes against us as ‘anti-Oriental’ hate crimes. They are in a years-long process of changing this. If it




takes that long to change even a word, the prospects of even minimal reform seem slim.”

What actually happens to people who are convicted? Is this justice?

Channels energy into the dead end of working with or reforming police












“Police and the state usually co-opt social


movements - many ESEA community groups


are going direct to the state this time. How


did this happen? It shows the depths of how the state has made inroads into what could be grassroots anti-racist community





COVERAGE News in collusion with the Media




ratives and capitalises

state, uses language of ‘hate crime’ to advocate policing


on community’s trauma The people most affected and




criminalised by police are Black and brown people

POLICE “Police are responding by infiltrating communities - they “‘Crime’ already exists

want to maintain their presence.

- what does the ‘hate’

They are just there to protect rich

bit add? It can validate


a ‘crime’ as racist but cynically, seems like a way to make the police look good, as if they care about racism


“I was told by parents and


adults to call police if a

after the fact, if at all


‘hate crime’ happened, but


There is often a lack of action

I’m realising now it’s quite


complicated. There’s lots of


bureaucracy and complaints

reporting not



cases forwards

might not even be heard. So


how useful are the police in these situations?”


Many people are reluctant to call the police due to




“There’s this idea of doing ‘equal harm’ to the other person. But that doesn’t actually help us heal.”


Police are often first port of call for


mental health or trauma specialists

situations which require (anti-carceral)


“Punishment does not transform harmful people, racists don’t


leave prison anti-racist... we need education, support, not punishment.“

What does support look like? empathy




reporting and police patrols? Many are





report or






Undocumented migrants are at risk

“Who can safely call the police?

of detention and deportation if they

Who has access to and can

come into contact with the police

navigate legal proceedings? Who is believed?”









particularly Black, brown, Muslim and working class people in more danger



In cases of ‘hate crime’


victims can themselves

or domestic violence, become after

criminalised calling


“Before my abolitionist days, I started to report a hate crime online, “As much as some of us want

but I had to stop half way through

protection and validation from

because I realised it wasn’t going

the police, we have to remember

to do anything for me in terms of

they are enacting violence on

healing. I’m interested to know what

our communities - remember

people actually want to come from

the raids on Chinatown?”

this. It sounds harsh, but sometimes it feels like it’s coming from a place of privilege. So many people are facing this violence everyday.”


“If I’ve had a racist incident at work, or been



harassed in the street, I’m



much more likely to go to

friends, family (chosen or otherwise)

friends for comfort and

are often good sources of support

understand our





care.” ‘Community’ does not mean overlooking differences and silencing critique, but acting


in solidarity and challenging harmful

Important to tackle prejudices within our


own ‘communities’ - if we want to build spaces that can provide care, how can we make sure every voice is being heard?





could be set up to prevent more







walking or traveling alone


“When I spoke to take away workers, none of them were part of these types of grassroots unions. There seems to be less union organising amongst e.g. Chinese and Vietnamese workers”.

More anti-racist work within unions could support people vulnerable to racism in their workplace or housing






support strong migrant worker organising amongst Filipino and Latinx migrants, in grassroots unions like UVW and IWGB


“In Scotland, an org has been set up to

Even when the police are not physically there, they have

respond to Covid racism and other struggles.

a presence, which affects

People who have faced racist abuse have

how we think about safety

come to this group before police for mental health and practical support. Some of these organisations also offer to help people work


with police in filing complaints though.”



INTERVENTION Bystander There








intervene to



also part of a societal shift


towards challenging racist


behaviour when we see it


“I try to always say something when I see other people being


subjected to racism. It makes me feel better knowing that people


might do the same for me if it was me.”

“There’s such little support


that exists, but building

community alternatives than reforming

that alternative kind of

a system rooted in racism and violence






support takes a long time, and feels big and scary. But people have built similar things in the past - we can build something too!”

If we can envision what we want to build, we can start taking small steps to get there


“There’s such huge class differences


within the ‘ESEA community’ – between


migrant workers, international students,




and our

migration experiences?

gentrifiers – how do we actually meaningfully build solidarity? Does it

How do our experiences differ?

even make sense?”







ways harm

“Sometimes I feel like from my position of privilege, I can be like ‘Fuck the police!’ but it’s not the same for my mum, who has worked so hard to achieve this assimilationist dream. We’re talking about building solidarity, but she has experience as a precarious


experience and

some greatneglect?


worker and I don’t?”

“I overheard a conversation amongst Japanese people about Coronavirus racism... they wanted

What we can learn from history?

to distance themselves from those of a more persecuted heritage... during the heydays of imperialism it was an advantage to assert superiority or emphasise distance from other groups for individual or nationalistic protection.”


How do colonial and imperial legacies persist and manifest in our communities?





formation different

It’s annoying that we all get lumped in as

dynamics. How to build collectively

one ‘ESEA’ community. But before this we


were the ‘British Chinese’ or ‘East Asian’...







So maybe ‘ESEA’ is an improvement, it’s

Who might be erased in our organising?


not so Sinocentric, but it still plasters over differences.”

Who feels entitled to state protection and why? What does solidarity look like...? ...



within in our

own communities?


r a c i a l i s e d communities?

(How) can we organise with people who aren’t abolitionists?

If we’re working with policy makers and politicians, or even other community groups, how do

“Listening, believing,

we stay true to our principles?

showing up are all important. Not forcing our abolitionist ideals onto anyone.”




In late January 2021, one of our members attended a hate crime training session run by a charity called Protection Approaches, in collaboration with a local Chinese community centre. This was run as part of Protection Approaches’ ‘Confronting Covid Hate’ project, which received £70,000 from the National Lottery Community Fund Grant and the London Funders Community Response Fund to support a nationwide network of British Chinese, East, and Southeast Asian community organisations to respond to the rising levels of hate crimes. This ‘report’ is an expansion of notes taken during the workshop. It will hopefully give a sense of how these hate crime trainings go.

Intro to workshop The facilitator explained at the beginning of the workshop that a central aim











decisions about whether or not to report hate crimes or hate incidents.” The group was maybe around 12 people – mostly middle-aged, a few younger people (maybe late 20s/early 30s), and a few elderly people. As far as I could tell, everyone was Chinese heritage, except me (British Japanese). A few people were more comfortable speaking in Cantonese than English (there was an interpreter for this) and the rest were fine with English, though – again as far as I could tell – I was one of two native English speakers. This reflected the fact that most of the organisations in the network were Chinese community groups (which I think is due to the fact that “Chinese” is the only specific East and Southeast Asian census category, which determines which groups get funding for community projects). Most participants seemed to be ‘first generation’ migrants, in contrast to our workshops, where attendees were mainly second or third generation.


ECTION APPROACHES Defining ‘Hate Crime’ We started with an icebreaker activity then moved on to discuss what we thought ‘hate crimes’ were in breakout rooms. Many people seemed unsure









Covid was ‘serious’ enough to merit the label ‘crime’. This discussion was followed by a presentation on the actual definition of ‘hate crime’: Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s race or perceived race; religion or perceived religion; sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation; disability or perceived disability and any crime motivated by hostility or prejudice against a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender. This definition turned out to be slightly misleading as a crime can’t just be perceived by the victim or a witness to be motivated by hate to properly be a hate crime. As the facilitator told us, the police and CPS must determine whether the crime was plausibly motivated by hate before a crime is prosecuted as a hate crime. The point of including the “perceived by” in the definition is to validate the victim’s experience, even if it may be invalidated later. Practically speaking, it means that any incident reported as a hate crime – that is, perceived by a victim or witness to be motivated by hate – is to be flagged as a hate crime and “treated as a hate crime” (whatever that means) by the police in the course of their follow-up investigations. The facilitator also clarified that “based on race” could include nationality. One participant then asked about an incident where a Hongkonger wearing a yellow mask in Chinatown had been attacked, and whether that constituted a hate crime. The facilitator responded that that was presumably due to the political affiliations signified by the yellow mask (rather than the fact that he was from Hong Kong), and that hate crimes do not cover political beliefs. I wondered whether the victim might nevertheless perceive this as an attack on his Hong Kong identity. This would mean he could report it as a hate crime and it would be flagged as such.


This case made me think about how a lot of political criticism or acts of solidarity, say with Palestinians, or Muslims in India or China, are perceived by some to be anti-Semitic, anti-Indian or Sinophobic. In a context where criticism of foreign governments or solidarity with their national minorities are often framed as racist by diaspora elites and their political allies, it’s not unlikely that certain forms of solidarity could be reported as ‘hate crimes’. (This has a broader impact too. Many school pupils are being threatened or suspended from school for expressing solidarity with Palestine.) I raised this with the facilitator. He said that in order for an incident to actually be prosecuted as a hate crime, it would have to be determined by the police and CPS that there is sufficient evidence of a crime and that the crime was plausibly motivated by hate. The implication being that the kinds of cases I was concerned about would probably be thrown out before the prosecution stage. Nevertheless, such incidents – if reported as ‘hate crimes’ – would be recorded and ”treated as hate crimes” by police, contributing to police records of hate crime. I got the sense that the idea behind the Hongkonger question was that this case should perhaps be considered a hate crime. The idea here that police should be called in to manage (what might be seen as) ‘intra-community’ tensions put in sharp relief the ways that ‘hate crime’ generally further divides us against each other by relying on police to deal with problems. This isn’t to deny how deep some of these tensions run or the difficulty of the organising work needed to bridge divides. But getting police involved only furthers the distrust and division, despite the opportunities that exist to build solidarity in the face of ‘anti-Asian racism’ and struggles for liberation more broadly.

Recognising and reporting ‘hate crimes’ We were then put into groups to discuss whether different cases constituted hate crimes. One example was a targeted attack on a disabled person, another a transphobic tweet, and another a case where a person was handing out flyers blaming Chinese people for Coronavirus. “The first is a hate crime because it was assault and targeted a person’s identity. The second is probably not because there is no particular victim and it’s unclear it’s a crime. Same goes for the last one.” I found this exercise particularly frustrating. This was a space where we were being encouraged to understand experiences of racism as ‘hate crimes’, only to be told that a whole range of things that might affect us deeply, make us feel unsafe or harm us are probably technically not ‘hate crimes’, but to report them anyway because the boundaries are quite vague and best leave it to police to work it out. This is not to


say that these cases should all be considered hate crimes. Rather it is to highlight how ‘hate crime’ really can’t capture so much of what people are dealing with. The facilitator also acknowledged that the decision to include or exclude certain identity characteristics was somewhat arbitrary and that local police forces often additionally monitor things like ageist, sexist and – notably in Manchester – antigoth hate crime. The facilitator presented the extension of hate crime to cover an increasing amount of ‘communities’ and subcultures as a good corrective. It seemed to me that an ever-expanding protected categories list was more a way for the police to maintain the semblance that they protect (all) minorities, and cynically I wondered whether this goth precedent might eventually lead to things like occupations becoming protected categories, e.g. ‘anti-police hate crimes’. The facilitator went on to reassure us that while some of the previous examples may not be ‘hate crimes’, they are ‘hate incidents’ which are basically any incidents that are perceived by the victim to be motivated by hate. This means they can and should be reported, even if participants were unsure if it constituted a crime. I asked about why we should report hate incidents, and what can be done about them if they don’t meet the definition of a ‘crime’. The facilitator said the hate incidents will nevertheless be recorded and flagged as ‘hate crime’ reports, which may be useful for statistics, or perhaps in cases where the perpetrator turns out to be a repeat offender. He also mentioned reporting was useful for the police to build up a profile of incidents and perpetrators for the purposes of prevention. The idea that we need data is treated like a truism but why do we actually need data? Presumably to demonstrate a need for more action. But especially when demanded of the state, ‘action’ tends to mean… more hate crime policing, including expanding infrastructure for reporting (like these workshops). Reporting is good because it leads to more reporting. What about using data for prevention? I think it’s unclear how reliable this data is. Under-reporting is often named as an issue, but there are issues around overor mis-reporting too. Particular kinds of people will feel confident and secure enough to report hate crimes (people with relative power) and such reports may be motivated by racialised perceptions of threat or, as mentioned above, they could be politically motivated and weaponised against marginalised people – not only by nationalists seeking silence critique of the ruling classes back home, but e.g. by transphobes using misogyny hate crime law to target trans women.


If this data is then used to build profiles of ‘perpetrators’ for the purposes of surveillance and criminalisation, this could be incredibly dangerous. State surveillance inevitably functions to police marginalised people. For instance, surveillance apparatuses such as the Gangs Matrix or Prevent programme that ostensibly ‘prevent crime’ actually just target and criminalise racialised people perceived to be associated with ‘gangs’ or at risk of ‘radicalisation’. Crime prevention never targets those who wield the most power. If we think for a moment about it, we know this is true regarding hate crimes – how many politicians, journalists and media personalities have spread racist narratives and how many of them have been convicted of hate crimes? These so-called ‘intelligence-led’ surveillance practices do nothing to actually deal with the structural issues underlying violence, and actually exacerbate problems.

How to report ‘hate crimes’ Finally, we moved on to how to report hate crimes. The participants largely seemed reluctant to report to police. Some were worried they would be wasting police time, and had been treated as such when reporting in the past. Others were concerned that they would not be provided interpreters. Participants shared negative experiences that had put them off reporting. All that the facilitators could say was was that the police weren’t following proper procedure and what happened to them shouldn’t happen. The facilitators acknowledged that police stations were generally bad places to report as officers could be very dismissive. Instead, they encouraged use of online reporting forms managed by third party organisations – we went through one such form together. The fact that there need to be independent organisations to even make an initial report speaks to the deep issues with putting the police in charge of dealing with racist attacks. This made me pretty angry because people who had been treated badly by police were effectively being told to put aside their concerns and anxieties, and for what? So that police would log the incident and likely not be able to do much about it? The workshops were aiming at accessibility, but seemed to underestimate the reform required to meet even very basic concerns around reporting, let alone actually keeping people safe. This is also not touching on victims of racist attacks who are themselves criminalised by the police. One of the facilitators who worked with Roma and Sinti communities acknowledged that going to the police wasn’t a serious option for undocumented or irregular migrants, who were rightly fearful or distrustful.


But I wasn’t clear on what the facilitators would recommend they do when they were subject to racist violence. The facilitators seemed aware of the many problems with ‘hate crime’ reporting but somehow treated them as aberrations. If you are dismissed or treated badly, then you can assert your rights, if you feel comfortable; otherwise, there’s not much you can do. In fact, the general vibe of the workshop was “we furnish you with the relevant information about this service – if you choose not to report, then that’s your decision.” This felt weirdly individualising and completely unimaginative. I thought about people who might choose not to report, and for good reason. Is it then their fault if they can’t get the support they need?

Conclusion I tried to go into the workshops with an open mind. Protection Approaches seemed well-intentioned enough, but the workshops did little more than explain how to report ambiguously defined ‘hate incidents’ with the vague reassurance that this would do...something? In that respect, the workshop felt very irresponsible. At the same time, I think there was clearly value in bringing people together with a shared sense of purpose and community. And it seemed like some people were glad to have a space to – however tentatively – share their experiences of racism and have them validated (or at least validated as ‘hate incidents’). I left feeling frustrated that the funded hate crime industry was able to step in and reach community groups across the country and direct their energies towards policing approaches. I think this is partly the fault of lack of robust intergenerational community organising and networks, but also due to the ways established community groups are oriented towards the state and take on the state’s framing of ‘community issues’. This may be an easier way to get attention and funding, but does it really help us? These seemingly innocuous attempts to help people within the system that exists seems to only drains energy and resources into endless workshops, networks, meetings, that strengthen and legitimise state-led responses despite failing to deliver safety, if not actively causing harm. Moreover, as ‘anti-ESEA hate crime’ initiatives expand, how will the competition for funding actually divide us against each other? It seemed clear that there isn’t existing trust in police, and these workshops may well lead to different kinds of conversations and strategies amongst those who participate in them. I was hopeful at least that there seemed to be some room to engage with community groups about the limitations of policing, and energy amongst their members to come together to address racism.




DEAR YELLOW PEO It is with love that I tell you I really don’t like how a lot of us talk about race. If I read another article about how we need “better representation” to “resist stereotypes”, “combat bias” and improve our communities through “data-driven policy”, then I will simply lie face-down and scream incoherently through the floorboards. I acknowledge this seems like an outrageous response to the current crisis – shouldn’t we welcome neat solutions to the problems within our community? And why is it so stressful to read the outpouring of personal stories appended by hashtags, especially as so many of these mirror my own? I feel exposed without truly being seen. It feels that this outpouring is not for or with me, but it is to try to get white people to believe that we are people – I am a

person, too. The positioning is all wrong. Putting white personhood at the centre annoys me; I want space for rage that isn’t immediately channelled into directing white people to behave better. I want anger that is my own and it makes me feel itchy when I see attempt after attempt to Dear White People our way to liberation. But I know that if I also write from a place of contempt for our communities, it will not open things up for us. We become defensive and confused if we’re scolded – our political imagination does not flourish under shame. It also never feels like quite the right time for critical thought: something is always happening to us, and I do think we need soothing balms rather than hot takes. And yet here I am, irritated and discomfited by many of these rousing calls to action. I don’t want to tell white people how to “break down stereotypes” and teach them about an “authentic Asian experience” by telling them all about intergenerational migrant trauma: I simply want to eat a bag of crisps and cry. What follows is my attempt to make a little room for the frustrating contradictions at every level of our lives. I will use a mix of “I”, “us”, and “we” throughout, to break down the binary of Good Take vs Bad Take, Scolding Auntie vs The Scolded, because I am enmeshed within this too.



Pear Nuallak •••

I wish to apologise for the usage of “yellow,” an ugly racial epithet, and then immediately retract that apology. Let us be honest with ourselves. In the uprisings in the summer of 2020, many of us non-Black Asians likely shared an image that proclaimed YELLOW PERIL

FOR BLACK POWER. We saw the shared histories; we wanted to understand ourselves in coalition with the struggle for Black liberation (even though it was kind of performative). Fast forward to 2021, and suddenly we’re not so sure. “Guys, it’s racist to call us yellow,” we tweet, “I mean, we’re not actually yellow? Some of us are tan! This is brown Asian erasure. It’s not a very inclusive term...” I would like us to understand that, historically, the very function of racial nomenclature is to obsessively sort and place people within racial hierarchy, assessing the cognitive and physical ability of each “race” through the gaze of the scientist / overseer and linking that information with our capacity for labour. In this way, we can see how the labouring class is racialised and how the creation of race is closely linked to that of disability, and so on. Knowing this, what does it mean to organise for liberation under racial colour names? By taking on this identification, we name what white supremacy has done to us as an oppressed class. In her research on Black queer community spaces, historian Sue Lemos observes that in the 1980s, political Blackness was not about describing physical attributes or even a particular ethnic origin, but was a means to identify yourself as part of an international anti-imperialist coalition – much like how BIPoC is used now. By bringing this up, I do not propose a return to how we identified and organised ourselves under Thatcherism; rather, I want to emphasize how the focus should be on our current material realities and political goals, rather than using racial colour names like MAC foundation swatches.


I can’t tell you how and when to use “yellow” because I myself am not sure. I can say that I am not very interested in delineating who exactly can identify as “brown” or “yellow” as if it’s a special club; we will have to account for that ourselves depending on our current positioning and concomitant political goals. •••

NEOLIBERALISM HAS KILLED OUR IMAGINATIONS What does it mean when the tools of a racist patriarchy are used to examine the fruits of that same patriarchy? It means that only the most narrow parameters of change are possible and allowable. Audre Lorde. “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.” 1984. Every time we’re in the news, usually when we have been attacked or killed by agents of the white supremacist state, our feeds are filled with stories and solutions. We are urged to participate in something called “representation,” as the harm inflicted on us is assumed to be related to how we are over-, under-, or not at all represented in various places, e.g. the media, hate crime statistics, and the bureaucratic class. We become convinced that Good RepresentAsian (sorry) is how we finally get taken seriously. Good RepresentAsians speak prestige dialect English, are highly educated, and do not perform service labour, thank you. Good RepresentAsians are of course Hard Working Asians or have them as parents. Good RepresentAsians can reframe the complex intergenerational legacies of colonialism as individual trauma narratives, rather than ongoing structural forces with highly material consequences. (I myself wrote a piece for The Toast called Grandmother’s

Misplaced Recipe for Cultural Authenticity.) Good RepresentAsians also offer a rich spread of data to persuade us into trusting the police and reporting hate crime in order to achieve equality, as reporting white supremacist attacks to a military arm of said white supremacist state is how our communities can effectively combat this brutalisation. Once the numbers are totted up, once we have a bigger share of the attention economy, we hope that we will then see material benefit.


The encouragement to work with cops is part of the oft-repeated narrative that “Asian-hate” is “finally” being taken seriously, that Asians are now visible. We simplistically compare the invisibility of our struggles against the hypervisibility of Black people. This is classic racial triangulation1 that positions [non-Black] Asians as competing against Black communities for... what, exactly? All this, as philosopher Olúfémi O. Táíwò observes, is based on a fantasy about the relationship between the attention and material economy; Táíwò describes it as “racial Reaganomics.”



other words, Good RepresentAsian relies on the dubious idea that it all eventually trickles down.

••• 1. See Claire Jean Kim’s 1999 racial triangulation model [https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/ File:Racial_triangulation.JPG] 2. See Olúfémi O. Táíwò’s “Elite Capture and Epistemic Deference” [ https://www. thephilosopher1923.org/essay-taiwo]


A R E A S I A N S I N V I S I B L E O R ARE WE JUST C L AS S I S T ? ... popular culture, commodified and stereotyped as it often is, is not at all, as we sometimes think of it, the arena where we find who we really are, the truth of our experience. It is an arena that is profoundly mythic. It is a theatre of popular desires, a theatre of popular fantasies. It is where we discover and play with the identifications of ourselves, where we are imagined, where we are represented, not only to the audiences out there who do not get the message, but to ourselves for the first time. Stuart Hall. “What is this ‘Black’ in Black popular culture?” 192. Let’s look again at the idea of invisibility vs visibility. Probably some of us have said, at some point, that Asians are “unseen”, “invisible”, and “lack positive representation” – and then go on to name all the ways in which Asians are seen, such as working in Asian restaurants and grocery stores, as cleaners, care professionals, massage workers, and sex workers. We are simultaneously not seen at all and seen too much. We point to how Asians are frequently represented in the media as robotic labourers, as a foreign mass, de-sexed or hyper-sexed; tragic figures that must die to advance the plot or figures that are not even alive enough to properly die. This angers us, and we often position the media representation of Asians as a significant reason for white supremacists targeting us. We want to peel back the lies and reveal the real human beings. We often want to talk about how we’re

actually good and hardworking, how we’re actually part of the managerial class, what our authentic ethnicities and cultures actually are, in order to prove we’re not like those Asians. What if some of us are those Asians? Do we not deserve liberation? Why should we ask white people to see us properly when we refuse to even see ourselves? If being correctly visible actually worked as a conduit for delivering justice and resources, wouldn’t it have worked by now for various communities?


We should consider the relationship between Asian migrant workers and imperialism and how the white colonial state defined citizenship in terms of racial belonging. In the first chapter of Ornamentalism, ‘Borders and Embroidery’, Anne Anlin Cheng discusses how the figure of the Asian woman has been both lewd and alien, and how those qualities are very literally fabricated: Asian women are racialised through the weaving of wild fantasies into a sartorial surface, not objectified but simply object. There is no real human being under the peeling of this racialised layer. The white supremacist state defines its respectable white citizens in opposition to us by not even admitting us as human in the sense of both border control and in its realisation of personhood. To those of us that are not sex workers: rather than finding it demeaning that Asian women are presumed to be sex workers and attempting to distance ourselves from erotic labour, we need to understand that an injury to one is an injury to us all. The solution, here, is not to agitate for more Asians to become bosses or to support Asian capitalists rather than white ones, but to stand with all workers and understand how policing and criminalisation harms every single one of us. Can we imagine a shared trajectory that is not assimilationist? What could help us dream?

X Lately I’ve been thinking of harm as intersecting points on two different timelines. Harm is here: X.


There were things that came before the harm and there will be things that continue afterward. It is important to ask how we got to this point without diminishing the violence or flattening the impact. It’s not I am a person too but I am a person and you

are a person. This is harm and this is harm. It is only then that we can begin to understand and meet people’s needs. At the meeting-point of timelines, we see the eruption of physical attacks against vulnerable members of our community. Images of Asians being brutally attacked by non-Asians are circulated on social media; we feel pain and fear and uncertainty. Perhaps somewhere in our first thoughts are: I hope whoever did it was caught. I

hope they are put away forever. Our anger at such violence, our feelings of vengeance, are things to feel our way through as we re-examine what justice is. They should not motivate us to actively encourage surveillance, policing, and incarceration. Hate crime creates its own logic of criminality. The way that stories and videos of violence and harassment against Asians are circulated in social and mainstream media encourage us to see harm through this lens, especially when accompanied by language that calls for bringing perpetrators to justice and encouraging people to report hate crimes. We see this ugly, raw violence all over our feeds; we want someone to fix it, to see the suffering and take it seriously. Something must be done! We are taught to think that the authorities are the ones who can address that suffering, but we have that power, too. I watched a TikTok video from Kyla Hsia talking about the fact that, when one such attacker was arrested, she did not feel that justice had been served. The attacker in question was an unhoused Black man who had previously been incarcerated for 17 years after another very violent attack. It is clear that prison did not help him – helping people is not, of course, the true purpose of incarceration, and this should be said very clearly as we are inculcated into thinking prisons are places of betterment and that the criminal justice system keeps everyone safe. Incarceration removes people from the community and places them in incredibly harmful conditions that cause more trauma, exacerbating cycles of violence. It is not justice; it is a mechanism for state capture.


His victim, a Filipino-American elder, will not have her medical costs or counselling or any of her needs fulfilled by his imprisonment. There is no assurance that the attacker will understand what he did wrong and that he will never do it again. Because of how we have been taught to see harm through the lens of criminalisation, it may seem counterintuitive to a lot of us that people actually need resources in order to not harm themselves and others. We should try to place harm within a concatenation of human-made social conditions rather than an individualised evil. We have to understand that housing and healthcare are things everybody deserves; they are not rewards for being good people, and depriving people of their basic needs while also criminalising that deprivation results in more violence. We do need a plurality of approaches to liberation, and I will even soft-pedal slightly and say there may be quite specific instances where we might strategically engage with police for specific goals. But it should not be a main solution and we should always understand that this institution has interests that are fundamentally contrary to our own (unless, of course, you love racial capitalism). In the specific context of the UK, we should understand the police is an institution that is interested in protecting rich people’s private property, neutralising threats to the colonial state, and justifying the death and neglect they carry out. Remember Blair Peach, Stephen Lawrence, Ian Tomlinson, Charles de Menezes, Mark Duggan, the Hillsborough disaster, basically every riot – and this is not by any means an exhaustive list, just ones that got a lot of media attention. If we engage, then we need to see policing for what it is. Maintaining the state’s vision of public order does not mean community care. Framing every harm as crime does not actually help us understand the needs of victims, how to build and protect communities, how to keep those within our communities accountable to each other, how to effectively intervene (and teach each other to intervene), and how to break cycles of trauma and violence.


BRIDGING & BUILDING EAST & SOUTHEAST AS The following conversation is between four Southeast Asian community organisers and writers in the UK, looking at their positionality, identities and nuances when building alliance with East Asian communities. June Bellebono is a trans Italo-


Burmese community organiser, writer

I wanted to start by sharing something

and facilitator. They run Queer Good Grief - a peer support group for young bereaved LGBTQIA+ people. Francesca Humi is a Filipino British

that’s been on my mind with the recent spike of BESEA activism and the emphasis on hate crime and Sinophobia. I think

community organiser working for

there’s also a larger impact that Covid

Kanlungan Filipino Consortium,

has had on specifically Southeast Asian

doing advocacy and campaigning for

communities, like Filipino NHS workers

undocumented migrants. She runs an Instagram page dedicated to

and the high death rates that they have

democratising colonial history

faced during the pandemic. And the eco-


nomic impact on working class South-

Sayang is a Malaysian British

east Asian businesses like Vietnamese

activist, artist and DJ. They focus on

nail salons. This also very much feels like

accessibility for Black, brown and PoC

Covid racism, but it’s not really spoken of.

Trans people, queer disabled people and QTIPOC people within clubbing and the wider artistic scenes. They are the co-founder of trans, queer disabled

Francesca I think what’s been frustrating with the

+ QTIPoC centred techno fetish party,

discourse around hate crimes is that it

Flesh in Tension and the custodian of

places it in 2020 and 2021, and places it

Leeds Kiki house, House of Flava.

very much in this like post Covid scenario,

Georgina Huang is a Vietnamese

when actually we have been experienc-

journalist training with the Guardian.

ing racism our whole lives. So it feels like

She’s creating an archive with Hackney Chinese Community Centre focusing on

there’s a decontextualisation of racism

the movement of Vietnamese refugees to

against East and Southeast Asians, and

Britain in the 1980s.

a lack of historical context. I think that we need to understand the history of European and American empires in East and Southeast Asia in order to really understand the depth of racism against our communities, and why it acts in the way that it does and why is it so difficult for us to be listened to, especially in the UK.


COMMUNITY AMONGST IAN DIASPORAS When you look at the census you get an

is that the only way that a lot of us have

answer as to why. It’s because we’re the

been able to get our voices heard has been

“Asian-others”. So we literally don’t exist in

through the framing of attacks on us. I think

mainstream British society. And that’s be-

we need strategies of being platformed in

cause the UK mainly colonised the Indian

a way that isn’t oriented around white vio-

subcontinent, right? So we don’t exist in

lence. And that’s something that has really

the British imaginary in the same way that

affected me. I remember last January, so

the Indian colonial subject was construct-

before Covid, I was literally spat on by a

ed for the British public. That decontextu-

racist person. And that really affect-

alisation then contributes to our invisibil-

ed me when people started, you know,

ity and means that like, it feels like we’ve

pointing out that racism was kind of

been screaming for a really long time

coming out of the Covid period when it

into this void, and that now people want

literally just happened the month be-

to hear, but all they want to hear about

fore to me. So it was really quite

is Covid racism and basically Sinophobia.

angering. People who have lived experi-

I think that we need to understand the history of European and American empires in East and Southeast Asia in order to really understand the depth of racism against our communities, why it acts in the way it does, and why it’s so difficult to be listened to.

ence will tell you that it’s not a new thing. Sayang I’m so sorry that happened to you, Georgina



I personally always feel a little bit out of place in these conversations. In Malaysia there are very clear cultures, ethnicities and races within it – predominantly Malays, Indians, Tamil, Indigenous Malaysians, and Chinese populations and everyone coexists together and Malay culture as a whole is deeply intertwined with elements


of each other. While we take pride in this

Yeah, I completely agree, I think that the

and there’s a lot of joy, I’ve also noticed

way that it’s been pitched, the rise of anti-

harmful racism within it, specifically col-

Asian hate, is really quite toxic. And as

ourism and Sinophobia. As someone who

someone who is kind of working in the me-

slots into various intersections which can

dia, I think what’s frustrated me the most

come with privilege and different experi-


come with privilege – as a brown skinned

Japanese police is actually training Bur-

Malaysian who was born into Islam, as

mese police. So it’s kind of like this dy-

someone with a British passport living a

namic is actually still replicated to this day.

life mostly in the UK – I feel like I’ve got a

But I don’t think we acknowledge this?






ism that exists within my community. I feel like everyone’s been placed into these boxes by colonialism. There seems to be hidden values placed on us and on each other that were decided by English and white colonisers and have trickled down through generations of folks finding their place in a post-colonial world. A world where being able to read and act in a certain colonially approved way will get you a better job and further in life. Where laws came into place that changed our traditions, indigenous identity and history. Where our land was destroyed and transformed into

It’s difficult building solidarity when you’re trying to create this monolithic group of East and Southeast Asians. For example, the experience of a Japanese or South Korean migrant is very different from the experiences of Filipino migrants who are on Domestic Workers visas.

mass plantations but it’s all ‘development’.

What does community look like outside of us being racialised by white people? June I wonder what does community look like in the UK outside of us being racialised by white people? East and Southeast Asian people are always paired together here but there’s so little representation of brown-skinned Southeast Asians, and

Francesca It’s difficult building solidarity when you’re trying to create this monolithic group of East and Southeast Asians. Because we’re so small, there’s a need to band together because otherwise if it’s just like, the Filipino community shouting in a corner and then the Burmese community shouting in a corner, it has less impact. So when we band together it means that we have to sacrifice the nuances, like class. For example, the experience of a Japanese or South Korean migrant is very different from the experiences of Filipino mi-

so much colourism and Islamophobia

grants who are on Domestic Workers visas.

within our communities. And I think when

It also means we ignore Asian history and

organising in the diaspora there’s a bit

political dynamics: Japan colonised the

of historical amnesia. Myanmar was col-

Philippines during World War Two, used

onised by Japan, which was probably as

our women as ‘comfort women’, basically

harmful as British colonialism? And even

created a regional sex trade. Nothing has

now with the Burmese military coup—the

been done, there have been no apologies.


Also similarly the Chinese government,


and businesses, are buying up huge plots

Yeah, that was really horrible. With the

of land in the Philippines and are respon-

Atlanta shootings as well, that was just pi-

sible for so much deforestation and for

geonholed into the anti-Asian discourse,

propping up the Duterte government. It

and not looking at the gender-based vio-

feels like sometimes – because we have

lence or the migrant sex worker issues. It

to band together because the threat of

was really hard for me to kind of place where

white supremacy is so intense – there’s

my anger should even be directed, be-

no space after that to also have conversa-

cause there was just all this noise around it.

tions about what’s going on in our home countries. And how actually the actions of the Chinese government are also contributing to this labour export policy of Filipinos abroad because it’s so difficult to live in the Philippines. So yeah it can feel hard and complicated to build solidarity. Sayang It’s also easier for a lot of the whiteled organisations to just pigeonhole all Asians together. Until the education is done, and the actual recognition that there are more than just a couple of Southeast Asian communities in the UK, I find it really hard to see what will happen. I think that’s the biggest problem that needs to be recognised, so that there can be multiple kinds of communities able to exist and have their own space. June Yeah the danger of being always kind of tied in together reminded me of what happened with the Essex 39. And the fact that they were found and immediately racialised as Chinese on the news. And then a week later, it was found that they were Vietnamese. Even in their deaths, the reporting is inaccurate. And the cause of the death was also very much related to the fact that they were Vietnamese migrants, and why they left Vietnam.

And I was actually having a conversation with somebody today about the proximity of that event to the Sarah Everard case. There was a lot of solidarity – rightfully so – but then, we also heard of other people who haven’t received as much coverage because of not being white and educated and from a middle class background.

The threat of white supremacy is so intense, there’s no space to also have conversations about what’s going on in our home countries. Francesca Actually, just two weeks before Sarah Everard went missing Bennylyn Burke, a 25 year old Filipino migrant woman, and her two year old child went missing, and later their bodies were found in Dundee. And a white man is being held in for questioning by the police. And no one talked about it. And as a young Filipino woman, when I saw that coverage, it made me so emotional, because you see the difference. And it’s so cruel to think that if I disappeared, if any one of us disappeared, the media just wouldn’t care. 51

And that is a horrible thought. But it is

Bennylyn Burke – she was my age, but

the reality and it’s just awful. And it’s just

that’s probably not gonna happen to me

this understanding that for some women

because I’m not a first generation migrant

and other marginalised genders, when


this violence is enacted onto their bodies,

reasons and to provide for my children.

that’s normal and is to be expected. It is

Migrants have been experiencing this

expected that they will experience this

violence for so long. You just didn’t care

kind of sexual and racial violence, but for

and didn’t want to listen. Some of the

others, it is unacceptable, and it is therefore

Filipino women I work with are in abusive


or violent situations but cannot leave









because they are too scared of going to

What’s been really difficult is that so much of the discourse has been like, Asian Americans and Asian British people are being targeted. But if you look at who has been targeted by all of these hate crimes, a lot of them are first generation migrants, working class, low paid in low status work.

the police and being reported and then deported by the Home Office. And this hate crime discourse just means more people are gonna get policed, more people are gonna get arrested, more people are going to get deported. But people are not ready to have that conversation yet. June I wanted to end the conversation asking you all where do you see the future of activism for our community? Sayang I think one of my main things is, I always want to circle it back round to how it’s the white people in power that have

I think as well with the anti-Asian

the position to be doing this work. Like

discourse, what’s been really difficult is

there are obvious frustrations within our

that so much of the discourse has been

communities. But part of it is because we’ve

like, Asian Americans and Asian British

got a lack of representation to the point

people are being targeted. No, actually,

that we’ve been existing together without

if you look at who has been targeted by

any space to even, like, have a conversation.

all of these hate crimes, a lot of them are

So many people in the West, the UK, play

first generation migrants, working class,

into the model minority myth because it

low paid in low status work. And it’s very

benefits them, it benefits white supremacy

important that we acknowledge that. Who

and it benefits their need to further divide

are the Filipinos who are being harassed?

intersections and further anti-Blackness.

It’s the nurses who are sacrificing their

It’s so harmful and many Southeast Asians

lives on the frontline. And same thing with

are painted with predetermined notions


that are entirely untrue to their lives and experiences. I would really love to see allies with privilege, organisations and businesses now put the work into actually investing – put your money where your Instagram story is – so that our intersections can have the space to exist and build foundations in the diaspora, for the Southeast Asian community to thrive stronger together.

So many people in the UK play into the model minority myth because it benefits them and furthers antiBlackness. It’s so harmful and many Southeast Asians are painted with predetermined notions that are entirely untrue to their life and experiences. There’s been a massive explosion in interest in talking about racism against East and Southeast Asians. So that’s a really good sign. And it’s also important to acknowledge I


and to always move forward with nuance and with understanding and empathy. Georgina I wanted to mention the idea of legacy. It’s something that has been on my mind lately, with my archiving and documenting the passage of my ancestors, and thinking through all of the work that they put in to get here, and to kind of harness that and bring that together with the histories, the art and everything that came with that passage. Being able to speak to our elders, and have



Being able to speak to our elders, and have those multi-generational conversations will really help. We need to try and forge a place rooted in what we’ve done and all the work that we’ve achieved.




that we’re having would not have been

those multi-generational conversations will really help. It will help boost the sense of our own identity. And that can never be taken away by institutions. We need to try and forge a place rooted in what we’ve done and all the work that we’ve achieved.

possible without the Black Lives Matter mobilisations and protests last summer – they really paved the way and opened the conversations. That’s really important to acknowledge, especially with the amount of anti-Blackness in Asian communities. I think the future of activism in our community is looking good, as long as we can hold that space for each other to keep learning


AGAINST DIASPORA — IDENTITY FAILED TO Following the surge in racist attacks against Asian communities since the pandemic began and the recent mass killing in Atlanta, people from Asian communities are more and more aware of the power of collective action. I have both seen and participated in discussions on organising — how to organize, who to organize with, in what way organising could serve the communities in need. There is also a very important debate on unity vs division in the anti-Asian violence effort.1

in a Chinese takeaway in north London, where the owner, Huang, and two undocumented workers, Lin and Chen, work 10 hours per day, 7 days a week. Starting off with the intention to learn more about this under-theorised comparative efforts, I proceeded to critique the use of ethnic identity as an organizing principle. I hope that my work can contribute to the current

1. See Promise Li's ' Fighting anti-Asian violence cannot include apologism for the Chinese state' for Lausan [ https://lausan.hk/2021/fighting-anti-asian-violence/] 2. Ong, A. (1996). Cultural Citizenship as Subject-Making: Immigrants Negotiate Racial and Cultural Boundaries in the United States, in Current Anthropology, Vol. 37, No. 5 3. Pieke, F. (2004). Chinese Globalization and Migration to Europe. (working paper)




The embodiment of both ends of this ‘model minority’ and ‘underclass’ continuum could be traced back to a lot of things, including migration histories, the dynamics between the established community and newcomers, individual background, including their class, gender, the social capital and cultural capital they brought with them, and UK immigration policies.4,5 Power and resources are not evenly distributed among the ethnic Chinese ‘community’. The ‘not causing a fuss’, ‘model minority’ characteristics of the Chinese communities described in Daniel York Loh’s monologue,6 however, are commonly displayed both by those who “made it” and by those who still struggle to survive. David Parker points out that a lot of male elites in the Chinese community subscribe to the ‘model minority’ worldview, including working hard and downplaying social problems.7 The ‘illegal migrants’, who are often associated with low-skilled labour, stay quiet and hidden because they fear the possibility of being deported with outstanding debt, and even if they have paid off debts, going home might mean losing an income that has given them or their family a better life. In academia, although the loosely-termed ‘Chinese diaspora’ is quite commonly accepted to denote ethnic Chinese dispersed outside of their homelands, not a few voices are raised against this concept. Wang Gungwu has said in a lecture that he has used the term ‘diaspora’ for ‘dispersed Chinese communities’ with great reluctance and regret, since it carries the wrong connotation. The fears of ‘the yellow peril’ or Chinese domination persist, even hidden behind phrases like ‘Chinese diaspora’.8

4. Ong, A. (1999). Flexible Citizenship: The Cultural Logics of Transnationality. Duke University Press. 5. Beck, S. (2007). Meeting on the margins: Cantonese ‘old-timers’ and Fujianese ‘newcomers’, in Population and Space, Vol 13, No. 2 6. See No Time For Fears [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSY04KJcbuk ] 7. Parker D. (1998) Chinese People in Britain: Histories, Futures and Identities. In: The Chinese in Europe. Palgrave MacMillan. 8. See footnote 3


Shu-mei Shih is also against the idea of Chinese diaspora, but for different reasons.9 For Shih, the ‘Chinese diaspora’ reinforces the perpetual otherness and foreignness under the western gaze, hence one could never be “local”, and most importantly, the term is simply tied too closely with the nationalistic, historically imperial Chinese state. Studies have explored how ‘overseas Chinese’ was used officially as a recognition of the ties between people considered ‘ethnic Chinese’ and the government and territory of China, both in the early Republic of China and the later People’s Republic of China.10 But for the new migrants after the 1980s particularly, the Chinese state has produced a collective Chinese identity that is divorced from the territorial limits of the nation-state. It has done so through actively engaging in the transnational community, encouraging the ‘new diaspora’ to contribute to the home country from afar, promoting a Chineseness that is both global but also tightly woven with PRC – expatriating can still be patriotic.11 I’m interested in ‘against diaspora’, however, precisely because I found how fragmented and actually ‘dispersed’ the so-called Chinese community is and how ethnicity, or even sub-ethnicity, could not unify people automatically in times of crisis, for example, when facing the surging racist attacks that happened and is still happening during the pandemic. Shih tries to debunk the use of Chineseness as an organising principle in Chinese diaspora studies, but I wonder why the Chinese ‘community’ are so scarcely organised here in the UK.12 Shih’s analysis does not acknowledge the impact of class differences in the fragmentation of the Chinese community – I thought of the workers, and how they viewed themselves as the ‘lowest class’ in the UK, and who were aware of the inaccessibility of those guilds designated for ‘overseas Chinese’. Huang had expressed nationalistic and even militant views regarding the politics of China (e.g., “if China sends troops to Hong Kong, Hong Kong will be reclaimed in

9. Shih, S. (2010). Against Diaspora: The Sinophone as Places of Cultural Production. In: Global Chinese Literature. Brill 10. Suryadinata, L. (2001) Elections and Politics in Indonesia. ISEAS Publishing; Schiller N.G. (2005). Long-Distance Nationalism. In: Encyclopedia of Diasporas. Springer; Barabantseva, E. (2011). Overseas Chinese, Ethnic Minorities and Nationalism: De-Centering China. Routledge 11. Nyiri, P. (2001). Expatriating is patriotic? The discourse on “new migrants” in the People’s Republic of China and identity construction among recent migrants from the PRC. Journal of Migration and Ethnic Studies, Vol 27, No. 4. 12. Of course, there has been, and there is still actual organizing regarding migrant rights and racial justice within the Chinese community, for example, a campaigning community organisation called Chinese Information and Advice Centre (CIAC) mentioned by Parker (see footnote 7). Also, in 2001, around 1,000 people attended a protest against the surging racism during the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak.


no time”), and he didn’t dread the Communist Party like Loh did – he once told me that the Communist Party did some good and some bad, but the overall outcome was good: the Communist Party improved people’s lives. For some, this might prove the effectiveness of the Chinese government’s long-distance nationalism project. Without realizing it, I actually went into the field ready to witness the observation made in that Global Times article mentioned before – “the patriotism felt toward China by Fujianese immigrants ... is greater than that of any other Chinese immigrant in the US as far as I can see”.13 But the categories like ‘patriotic’ or ‘nationalistic’ seem way too crude to me now. For the workers I interviewed, the Chineseness they grasped through their own experience and what was happening in the homeland, which they mainly learned about through Chinese social media, was not simply the result of the Chinese state’s transnational state-building. The restaurant, the ‘island’, was where the workers spent most of their time. After work, Huang would go back to his east London home, but the other two workers lived just upstairs of the restaurant, so they didn’t need to go anywhere else – the restaurant became an infrastructure that both protected them and isolated them from the outside world. Although Lin spoke more English than the other workers in the restaurant as someone who was university-educated, he sometimes couldn’t understand when the customers asked him about things beyond ordering food. Huang’s tattoos of his children’s name were the embodiment of his ‘cosmopolitan’ side: he was happy to tattoo the romanised version of the names simply because they looked better that way, and he trusted a ‘ghost’14 tattoo artist. But for him, the cultural gap between the ‘ghosts’ and Chinese was too big to bridge. There weren’t that many cosmopolitan events and activities in the workers’ life apart from selling Chinese food to all the black, brown, and white British people. Apart from the restaurant, the workers don’t belong anywhere else. They might have kinship networks in the UK ready for them when they first got here, but since a lot of the migrant workers might be only sojourning – for example, for Huang’s father, settlement was not realistic and thus he went home – the networks could be quite weak. Although Chinese state agencies encourage the formation of migrant organisations based on province of origin or by profession,15 the actual situation is that for the less prominent or successful migrants, these

13. Rong, X. (2019). Migrants death shows lack of understanding. [ https://www.globaltimes.cn/ content/1168590.shtml] 14. The “ghost”— gui lao in Mandarin or gweilo in Cantonese, written in simplified Chinese as “ ”—a slur for “the Westerners”, particularly white people, which can be used in a derogatory sense or as a general descriptor. 15. See footnote 11


the actual situation is that for the less prominent or successful migrants, these communities almost have nothing to do with them, although they are aware of the existence of these communities. When I asked Huang’s wife if they participated in activities held by their tóng xiang huì (

, townsman association) or if they

had any connections with the association, Huang’s wife said no – “We take care of everything by ourselves, we don’t need anything from them.” For the workers, whether it’s employers’ exploitation or racist attacks, problems are to be solved on an individual basis. Scholars have pointed out the racial and class undertones of numerous immigration policies of the UK16 – it didn’t begin with Theresa May’s ‘Hostile Environment’. From the 1962 Commonwealth Act, to the point-based system in use today that has chained migrants to their sponsors (mainly employers), the tightening control of immigration has rendered migrants, especially undocumented and ‘low-skilled’ ones, who are largely non-white and from lower-class, vulnerable. The studies of Beck and Pai17 suggest that the anti-trafficking policies and the ‘immigration raids’ are either far from effective in regulating labour providers, or have made migrants more exploitable and made it harder for the migrants to get jobs. I want to point out that the ‘illegal immigrant’ narrative doesn’t come solely from the UK government and media, but also from the Chinese government. In this

16. Goodfellow, M. (2020). Hostile Environment: How Immigrants Became Scapegoats. Verso; Pai, H.-H. (2008). Chinese whispers : the true story behind Britain’s hidden army of labour. Penguin. 17. See footnotes 5 and 16.


sense, China complies with the UK in commodifying migrants, classifying migrants with their relative contributions. In a podcast by the Remember the Essex 39 Campaign (2020), Jabez Lam, manager of Hackney Chinese Community Centre, talked about the battle of narratives he encountered back in 2000 when dealing with the government officials:

The workers I interviewed have no rights or willingness to organise or participate in the UK’s political life. Or in China’s – maybe apart from closely watching it from afar. The most important thing for the workers, even after arriving in the UK for more than 10 years, is still to work and survive. For now, Huang owns the takeaway restaurant, and the workers still have stable jobs; they don’t need to juggle multiple jobs in the gig economy. However, the pandemic has hit the whole Chinese catering business hard. The government helped Huang’s restaurant with a £10,000 grant, but Huang wasn’t feeling hopeful or optimistic. China is the homeland that these workers care about and are deeply attached to, but they couldn’t see themselves having good prospects in their homeland, apart from maybe going back for retirement. They knew they were at the bottom of the social hierarchy in the host country they were living in, but they wouldn’t simply be better off back home. They are no longer considered young; the culinary skills they learned here are not ‘transferable’, because no one in China would like the modified, westernized Chinese takeaway food. The market is too competitive in China, and the living expenses are too high – although they didn’t have to spend much in the UK largely because they worked long hours and didn’t have time or even that many acquaintances to socialize with. Nyiri says that the new Chinese migrants who felt disenfranchised at home, might feel being heard or acknowledged as an ‘overseas Chinese’ through participating in the state-building from abroad.18 I don’t see that much actual participation of the workers: after all they are not part of ‘the club’ of those who have wealth and status. Nonetheless, a sense of belonging might be found in the ‘imagined community’19 that is extended to them via technology in their mere leisure time—WeChat, Douyin, Kuaishou.

18. See foonote 11 19. See Anderson, B. (1983) Imagined Communities. Verso.


While there may be different forms of organising and protesting against racism happening in the UK right now, among the Chinese community, or even the East Asian and Southeast Asian communities, the organizing rarely reaches Chinese migrant workers that don’t have good English skills and whose (virtual) social space is largely Chinese social media, at least from my observation. The imagination of being (or not being) Chinese varies on this ‘model minority-illegal immigrants’ continuum, due to the differences in class, social capital, cultural capital, due to the politics in the imagined or real homeland. The in-betweenness felt by a Britishborn Chinese person is different from the in-betweenness felt by a Fujianese migrant worker, and the latter might have less say about being a Chinese in Britain. By studying the daily life and the personal history as well as the collective history of these Fujianese migrant workers of a Chinese takeaway restaurant; by comparing their narrations with what is said about the new Chinese migrant cohort in the account of the UK government, the media, and the academic studies, and with what is expressed by the descendants of the ‘old-timers’, the ‘Chinese diaspora’ who are no longer attached to the Chinese state; by putting their stories against a broader background of UK immigration policies, I come to the conclusion that the Chinese ethnic identity is not an adequate ‘organising principle’, whether in diaspora studies or in real life. But the reason behind this is not only about the abstract differences between sub-ethnic identities, but also about class, about the material conditions. The host country’s immigration policies and the homeland’s emigration policies have together shaped the migration history and classified the deserving and undeserving migrants, which affected both the migrants’ way of living and also their perception of identity. Chineseness is one thing that the workers could hold onto via their homeland’s social media but never get the chance to define and express in a ‘cosmopolitan’ way. At the very end of this essay, I would like to ask something that could be further discussed and studied in the future: is there any possibility for the Chinese community in the UK to organise against racial injustice and the Hostile Environment, and if there is, how?



HOW DO WE HEAL? After attending the Remember & Resist workshops, I reached out to others who also took part to chat about what “healing” means to them. I came away from the workshops feeling that we need stronger community based infrastructures in place to help us deal with racism and I thought asking











would be a useful starting point to explore what this might look like. What became clear was that – for the people I spoke to – healing was not about reporting to police about isolated incidents. It was much more about being able to recognise their own experiences of racism, and have relationships and spaces that allow them to share and work through those experiences with others. The specific ways people approach healing of course depend on their particular experiences, positionality, and the resources available to them, which will differ for many of us – and what we really need may not yet exist. I also only spoke to three people and even then, I had to leave out a lot of what came up in our conversations. But I hope these summaries can help us think more about responding to racism in ways that build on methods that have actually helped people in some way.


Lisa Meech with Enkuush, Anna and Erica

Enkuush For Enkuush, being around other people of colour is crucial – people that know what you need in that moment because, probably, they’ve needed it too. This ranges from finding a bit of humour in what happened, to getting comfort and emotional support – validation that what you just went through was gross and not okay. In her experience, white people tend to at best “feel sorry for you and react in shock” and at worst, “undermine or invalidate your feelings.” For similar reasons, social media spaces have also been useful for Enkuush to find solidarity. Online communities can be a space to share and validate experiences – potentially worldwide – but also situate and analyse those experiences together. These spaces remind her that others “actually care about this stuff as well, it’s not just you.” Enkuush credits part of her 11 year old sister’s “confidence in her Asian-ness” to online spaces. Her sister tells Enkuush about arguing back to comments and standing up for herself. “I would’ve wanted the ground to swallow me whole” she shares, laughing. At the same time, Enkuush recognises online spaces can lack the structure and care needed for difficult conversations to be had responsibly. She mentioned that some pages are limited to people “recounting traumatic experiences without reflecting or being able to process them.” While she recognises that online spaces can be crucial outlets for those who may not have people they can chat or relate to in ‘real life’, Enkuush was clear that many spaces have a lot of work to do regarding accountability and nuance. For instance, she has also seen a lot of anti-Blackness and erasure of Southeast Asians in “Asian” online spaces – as well as a focus on interpersonal relationships disconnected from systemic issues.


Enkuush told me that her university studies gave her the space to gain a deeper understanding of racism, strengthened by conversations with friends and in community groups: “I’m able to build arguments to defend people, or myself, and feel confident in knowing that I’m right and not being dramatic”. This has given her the confidence to be more confrontational, which she feels can sometimes be helpful to de-normalise racist behaviour. There’s growth from younger Enkuush, who laughed uncomfortably at a racist remark or rushed away embarrassed. She no longer leaves situations feeling she’s been walked over or wishing she’d said something. This doesn’t surprise me. Enkuush came across as someone critical – her own experiences seem to fuel a desire for a deeper understanding of how structures in society shape her own and other people’s lives in different and complex ways. Spaces that encourage people “to be critical about certain things, like class, race, gender and sexuality” are important to Enkuush. Knowing that there are other people out there who are also fighting to change things is, in its own way, healing for Enkuush.

Anna Anna also finds talking to friends of colour online healing. She told me about a recent incident where she was subjected to racist gestures whilst on holiday in Cornwall. “Because I had the support network of the friends that I’d made virtually, I was able to process that quite quickly, like okay this is what it was, this is how I reacted”. This network could understand and anticipate what she needed emotionally. It’s clear that community support and care is important to Anna – she started our conversation by checking in on my wellbeing after a particularly politically tumultuous week. This community network is a huge contrast to Anna’s experiences growing up, working in and living above a Chinese takeaway in largely white Morecambe. Morecambe is the site of the 2004 cockle-pickers tragedy where at least 21 Chinese migrant workers drowned while working in dangerous conditions. Anna explains how at the time, “no-one comforted me or my family, we were one of the only Chinese or East or Southeast Asian families in the area, they didn’t really support us or come to us and say ‘What do you need? Can we support you?’ It gave way to quite a lot of racist sentiment instead, so the racist slurs got worse and they were using that event to – for some reason – attack me and my family.” Anna tells me it would have helped to at least have some show of solidarity from her school or her community. She was heartened to see greater solidarity and community organising after the Essex 39 incident, but wonders how much that had to do with the resources and networks that exist in London, which are lacking in smaller towns like Morecambe.


Anna explain that as a child, when faced with racism, or difficult experiences tied to race, such as the cockle-pickers tragedy, “you try and ignore what is happening and basically just try and get on with your life”. This can lead both to attempts to assimilate into your white environment and to not processing your emotions or trauma. It was moving to Manchester for university that gave Anna the space to start processing her childhood experiences and gaining pride in her identity. Her grandma, who she saw a lot more of after moving to Manchester, seemed central to this. Anna finally felt she had “found [her] people” when sharing meals with her grandma and her friends. She told stories of her grandma running around Chinatown loudly speaking Cantonese and bantering with the local fishmonger. She described her as “a very proud Chinese granny who doesn’t care about anything”. Although they didn’t have conversations about race, Anna’s grandma was one of the first loud and proud Asians that she had spent time with. This exposure alone helped Anna find the same pride in herself. Anna also highlighted the importance of having open and trusting relationships. She talked about how her relationship with her boyfriend created a space for her to be understood and heard in a way that she never was growing up. “I think we’ve been together for 12 years, so having that long-term relationship and understanding each other I think sparked me wanting to understand my own identity and own problems that I’ve had growing up.”


Anna emphasised the need for spaces where all aspects of our experiences are welcome for unpacking, including racialised dimensions. Though Anna has these spaces now, she wishes she could’ve had them as a child. It would’ve saved her a lot of emotional energy as an adult. The lack of support after racist events in childhood led her to feeling guilty for her traumatic experiences and internalising racism. “My own journey has been that I had to do it myself, take myself to therapy, talk about these things, a lot of self-development. I think we could benefit from institutions being very proactive instead.”

Erica Erica began our conversation with the question: “do you ever really heal from racism, or is more about finding ways to cope?” For her, until we deal with racism on a bigger scale, we cannot eliminate racist incidents – and a central task in the meantime is ensuring people can access the support they need and don’t internalise experiences of racism. This reflects her own healing journey, in which she understood and processed her experiences through personal development. Erica recounted a negative experience of reporting racist harassment from a neighbour to the police. A police officer came round to her house, and upon hearing what happened, advised Erica not to pursue the case. She felt unable to assert herself, as the police officer very swiftly shut her down. This made an impression on Erica – it made her realise how little she had been able to speak out about her experiences of racism. Another turning point for Erica was writing her autobiography. As a psychotherapist, Erica takes part in therapy sessions to work on her personal development. For her, this involves journaling to explore her identity and how it was formed. Through doing this, Erica began to recognise the oppression she faced as a racialised person, and how this has shaped who she is. Before writing her autobiography, she’d perceived race and racism as existing externally to her. Only after writing did she realise how “whitewashed” she had been. Erica shared that this was in part due to her experiences growing up in a society that claimed to be “colourblind” - a society that prevented her from recognising her race, given that she went to a school with a total of three other Chinese people. “I had secondary trauma from witnessing my parents being bullied, which taught me as a child that being Chinese was bad. Then when your parents don’t talk about it, and you’re not validated, and get bullied too, you start to internalise”, she said.


Drawing her life in art therapy helped transform Erica’s relationship to her Chinese heritage. “I discovered pride there, and a lot of great things about being Chinese... until that point I used to think being Chinese was quite a shameful thing” she told me. Still, it was not until her 40s that Erica could grow that love and connection to her heritage. Therapy, and the revelations from it, encouraged Erica to “nitpick” at events in her life, re-understanding them in a racialised context. Erica spoke so passionately about therapy and its importance. At the same time, she recognised that people need to access the “right therapy”, she has seen people have unhelpful experiences which stop them reaching out later on. We hear so many stories of therapists that fail to understand racialised dynamics in people’s lives. It was fulfilling to chat to Erica who spends so much personal and professional time making sure she recognises these racialised needs. For Erica, exploring therapy gave her surprising and sometimes distressing revelations around race, but also the tools to process them. She now fills her time creating spaces for other East and Southeast Asian people to do exactly this. Erica told me, “we have a community of people who’re not being heard, not being validated, and in a lot of pain”. She facilitates peer support groups to tackle this. As a therapist and a parent, she can’t just sit back and not do anything about it. Creating space for others is “healing but it can be quite tiring. But I’m driven by making a better future for my children.” Despite our conversation touching on some painful topics, tales of Erica as a mother actively being a “role model for children in how they tackle racism and how they talk about it” left me feeling inspired and hopeful. ••• Our strategies for healing will never be one-size-fits-all. Everyone I spoke to had found healing through relationships with others – be that friendship, therapy, online communities, romantic relationships, or physical community spaces. The trust, validation, time and support created here were crucial to their healing. Moving forward, I would want any healing spaces that I am a part of to be underpinned by these – so that we can have supportive, long-lasting networks that allow us to build trust as we share, validate, process, and organise around the root causes of our experiences.




PODS AND PODM During the spring of 2014 the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective (BATJC) began using the term “pod” to refer to a specific type of relationship within transformative justice (TJ) work. We needed a term to describe the kind of relationship between people who would turn to each other for support around violent, harmful and abusive experiences, whether as survivors, bystanders or people who have harmed. These would be the people in our lives that we would call on to support us with things such as our immediate and on-going safety, accountability and transformation of behaviors, or individual and collective healing and resiliency.

Prior to this, we had been using the term “community” when we talked about transformative justice, but we found that, not surprisingly, many people do not feel connected to a “community” and, even more so, most people did not know what “community” meant or had wildly different definitions and understandings of “community.” For some, “community” was an overarching term that encompassed huge numbers of people based on identity (e.g. “the feminist community”); while for others “community,” referred to a specific set of arbitrary values, practices and/ or relationships (e.g. “I don’t know them well, but we’re in community with each other”); or some defined “community” simply by geographic location, regardless of relationship or identity (e.g. “the Bay Area community”). We found that people romanticized community; or though they felt connected to a community at large, they only had significant and trustworthy relationships with very few actual people who may or may not be part of that community. For example, someone might feel connected to “the queer community,” but when asked who from that “queer community” they felt they could trust to show up for them in times of crisis, vulnerability or violence, they could only name 2 or 3 people.



bay area transformative justice collective We have reproduced this piece by BATJC as we felt it outlines a practical approach to building support systems that can help transform harm

Although “community” is a word that we use all the time, many people don’t know what it is or feel they have never experienced it. This became increasingly confusing as we used terms such as “community accountability” or “community responses to violence” and encouraged people to “turn to their communities;” and this became even more complicated in dealing with intimate and sexual violence because the violence, harm and abuse was often coming from their “community” because so many people are abused by someone they know.

We needed a different term to describe what we meant, and so, “pods” was suggested and it stuck. This is not to say that we don’t use the term “community” still — we do; but we needed to create new language for our work. We knew that across the board, people who experience violence, harm and abuse turn to their intimate networks before they turn to external state or social services. Most people don’t call the police or seek counseling or even call anonymous hotlines. If they tell anyone at all, they turn to a trusted friend, family member, neighbor or coworker. We wanted a way to name those currently in your life that you would rely on (or are relying on) to respond to violence, harm and abuse.



Building analysis was much easier than building the relationship and trust required for one’s pod.

Relationship and trust, not always political analysis,

MAPPING YOUR POD This diagram is a guide for how to map your pod. A full template can be found on the Bay Area Transformative Justice website.


BYSTANDER INTER V It can be difficult to know what to do when you witness racial abuse, violence, harassment or an attack. Turning away might seem like the easiest and safest option, and you might be scared that if you intervene, you’ll get into a fight yourself... But between turning away and getting in a fight, there are actually lots of other de-escalation tactics which ensure the person being attacked isn’t left alone and unsafe. We’ve collated these actions with resources from Hollaback London, Project

NIA, and Kelsey (@KelseyMxMo). •

Firstly, it can be really hard to witness violence and abuse, so take some deep breaths and try to stay calm

• Focus on the person being harassed and try to disrupt the moment in small ways. You could: •

Position your body so they can turn away from the harasser and close them out

Tell them you like what they’re wearing and ask about it

Pretend to be lost or ask for the time

Pretend you know the person being harassed and start a conversation

• Ignore the harasser to avoid escalation or provocation. Not being acknowledged will likely push them to leave the situation. You could also cause a commotion nearby to distract people: accidentally-on-purpose spilling your coffee, for example • Ask other people around you if they’ve noticed what’s going on, and suggest that you intervene together, or split up to engage both parties and give the person being harassed a chance to move away • Check in with the person being harassed. When it is safe to do so, ask if they’re okay, how they want to be supported, give them options (e.g. can I walk you to a safer place, can I get you some water, can I call a friend for you?) and respect their wishes if they don’t want your help. Do this even if you haven’t been able to intervene during an incident – to experience violence in public can be traumatic, and to have that invalidated and unacknowledged by witnesses can only increase that trauma


VENTION “The difference all this makes is not only to one individual, but to the culture that we live in that makes harassment acceptable, because it so often goes unchallenged. To shift this,









- Kelsey @KelseyMxMo

It’s important to always think about safety and consider actions that are unlikely to put you or anyone else in harm’s way. But when we turn away and don’t consider the options we do have, we are prioritising ourselves over someone who is experiencing violence in front of us.


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