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Was I racist growing up?

Updated: Dec 15, 2022

When I think of who I am right now sitting in my living room in London, I think of myself as confident and I’m comfortable in my skin. I feel confident because my whole life I’ve been told by people who love me unconditionally how much they believe in me. I know what I’m capable of, but I’m lucky. Talking to other people, my experience is a unicorn story of a girl from a minority ethnic background who grew up relatively wealthy and well-adjusted with two parents. I’ve faced hardship, but I have never been alone and I have never been without the luxury of choice.

Of course being half-asian impacted my upbringing. Growing up in a predominantly white town, I remember feeling like I was different. I remember making jokes about eating dogs, the fact I played the piano or my skin colour because I was afraid other people would say it first. I don’t remember feeling like I was attractive, I didn’t even know boys could think I was pretty until I was 18. I do remember wishing I was white but despite all of this - I don’t remember ever feeling like my voice didn’t belong at the table.

For a long time, I didn’t get involved in race or racial issues because they didn't affect me. Being young and wrapped up in my own world (as most of us are) I didn’t see race as a problem society was currently dealing with. I wasn’t a racist, but I didn't care. Then Black Lives Matter and the death of George Floyd Happened.

What changed for me?

Anyone who knows me knows how strongly I feel about storytelling. When George Floyd died, the scale of racial injustice currently happening clicked for me. The number of people who mourned George’s death demonstrated that his story reflected millions of peoples’ realities. At first, I felt horror but then I felt an immense amount of guilt for not caring sooner. I spent time reading books like Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and listening to people’s experiences and little by little I changed who I was.

Fast forward a few years, and I’m known for my belief in diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI). I’m the Director of Voice ESEA, an informational organisation advocating against East and South East Asian violence, and anyone who knows me knows I’m someone they can come to for help when it comes to DEI.

I’m telling my story because people think I care about DEI because I’ve experienced racism. I have to some degree, but as I reflect on my couch, I realise I got involved because of a racial issue that I could’ve ignored. A lot of you reading this could have too, but you didn’t. It makes me happy to think how many people are trying to improve equality of opportunity because it’s the right thing to do. It's this compassion that bonds people like us.

How can you make an impact easily?

A lot of people ask me how I do so much, and my answer is always that I don’t do anything alone, I have a team and in addition to that, I’m also a 24-year-old girl with no boyfriend and no family I’m responsible for. There will be a time in my life this changes, but right now I have the time to do extra. So I do.

Even with my extra time, there are things I care about that I don’t have time for and that’s ok, it’s called having a life. Right now I can make the most difference in the fight for racial equality, but when something like signing a petition for other causes I care about like environmental movements or gendered violence, I will always take the minute to help because it’s easy and has impact.

Right now, there’s a petition run by People Like Us to introduce mandatory pay gap reporting by race, similar to the mandatory reporting for gender. If you have a minute, it would mean a lot to me if you signed it:

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