Come study abroad at UC Berkeley! We need people with your spirit and passion for change. I’ve studied discrimination against Middle Eastern minorities in the Netherlands but have not been exposed to the plight of Asian Dutch minorities. You are gorgeous inside and out, keep up the fight!
Are there any angry Asian-Dutch girls here? My name is Janet. I am a Chinese girl who’s born and raised in the Netherlands.
As an Asian minority living in a white community, I can relate to your personal stories. Since I was little, I’ve been called slit-eye and “poepchinees” (translated as “poop Chinese”, which is a normal Dutch word, sadly enough). When I was 11, I started my first day at a new school. Another kid on the playground yelled “Look, a Chinese. What the hell is a Chinese doing at our [white] school?” Such a warm welcome. One time, a random guy at a party asked me about Asian women’s sideways vaginas. I was angry, but my boyfriend at the time told me to “relax”’. He told me the guy was “not a racist and actually very nice”. Well, fuck you very much. Two guys once followed me down the street and kept shouting words like konnichiwa, happy ending and ching chong.
A lot of Dutch people think racism doesn’t exist in the Netherlands. They act like this country is “post-racial”. To them, every racist remark and microagression is “just a joke, lighten up”. Someone even said it’s “typical Dutch humor”.
There’s an old Dutch children’s song called “Hanky Panky Shanghai”. It’s basically a nonsensical song that mocks Asian languages. They might as well called it the Ching Chong Song. This video (1:14) shows little children internalizing “innocent” racism by singing it at a birthday party. The video is from 1997, but schools are still doing this. I would always cringe when they sang this at my elementary school. I didn’t understand why everyone (even the teacher) was mocking my language and my culture. The kids would pull their eyes back and say “This is how you talk right? And you don’t have to pull your eyes back, because your eyes are already slanty.”
Last year, a Chinese contestant on Holland’s Got Talent was ridiculed by the Dutch judge. This was exactly the racist shit I encounter every day. It made me angry that the Dutch media and people dismissed the racism. To them, it’s “an innocent joke”. This was it. Enough is enough. Then, a lot happened:
I wrote an article about dealing with racism as an Asian in the Netherlands, which got published in a big Dutch newspaper (NRC). I also created the platform “Number 39 With Rice”, a Facebook-page that attracted 4,000+ likes in a few days (it may not sound much haha, but The Netherlands has a small population of only 16 million people). My platform attracted attention from the media and I was invited to a very well-known Dutch television show to talk about racism (which garnered 1 million live viewers). It felt amazing to stand up for myself and others. A month later, 39 Chinese restaurants reacted to the racism by offering a 39% discount to their menu item number 39. The Asian-Dutch community finally spoke up.
After that, I’ve got a lot of hate mail from white people who told me to “go back to my own country if I don’t like it here”. I should be able to “take a joke”. Even a few Asians told me to shut up and not cause a “stir”. Fuck that.
My biggest inspirations were my Asian-American sisters, like AAGU, Fascinasian, Angry Girl Comics, Kristina Wong and Jenny Zhang from Rookie. Although the hate crime rates in the US are much higher than in The Netherlands, to me the US is a place where minorities can stand proud and fight back. I would love to study a semester in the US en meet Asian-American sisters who are also proud and loud. We don’t have Asian organisations in the Netherlands that speak up against racism. Growing up, I’ve never had empowering Asian rolemodels. I felt lonely and blamed myself for being “too sensitive” when someone called me slit-eye. And now, on my platform, other Asians tell me they admire my fire. I feels good to be a rolemodel and inspire others to stand up for themselves. No, you shouldn’t be silent when someone mocks you language, culture and heritage. Tell them they’re rude, or re-appropriate stereotypes by telling them “Yes indeed, my mother’s maiden name is Ching Chang Chong” or “That waitress in the Chinese restaurant is my sister” (something I’ve learned from Jenny Zhang). Be ahead of the game, show them how ridiculous stereotypes are and most of all: stand proud.
After everything I’ve done for the Dutch Asian community, there are still days where I feel powerless and just want to bury my head in the sand. It sucks to deal with racism. It sucks to think about it. Till the day I die, I will encounter racist assholes. My children will have to deal with them, and their children, and so on.
Most Dutch Asians would rather be silent, suck it up and “stand above it”. But they’re not standing above it. They’re ignoring racism and rather act as the “model minority”. Although they say they admire my guts, they do not want to stand up against racism. I feel different, as if I don’t belong with the white AND Asian people.
Yesterday, it hit me. I felt lonely as hell. I love my Dutch friends. But no matter how much they tell me they support me, they will never truly understand how it feels to be Asian in a white community. I have always been the only non-white person in my friend groups. I really need to go out there and find more Asian friends. I need my brothers and sisters. I can not fight this battle alone.