This month, taking a different method, rather than email I had a phone call
with friend of the campaign Lia about East Asian allyship. In the wake of rising
violence against members of the East Asian community the following
conversation is important to me not just because it highlights the experience of
someone in the midst of that violence but also because it highlights a different yet
pervasive and unseen violence felt by many minorities for decades. Because part
of this conversation was conducted over the phone, unlike my conversation with
Ammaarah and Ivy (link these) I will reflect and expand on the content of our
interview between different questions. Whilst it’s a different style to the previous
entries, hopefully it only heightens the piece. Here is an extract from our chat:
So Lia, tell me about yourself. Vague question I know but let's go through the basic
interview questions. How old are you? What are you Studying? Where do you see
yourself in five years?
I am currently in my last year of secondary, going to college this year. I’m hoping to study PE Science, and Criminology, but haven’t yet made my mind up about my other option.
I’m an extremely indecisive person, so I’m not too sure what I want to be doing but I hope to be doing something I love and am passionate about, whether it’s work or studies.
Despite some hesitancy - common for the start of an interview - Lia had a very
strong voice, sounding slightly beyond her years. That, and her very forthright
acknowledgement of uncertainty, her ability to put her hands up and say she was
unsure about the future, put across this level of maturity that put a smile on my
face. I wasn’t too surprised with how wonderful her later answers were.
Seeing that you’re here, I imagine combatting Public Sexual Harassment (PSH) is
something you’re passionate about, can I ask how you heard about Our Streets
Through Gemma (OSN’s co-founder). We went to school together. I remember when she
started ONS two years ago and I’ve been watching and keeping up with things ever since.
For the sake of clarity, can I then ask, whilst you’re from and in the UK, where in
East Asia are you from?
I am half Japanese on my mother’s side and white British on my father's side.
To what extent do you identify with that side of your family?
Throughout the years I’ve really struggled with how much my heritage forms my identity. I
believe my parents did a good job of including my Japanese heritage into my childhood living in the U.K. But I definitely found that once I got into secondary school I really found it hard to embrace my Japanese side due to an increase in racism and being treated as an outsider. So I definitely would say that I had a huge identity crisis.
It’s at this point I wish our phone call was recorded. I asked what form this racism
and isolation took place and she responded in discussing different interactions between herself and some school boys.
She said: It’s as if they have this idea of East Asian women as timid and shy and subservient. It brought me back to my conversation with Ammaarah. They both spoke of how, as Ammarrah put it, the dominant cultural image of women beyond Europe and the west are seen as subservient and exotic which breeds an idea of entitlement. This is something I’ve felt, to a lesser extent, as a Jamacian male whose body has been sexualised and objectified as inately lustful. The difference being that fetishised women are stripped of sexual agency. What was sad to hear was that this could push someone away from their heritage.
Has your connection to Japan changed as time has gone by?
Yes! Recently I’ve rediscovered my love for my Japanese side and would say that it makes up most of my identity.
Do you feel that your heritage has affected your experience of PSH? And has it changed
over the last year?
Not so far, but I’m sure it definitely will and it is a huge worry for me. As I believe my future
experiences of PSH will include racism. Any experiences of PSH I have become more regular and 'subtle. 'This year has taught me a lot about empathy. I don’t think I understood how people must’ve been feeling during the BLM protests till recently. I think a lot of people jump on board with movements and care but don’t truly understand what it feels like.
With that new feeling in mind, how can someone be a good ally?
I believe that a “good ally” is someone that doesn’t tolerate racism in anyway. I think many white people don’t realise that they have an upper hand or a sense of power when fighting or stopping racism. So especially when you are not a POC I believe that you should have a duty to not tolerate racism when seen or heard. So always speak up and don’t just sit back because it doesn’t affect you personally.
Thank you for that. I should ask, because I like to end with something fun. What are you listening to right now?
I listen to a lot of music and I love to just zone out. I listen to a lot of r&b.
What are you watching?
Not currently watching anything but I love watching Netflix crime documentaries.
Pineapple on Pizza?
I was never a lover of pineapple on pizza but since I’ve tried it, I’ve only ever ordered Hawaiian pizza since.