I don’t see race – who sees what and who cares?

I’m curating a panel discussion at Housmans: I don’t see race – An informal discussion around skin colour politics, (in)visibility and the intersection between race and gender. Included is a brief reading from The Good Immigrant. Details HERE.

Some notes below for the (sold out) event at Housmans Radical Bookshop this evening:

Thank you for being in the room. This is the second in a series of The Good Immigrant spin-off events I’m curating, the inspiration being that the book, with 21 writers of colour sharing their experiences, not all of whom are still living in the UK, was just the start of…something.

How do we get to know more about “immigrants”? Who are we talking about? Frankly, why bother?

I reckon that not seeing people as ‘people like you’ makes violence against them so much easier. (Apply this to any marginalised folk.)

This metaphor is simplistic but. Imagine being born into a car. The make, model, and colour is out of your control. You have to drive it 24/7 for the rest of your life.

Tonight is my response to Yellow, the chapter I wrote in The Good Immigrant. I invited some key people to chat:

Elizabeth Chan is an incredible actor. I’m an actor too. We get to try on characters, sure, but we don’t get to take off our skin. People make assumptions based on what we look and sound like. Liz grew up in Bradford. Her 2012 piece in The Guardian about how Chinese people are laughed at, put down, and made invisible is still horribly relevant. @thisislizchan

Annie Chen is an inspiring Asian-American and New Yorker who recently moved to UK. Annie’s observations on UK vs. US racism really struck me. Covert bias is incredibly destabilising and stressful. I cried and swore, a lot – out of recognition and relief – the first time I met Annie.

Jennifer Lim is an actor, filmmaker, founding member of British East Asian Artists. Though example, Jen’s taught me important lessons about standing up for my rights, getting angry, being gracious, and not resenting other east asians in an industry where opportunities to be seen are scarce. Jen also co-founded of Moongate Productions – a creative hub developing projects that raise up East Asians whilst challenging stereotypes. @xanadujenn

“How Do I Go About Decolonising My Lifelong Anglicisation Without Erasing Myself Entirely?”Jules Orcullo’s question at a Devoted & Disgruntled event hit me hard: “I was prompted to ask this question by a long overdue realisation that so much of my core being and imagination is white. White media, white education, white fairy stories, white ways of communicating, white beliefs.” Jules is a Filipina-Australian artist and theatre-maker interested in real-time togetherness, our relationships with our bodies, and crossed cultural lines. She’s touring phroot sahlad, an Aussie comedy about female sexual dysfunction and cross-cultural experience. @JulesOrcullo

“Oh Shit! We’re Not White!” Dr Anna Sulan Masing and I talk and laugh about heaps, not least about sex. We’re both Malaysian but she’s from the ‘jungle jungle’. Anna began writing to tell stories through theatre. This grew into freelance journalism, consultancy, and a doctorate looking at how identity changes when space and location changes. Anna’s father is Iban, a tribe from Malaysian Borneo and her mother is a New Zealander of Scottish decent. @annasulan

Cressida Kocienski makes films and is doing a Phd in Architecture which looks at decolonising filmmaking practice. I met her in cyberspace while I was on Fogo Island dressed as a mouse and investigating shared space and communication, while she was in Toronto. What is an ally? What am I asking for? The support Cressida generously and fiercely gives was (and still is) a little bit beyond my imagination.

Not present and cruelly thwarting my plan to include non-Chinese non-“east asian” women on the panel, the lovely Julia Thanh. Julia had to bow out of this evening because she’s busy launching Vietnamese Londoners, an exhibition opening at Oxford House, Bethnal Green, this Friday.


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