The COVID-19 pandemic brought a wave of violent racism against Asian communities all over the world. IWS members Ngoc, Haewon & Dahye welcome three guests for our third episode of IWS RADIO to discuss this and more… We hear first from Jiye Seong-Yu of Asian Voices Europe about how the group went about dealing with the anti-Asian racism. Then, Esra Karakaya of Karakaya Talks joins the show to discuss how the good immigrant image perpetuates the colonial strategy to divide and conquer – and the need for solidarity among migrant communities. And, finally, Thao Ho talks about her collective DAMN (Deutsch Asiat*innen Make Noise) and what it will take to move towards more Black-Asian solidarity.

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Transcript & translation

[IWS RADIO INTRO]

 

DAHYE
Hello everybody. Today’s topic is Racism against Asians – the good immigrant image and COVID-19. This is our third show and today we will first be speaking with Esra Nayeon Karakaya, also called as Ms Blackrock, host of the YouTube shows Karakaya Talk and BlackRockTalk, about the good immigrant image projected onto Asians as a way to control and divide the migrant society. In the second part of the show, we will hear from Jiye Seong-Yu from Asian Voices Europe about how this group dealt with the heightened racism against Asians, especially during the COVID-19 time. We will also listen to Thao discussing DAMN* (Deutsch Asiat*innen Make Noise) as an empowering platform for people of Asian descent in Germany.

 

HEAWON
Hello, my name is Heawon Chae.

 

DAHYE
Hi my name is Dahye.

 

HEAWON
We will co-host today’s radio and our colleague, Ngoc, will be joining us as well from America.

 

DAHYE
“I’m not a virus” – What images come to your mind? It was so natural: Asians were treated as a virus during the corona situation, we were a virus, people stared at us, refrained from sitting near us, and attacked us verbally and physically. Anyone who “looked” Asian was treated as a detrimental virus. During this time, I felt my existence was torn apart. I stopped going to the supermarket for some weeks as I did not want to feel rejected just because of my appearance. Kids called me “corona”, which made me very angry but also very sad to see how the adults made this world full of hatred and racism.

 

HEAWON
I totally understand how you felt. Everyone believes that Asian people spread the virus because many media outlets framed the story as: virus = Asian. For example, the newspaper Abendzeitung München depicted COVID-19 as a dangerous lung disease with a picture of an Asian woman with a mask. Another newspaper, the Bild, featured an article called ‘How the coronavirus came to us’ with a picture of five Asian people at the dining table last winter. Last April, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported “Liveblog on corona virus” with a picture of Asian children wearing masks. Most offensive of all, German news magazine Der SPIEGEL! features on the cover of the February issue a man wearing a red hoodie, protective masks, goggles and headphones, with a huge headline “Coronavirus Made in China.” This way of reporting not only raises panic and mutual blaming, but also, as we saw, racial discrimination.

Korientation e.V, a self-organized network that focuses on self-representation of Asian Germans in culture and media, created a Corona-racism section with news articles related to racism during Corona and wrote articles discussing the structural racism behind this. For those who want to check it out, visit www.korientation.de.

 

[IWS RADIO JINGLE]

 

DAHYE
Wow, So much happened during a short amount of time! I mean it makes no sense to view Asians as a virus, but that happened so easily.

 

HEAWON
Seriously. It was so easy to target Asians. Many collectives reacted to the racism against Asians in the corona-situation all over the world, including in Berlin.

 

DAHYE
I heard there is a group which collected and is collecting experiences to make statistical evidence, or?

 

HEAWON
Yes Asian Voices Europe is working on it. Asian Voices Europe is a young NGO established in March with the goal of combating anti-Asian racism in Europe. Currently they’re a group of 13 human rights activists, academics, journalists, designers, product managers, and translators. This group has been taking action to uphold the human rights of Asians and Asian diaspora who have been experiencing inflamed racist incidents in the recent months in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Let us hear the interview with activist Jiye from this group for further information. As Jiye is in Holland and we are in Berlin, we agreed to send her our questions and she answered them through audio messages.

Could you tell us about the process of how you formed Asian Voices Europe organization in the Netherlands with your introduction?

 

JIYE
Hi, my name is Jiye and I am the founder and president of Asian Voices Europe, which is a non-profit based in the Netherlands and which aims to combat anti-Asian racism. We came to start this organization, because… well, I came to start the initiative back in February, back in March when I experienced a racist incident myself – as we say: the personal is political! My curiosity and my feeling of feeling unsafe in the Netherlands really made me start something that became much bigger than I have ever expected it to become. At the end of February on a Monday, I was biking back home from my dance class – I know it was a Monday because I had classes on Mondays – and two people on a scooter yelled Chinese at me and tried to punch me. So, when this happened it was dark, there was nobody else on the streets. So, what I did was I biked home very quickly. While I was biking back home it really angered me because that same morning I had read on the Dutch news that a 24-year-old Chinese-Dutch woman, student called Sindi, had been attacked in an elevator and this happened because she asked people in the elevator to stop singing the Corona-song, which is a Dutch song that was populated on the radio and which says, “Prevention is better than the Chinese”. And when she asked people to stop singing this song, they physically assaulted her and one of them even assaulted her with a knife. They have yet to find the assailants.

So, while I was biking back home there was the anger, there was the fear, and when I got home I called the police, I reported the incident and I made an appointment to go to the police station in the next week. But what I also did is, I started a survey on a Google Doc. It was a very simple survey, very spur of the moment. Because not just this incident with me or with Sindi, but the past two or three weeks I had been seeing more and more posts on social media about Asians, and especially Koreans because I am South Korean myself, of how they got in the tram and how people were avoiding them. I had also experienced that once I got into the tram in Den Haag and people ran away from me to the other side of the Tram, but there were much, much more serious incidents and many more incidents, and I wanted to be able to gather them in one place to be able to see what actually was the status quo. So, this survey really launched the whole movement and it was cited in the Dutch report from discriminatie.nl – which is the national federation of anti-discrimination agencies. And since I started the survey, I also started reaching out to people and seeing if there is somebody who wants to do something, I don’t know what it is exactly, but we have to do something about this racism that’s being experienced by Asians and I was very lucky because we now have 10 members, which reached out to me early in March. Almost as soon as I started the survey and on March 14th we had our first group meeting and now we are at the end of July so it’s crazy how fast time is coming and how much we have been able to achieve.

 

HEAWON
Thank you Jiye. According to the survey, most incidents consist of locals calling out “Coronavirus” often combined with threatening gestures or insulting behaviour like spitting. These incidents have occurred in almost every country in Europe. Please tell us more about this.

 

JIYE
Asian Voices Europe has just finished analyzing the data from survey 1.0. Survey 1.0 was started by me in February when I came home this Monday and I have started this Google Form trying to gather all the data on what Asians had been experiencing during Corona-times. Now the data has been analyzed by our lead researcher Haebin and team members Ahreum and Seunghye. Out of the results, to summarize, we had around 300 total cases from 117 respondents about half of those consisted of verbal attacks. So verbal attacks consist of people shouting, yelling, saying things like Corona, Chinese, get out of town, etc. This is the most common kind of racism that Asians experience even outside of Corona-times. About 60 of those cases consisted of physical harassment or physical assault. So, this was when people were injured physically – they were pushed or in some cases, people threw stones at Asians. And about 90 cases or 30% of total were microaggressions. These are often difficult to define legally and can not be reported to the police but are very pervasive. So, this could be people glaring at you in public making racial jokes, spitting, doing the split eye motion that is often used to mock Asians, fake coughing and bullying. What I found important was that there was a high number of physical assaults which I had not seen too often in the past. But I could be wrong because there is obviously no complete data on Asian… Anti-Asian racism.

 

HEAWON
How is your work progressing?

 

JIYE
To combat those cases of anti-Asian racism we launched a petition in May and that was done on wemove.eu. The petition is still ongoing. This petition was targeting the German federal antidiscrimination agency the Antidiskriminierungsstelle des Bundes and the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance. We asked them to set up a hotline for reporting hate crimes against Asians because such a service is available, for example, in New York City. We actually were very happy to receive a response from the German federal antidiscrimination agency within three days of launching the petition and we had a meeting with them already in June. What happens during the meeting is actually the federal agency does not have the implementation authority to set up such a hotline, neither does the European Commission against racism and Intolerance because they are more advisory parties. So, what they have been doing to help us is to put us in contact with other German Länder – state-level – organizations that may be able to implement such projects as well as other European networks focusing on anti-racism and anti-discrimination initiatives. The petition has currently 1.500 signatures but for now, we consider that the petition has achieved, well, somewhat its goal because it has put us in contact with the German federal agencies.

So, the first step to solving the problem is defining the problem which is what we aim to do through the survey and our next step is, of course, to find solutions to dealing with anti-Asian racism. So, those two projects are ongoing at this moment and we are also recruiting helpers if you are interested. The first project is creating a guide book on dealing with anti-Asian racism in Europe. So, this first project aims at all Asian expats and immigrants living in European countries but particularly we will start out with cases of the Netherlands and in Germany. This is for a very practical reason that we have limited resources as a non-profit that has just launched and the fact that our members are currently spread out in the Netherlands and Germany.

In the guide book projects, we will aim to deal with – for example – of how to deal with racism, how can you report racist incidents, and to whom can you report and what is the process and how can you make it easier, how do you navigate those procedures. As well as, for example, there is not only a way of reporting those incidents to the police but you could also receive emotional and psychological help that is covered by national health care policies, for example, in the Netherlands, there is a service that is called the “Sclachtofferhulp” which is literally translated as “victim help” and it’s a service that is provided in coordination with the police to victims of, for example, sexual assault, physical assaults or other kinds of assaults.

The second part of the guide book will be on explaining racism to Dutch, Germans, and other Europeans, because Asians make up such a small minority of the population in those two countries. In the Netherlands if you look at just East Asians populations, they make up 0,7% of the whole population and in Germany, I think it is something like 3%. So these are very small numbers and it means that there are people who live in Germany and in the Netherlands who have never met an Asian person or ever spoken to an Asian person, and if you do not come into contact with different people, when you hear about problems that only impacts this specific group of people it is very unlikely that you will believe and empathize with those issues. So, our goal is to provide people with the tools to be able to explain in a non-confrontational and peaceful way of explaining how I experience racism and this is what I felt, and this is what I would like.

This guide book project is our first project with an external partner: metooasians e.V. which is an NGO based in Berlin. This NGO was launched with the goal of helping Asian women in Germany who have experienced sexual assault. So, we are very happy to have them as a partner. Our second partner is the Asian Advocacy Platform, which is a website we are building, and this is a platform which aims to provide a clear image of anti-Asian racist incidents using both text and visual data. So, our survey data will be incorporated to demonstrate how in numbers we are experiencing racism as Asians but will also include all the elements such as text and other examples. So, this is a project in progress and we hope to be able to show this to you later this year.

 

DAHYE
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us, Jiye. Thank you very much for the work from your group, making this world a better place to live in.
Today we have a special guest, Esra Nayeon Karakaya to talk about the image of Asians as a good migrant.

 

HEAWON
Oh, I am a fan of the Black Rock Talk and Karakaya Talk!! I can’t wait to hear your talk.

 

DAHYE
Let’s listen to my recorded interview with her.

 

DAHYE
Can you introduce yourself?

 

ESRA
Yes. My name is Esra Nayeon Karakaya and I am a journalist and video producer. Within the last two or three years I have been working on my own talk show. It started off as “BlackRock Talk” and then for a while now we were in cooperation with a public broadcasting station and for six months we have been producing under the name “Karakaya Talk”. We are now independent again and we will probably be continuing our work with the talk show as “Karakaya Talks“ with an ‘s’ in the end.

And also I was producing with and for “Datteltäter”. Its a YouTube channel that creates content to empower muslim youth in Germany. So generally whenever I get… whenever people or broadcasting stations approach me – I produce videos that often have a sociopolitical relevance, I would say.

 

DAHYE
Wow. You are doing a lot (laughs). So how did you come up with the talk shows that you are producing?

 

ESRA
I think it was about three years ago, in 2017, when I imagined an online space where we could come together and talk about all kinds of stuff. Stuff that I felt like wasn’t represented in mainstream German media. And I wanted to have these conversations with people that I felt were underrepresented in… those people are normally people who are already structurally, institutionally marginalized in Germany. So I remember the very first episode that we created and it was… I think.. I will always remember this moment, inviting five women with hijab to the show and kind of making a statement. Even though we were really, really small, I think it was very important for me to create that, create that space and let everybody know that we are important, just as anybody else in this country or in this world.

 

DAHYE
Yeah, I really… I was very impressed by this show. It was very emotional somehow for me to see these wonderful women in one shot. Like visualizing their existence and making it very important. And also for the community here to know that these women are here and they can also come to a talk show at once.

 

ESRA
Definitely.

 

DAHYE
Which was not represented before.

 

ESRA
Yeah, which I think is crazy and how… I don’t understand how, it is even possible… I don’t even know how German media has not understood how important it is to represent certain people. And it’s crazy to think that the only time… the first time – I think in German history – where so many women with hijab were represented visually – was a production that is self-made, no funding with a self-made kind of collective. And it’s kind of… it’s nice for us because we were able to create that. But it’s also kind of sad to see that that is the… that that is where Germany is at right now still. To this day.

 

DAHYE
Yeah. So talking about this, I would like to shift a little bit of our conversation to the Asian focus. As you know, Asians are represented as good migrants, but for me… like it sounds like a compliment, but for me what is behind this expression is quite fishy.

 

ESRA
Definitely.

 

DAHYE
It means, like, Asians are submissive, hardworking, diligent. But actually, to be honest, I’m like the laziest person in the world. I’m an Asian but I am not diligent. I’m not hardworking. And also there’s like this picture, other migrants should follow them in order to settle down well in the migrated country. So how do you think about this?

 

ESRA
So I definitely agree. There is this kind of narrative that, you know, Asians, South Asians are generally the smart ones, the intelligent ones, but most… most of all, the obedient ones. And I think that this narrative is used to kind of divide certain communities or minority communities in Germany, right? As in saying, oh, you, community A, you are so obedient and good, even though we’re not giving you all the access, but we’re giving you compliments, right. So ultimately, I’m looking at community B and I’m like community B, you have failed on all levels and you better, you know, look at community A. And then what happens sometimes – what can happen and did happen and does sometimes happen to this day – is that community B gets angry at community A and then community A is like: Yo, you should be more like us, and community B is like: Shut up, man. Like, you don’t know nothing, you don’t know nothing. Instead of focusing on why this narrative exists and kind of questioning the narrative, the communities… so this concept of… this colonial concept of divide and conquer takes grip and the community start not mobilizing and unifying, but kind of separating each other.

 

DAHYE
Yeah, I mean, like I always question who are you to set the model minorities? We are the ones who should identify ourselves and we are not homogeneous as an Asian community… Asia is so big, we are individuals, everyone’s super different, but like for them to label us as model minorities… And also it was sad for me to feel like I have to prove my existence all the time. I have to prove that I’m like a good immigrant to stay here, to be accepted by the society that I do not belong to. But actually, everyone should belong to a society they settle in.

 

ESRA
Definitely. So I have a thought and I… I wonder how you feel about this thought. So because you were not born and raised in Germany obviously you will… you have certain struggles that people… that non German citizens have. You will have to be… you have to be obedient to the system in order to stay. So you’re very dependent on the system, right? So now what if we talk about the… the people that have been raised in Germany and hold the German citizenship?
What I’ve been observing is – and please correct me if I’m wrong, it’s just a feeling – that especially in East Asian communities in Berlin that were… that were raised in Germany, oftentimes they’re… they’re less politicized than, for example, Muslim racialized communities are. And I sometimes… like that is also sometimes… that brings in conflict between these communities. Oftentimes I’m… I get angry, right. Because I am also in this position where I have a Korean mother – so I definitely have the Korean experience – but then I also have a Turkish father. And well, in Germany, I am definitely racialized as a Muslim woman. That is for sure. So oftentimes when I see, when I meet and when I talk to people within the East Asian communities, East Asian German communities, born and raised here or just raised in Germany, I often feel like there is a lack of understanding and solidarity for other communities and sometimes that makes me angry. But I do understand also that that is part of that narrative: Oh, you’re a good immigrant, you know, and you… you are obedient. So we’re not going to get on your nerves too much, right. But I think what I would love to happen is for more East Asian communities to stand up. Understand that we are all in the same boat.

 

DAHYE
Yeah, I totally agree. I can’t say so much representing the East Asian community because I’ve been living here only like two years and a half. But still, I do find it’s very important for us to have solidarity to each other, to each community. But I do feel sometimes very isolated when I’m in other communities because they find Asians don’t face racism, even though they’re like super critical about racism or human rights, they’re like: oh, you’re Asians, you’re having a comfortable life because no one’s bugging you here.

 

ESRA
Yeah.

 

DAHYE
Actually, we are bugged pretty much. And with the current situation, it became very apparent. But even before Asians were going through these racial… structural racism, right.

 

ESRA
Definitely.

 

DAHYE
But still, I think you’re also right from the other point of view, like other communities’ point of view, they find East Asian communities are kind of not so critical about what they are going through. But also from the East Asian view, I find, yeah, we also have these kind of difficulties. But other communities do not fully understand what’s going on.

 

ESRA
Right.

 

DAHYE
But like, what I really find important is: We are not the ones who should fight against each other…

 

ESRA
Definitely.

 

DAHYE
…and like, criticize: Yeah, I have more hardship than you. You have like less hardship than me… I mean, it doesn’t really matter, right. We are all going through this structural racism and that’s happening to every single person, every single body from any community that are non-white, right?

 

ESRA
That’s right.

 

DAHYE
So we have to build a block together, show solidarity in order to change this world, to be a better place – that our next generation can have a better life, at least a little bit.

 

ESRA
True. But I do think – I agree with you, definitely! – but I do think there’s a difference. So one is… ok, one thought that I’m having is – I don’t want to generalize – I think before I’ve been…. it’s a very general observation that I’ve been doing and I don’t think that’s very fair to also all the activists in Berlin and in Germany, the Asian – East Asian and South Asian activists that have been working so hard to kind of raise awareness and politicize their surroundings. So shout out to Vicky and Thao, all the people who have been doing the work for years. And at the same time, yes, you’re right that we are all in this together, but I do think we need understanding of each other. I do think that we need to understand what it means being targeted as or racialized as East Asian. I think it’s important that I also know what it means, being a dark skinned Asian. I think it… just the experience is just so different and I need to know so in order for me to be in proper solidarity. And I also need my… all the people, my surroundings to understand what it means wearing a hijab, what it means being racialized as a Muslim being or racialized as Kanak, right. So I think it’s very, um, yes, we need to stand together but also… and not let this divide happen, at the same time have understanding for the different experiences that we make.

 

DAHYE
Yeah. I mean, I can’t agree more. And I do think, like, everyone has their different experiences, but we have to share with each other what kind of experience we have. But sometimes I find… also I sometimes do it this way: We become like selective. We are more focused on the experiences we have – like not we I’m sorry – like what these individuals, each of them have. So they start to focus on that. And when they start to focus on it, they go deep inside and then it’s really hard to understand others’ experiences. I’m talking with my experience. When I’m like focused on my hardships, my difficulties, I can’t really look on other sides. But I do think this is very important for us to have a platform to share our narratives so we can make a broader platform that’s like more united because we shouldn’t be divided, right. Like we are all we should be all together. And that’s why we invited you, because we wanted to show through this radio episode that we are all having this problem and we are all together. And that leads to the good migrant image. I’m… I’m having this question, OK, if there’s a good minority or like model minority, then who is the bad immigrant? Who is the good immigrant? This image is posing on everyone – like we’re all influenced by this image. So that’s what’s dividing people, right? Like, as you said, like accusing Muslim communities, like, oh, yeah, if you want to be a good immigrant: You have to, like, follow us. You have to be blah, blah, blah. But actually, the migrant people did not really make this image.

 

ESRA
Definitely.

 

DAHYE
It’s by the Colonial conquer, right.

 

ESRA
For sure.

 

DAHYE
I wanted to just ask you – how it was to you? Like you also said, you had two steps being viewed as a foreigner and also like being defined as a good and bad immigrant. So how was it to you? Was it difficult for you to overcome it or did you just, like, not care about it?

 

ESRA
So I think when I was younger, I don’t think… I didn’t think it was an option to overcome it. I felt that… I thought that was just the way it was meant to be. That’s just the way how it works. And it was obvious to me that because I have Turkish heritage that I will not ever be able to get into that function as a pure, so say, Asian category. Which is also interesting, because even though I identify myself as the person that I am and I feel very much like I’m… I have a lot of experiences like we all do, right, that are influenced by our parents or the surroundings, I’m… I have… I feel like growing up, people oftentimes didn’t feel comfortable accepting that I had something Turkish and Korean in me, they would rather be like: Yeah, yeah, that is Turkish – you Turkish, girl – you are Muslim because obviously that gene is just really strong and dominant. It’s just… that’s just the way it is. And, you know, the Korean gene that is very submissive, can’t hold, you know, cannot win against the dominant Turkish… Turkish genes. So you are completely Turkish, right. Which I thought was oftentimes very… it oftentimes stripped me of my Korean identity. Which I didn’t like, which I didn’t understand. I think after a while… when I understood why… why this was happening, I kind of started not liking this. But when I was younger, I didn’t understand, I didn’t understand why people were so eager to see me as a Turkish descendant, rather as Korean-Turkish. Right.
So that was the beginning. And I just accepted the way it was. The categorizations. But then growing up, I think, I started university and I started politicizing myself. I think I was compared to the people in my surroundings, I was rather someone who politicized herself rather late. And I understood: Oh, I understood the narratives. I understand this. I understood the social norms and… That is also when I actively decided to call myself a German out of political reasons. Not because I identified as a German, because out of political reasons. And to this day… I think we all will notice that it’s still very, very common that German-ness is often used as whiteness. So people will be like: Oh, you know, I’m German. In front of me and I’m like, so what if you are German and… but you’re not saying the white. What? What does it make… What am I then? We might have been born in the same hospital, but yet still there’s something in you that feels so natural to not call me a German, right. I do have to say that through… interestingly that… because I started using being German as a political method, I did start feeling that way too. I think that was in my mid 20s. But I would have to say that is something that is so irrelevant to me, because being German… I do understand that I do have a lot of privilege being German, right. It does make a difference living in the Global North and having all of these experiences, all of these privileges that come with a German citizenship. But, in a German context, me being German is…. [slaps her hands].

 

DAHYE
Yeah.

 

ESRA
I notice it’s not enough to just have that conversation because it’s something… there is a much bigger problem behind that, you know, the identifying as German or non German. So, yes.

 

DAHYE
Yeah. Thank you for sharing your experience. I can feel… these people, when they see a BPoC and these people say they’re like a German, then people can’t really accept it because it doesn’t fit to their box. Just one story: I have a friend. We went to the doctor together and he’s a German. He grew up… He’s born and raised in Germany. He has a grandmother and a German father. And then the doctor was saying: Oh, you’re German is so good. Where did you learn it? And then he was like: I’m a German. But she was like: So where did you learn it. It’s really good. I think it’s not only his story, everyone would have experienced this before. So it’s so ridiculous for me. What is so special for a German to speak German fluently, right. It’s their mother tongue, but they just can’t accept it.

 

ESRA
I swear. I remember university, man. I mean, you could be like, okay, maybe teachers don’t know. But I’m at university! It was professors who were like, “your German is just very good. Very good. Yes. Yes. I think I can work with you.” And I am mind you, because I am dependent on the professor, I’m just like not saying anything but in my head I’m like: Girl, where am I here? I don’t want to go home. What is this place?

 

DAHYE
No, I wanted to like… make this story open, so people… listeners, who’s listening to the radio, don’t ever ask someone if their German… where they learned their German when they say they are a German person. Right? Even though they are BPoC, they’re German, right. You don’t have to be white.

 

ESRA
And also like… think about the moments when you use the word German.

 

DAHYE
Yeah.

 

ESRA
Do you refer to yourself as a German? Who else do you refer to as German? And who do you not refer to as German? I think that also is very important. And also… I mean, that’s very… I think that is like basic, basic, basic, basic common knowledge. Not asking why you speak German so well, not asking where you’re from, not asking what languages to speak, so you can understand… maybe find out where this person might be from. Just chill! Just chill and just start a conversation with that person, get to know the PERSON.

 

DAHYE
Right.

 

ESRA
Not the race of the person, get to know the person. And when you feel comfortable and when that person feels comfortable, it will naturally happen, right.

 

DAHYE
It’s so common knowledge, but it’s not so common, right. It’s sad. It’s sad to know this. And yeah thank you so much! And then like, it’s really… it would have been hard that you have this good immigrant and bad immigrant image, both like colliding in yourself, not by yourself, but by other people projecting on you. But how did you feel during the Corona time? Like Asians are model minorities, but they were so easily targeted with the virus during the COVID situation. How… how did you see this?

 

ESRA
To me, it was like I told you! It’s only… it’s a lie: This whole model minority thing is a lie. Once something happens, it’s so easy to shoot at or to target Asians, East Asians, Southeast Asians, it doesn’t… It just doesn’t make a difference. So this whole narrative of good communities or bad communities – it’s bullcrap. It’s nothing that is useful. It’s not useful to the communities who are marginalized. So I think, there’s no point in buying into a narrative that says these people are good and the other ones are not. Because that kind of categorization is… it dehumanizes people and rejects them all kinds of access to resources that white Germans have on a daily basis. So I think… kind of questioning these narratives is crucial in 2020. We haven’t done it to 2019, not 2010, we haven’t done in 1990, but now is the time. It’s never too late. Let’s now question these narratives.

 

DAHYE
Right. I totally agree. I mean, it was painful for me during the Corona time, of course, but I was like, come on, this is a fallacy. There’s no such thing as a model minority. If they really see Asians as a model migrant, then they should learn how successful these Asian countries reacted to the coronavirus situation and apply it to their own country. But they don’t see them as a role model. They’re just planting the role model image – the model minority image – into the migrant society for them to function the whole society better. So it’s more instrumentalized that made me very angry, very sad about how this whole system is working. It’s not new, of course, but we are just tired of knowing it, facing it every moment. And this was… this became so apparent that this is a lie.

 

ESRA
Yeah. Pretty much.

 

DAHYE
We define ourselves, not you. Yeah, that was great. So to make another question: What motivates you to push forward your action and your work these days?

 

ESRA
That’s a good question, because I sometimes wonder why I do the things that I’m doing. (laughs) It’s so much work. It’s a lot of… it’s not just time consuming, but it’s energy consuming and understanding that… just using… investing so much time into something where you get back so little. Because I’m investing into a society, right. I’m investing into a better future. But in return… what I’m getting back.. it doesn’t match what I’m giving, right. So it does take me a lot of… I need certain things in my life to… to remind me why I do these things in the first place. And… You know, I’m not… I don’t even know at this point in my life! I would love to be like, oh, you know, it’s so important to keep on going, blah, blah. But at this point in my life right now, I am sick and tired. I am sick and tired! I don’t even know why I’m… why I’m doing all of this work. And that is partly also the reason why I think about or plan to go more into entertainment instead of doing socio political content because at the end of the day, once I put out stuff, there is… there is massive feedback that is good, but also terrible. And I mean, feedback is important. But sometimes what do you… what did you… what do you do with toxic feedback? Right. And I’m the only one to shoulder that toxic feedback. So I’m kind of wondering… I want to keep going because I know what’s important, because I know I will find my way and I will find a… a solution to the situation that I’m in right now. But my goal is to make… make Germany understand that it’s crucial to represent all people, all peoples. And it’s important that… To know that we have a responsibility towards the weakest in the system, the most vulnerable in the system, and that is our responsibility. It’s not a choice. It’s not an option. It’s a responsibility. And I’m also taking… I’m also holding myself accountable, because even though I do know that I experience certain kinds of marginalization in Germany, structurally and institutionally, individually too obviously, I also know that on different levels I am privileged and I have to understand that I need to use these privileges and my responsibilities in order to do good.

 

DAHYE
Thank you for being honest. I think it’s so natural: You can be sick and tired because it’s not easy, right. But I have to tell you, you’re empowering so many people with your own existence and how you’re like projecting yourself, being so courageous to go in front of the camera and telling people, I exist here, we exist here, you exist here. We’re all valuable people. No matter where you come from, no matter what kind of background you have, you’re just… you are an important person and your narrative is valuable and worth to be heard. So I think it’s really important what you’re doing.

 

ESRA
Thank you.

 

DAHYE
And I’m very thankful for you to produce so great programs and giving so much inspiration to people and empowerment to people. I think you’re a wonderful woman! I’m so happy about it. And I’m very proud of you, that you’re my friend. (laughs) Yeah, so at the end, maybe I would like to say people listening, they should keep an eye on the next Karakaya Talks. With the s in the end.

 

ESRA
Yes.

 

DAHYE
And follow the channel. Subscribe the channel and give lovely comments to Esra.

 

ESRA
Yes.

 

DAHYE
So she can push forward. I do think now is the time for you to sort out your soil, make it rest and then seed your plants again and then they will grow again. Give fruits to people as you have done till now.

 

ESRA
That’s beautifully said.

 

DAHYE
I’m so thankful for you sharing your experience and your ideas today. It’s great.

 

ESRA
Thank you so much for having me.

 

HEAWON
Thank you very much, women. You are listening to IWS RADIO – The Migrant Women Experience and today’s show is called : Racism against Asians – the good immigrant image and COVID-19. After the break, we will hear from Ngoc, who is currently in the United States, speaking in conversation with Thao, a writer and community organizer, on her collective DAMN* (Deutsche Asiat*innen, Make Noise!).

 

DAHYE
We will now listen to a song from a film, “Magic Zipper”. The director, Suna Lim, was inspired by the story of her friend who grew up in Brazil as a Black person. This rap comes at the end of the film. Tim, the main character, expresses through the rap that he does not need the magic zipper anymore while the magic zipper triggers that he is searching for it.

 

[SONG: MAGIC ZIPPER]

Composed by Yoonji Kim
Lyrics written by Juni Lee, Suna Lim

Zipper
Hey hey Tim!
wer ist die neben dir. deine neue Freundin aus Korea?
die braust du nicht. Du weißt. Du brauchst mich.
Also hör mich mal jetzt zu!!

Hey, hey Tim!
Who is that sitting next to you? Your new friend from Korea?
You don’t need her. You know, you need me.
So listen up now!

Zipper
Ich weiß du suchst immer nach mir, immer nach mir immer nach mir und
Ich weiß sogar, dass du Lolli’s rauchst, Lolli’s rauchst, Lolli’s rauchst und
Deine Badeente sucht mich auch, sucht mich auch, sucht mich auch.
Denn ich bin dein Magic Zipper!

I know you are searching for me, searching for me, searching for me and
I know also that you’re smoking Lollipop’s, you’re smoking Lollipop’s, you’re smoking
Lollipop’s and
Your rubber duck is also searching for me, searching for me, searching for me
Because I’m your Magic Zipper!

Tim
Hi ich bin Tim vielleicht kennst du mich und Uwe,
er ist mein bester Freund der von vielen Zügen träumt.
Sue mit ihrer Blumentasse kam aus Korea
wie ein Genie aus einer Lampe wir wussten nicht wo her.
2NE1 sagt “Bag Su Cheo Nado ddaro Chumul Cheo (Übersetzung 2ne1 sagt Clan your
hands und ich tanze auch dazu)
Uwe hört gern “Kung Jja Jja Kung Jjak” und klatscht dabei Jjak Jjak Jjak!

Hi I’m Tim, maybe you know me and Uwe,
he is my best friend who dreams of many trains.
Sue with her flower cup came from Korea
like a Genie out of a Lamp we didn’t know from where.
2NE1 says “Bag Su Cheo Nado Ddara Chumuel Cheo”
Uwe listens to Kung Jja Jja Kung Jjak and claps to it Jjak Jjak Jjak!

Tim
Zipper was willst du denn Mich finden kann ich auch
Du gehörst geschlossen Magic- bin ich doch selbst
Zipper was willst du denn Mich finden kann ich auch
Du gehörst geschlossen Magic- Super wie Uwe yeah!

Zipper what do you want, I can search me myself.
You have to be zipped closed I am Magic myself.
Zipper what do you want, I can search me myself.
You have to be zipped closed Magic awesome like Uwe is, yeah.

Tim
Ich weiß nichts über Brasilien
aber alles über Brarups Zuglinien
Lolli’s rauch ich heute auch
ob Erdbeere, Zitrone, sag mir wenn du eine brauchst
Magic Zipper du willst mich verändern
steck mich nicht in eine Box mit viel zu hohen Rändern
Lass mich so bleiben wie ich bin,
mir gefällt es so, MFG Dein TIm

I don’t know anything about Brazil
but everything about Brarups Train lines
I smoke Lollipop’s today too, Strawberry, Lemon let me know if you want one too.
Magic Zipper you want to transform me
don’t put me in a box with high walls around me
Let me be myself as I am
I like it how it is, Best regards your Tim

Tim und Zipper
Ich weiß du suchst immer nach mir, immer nach mir immer nach mir und

Ich weiß sogar, dass du Lolli’s rauchst, Lolli’s rauchst, Lolli’s rauchst und
Deine Badeente sucht mich auch, sucht mich auch, sucht mich auch.
Deine Badeente sucht mich auch, sucht mich auch, sucht mich auch.

Zipper was willst du denn Mich finden kann ich auch
Du gehörst geschlossen Magic- bin ich doch selbst
Zipper was willst du denn Mich finden kann ich auch
Du gehörst geschlossen Magic- Super wie Uwe yeah!
Du gehörst geschlossen Magic- bin ich doch selbst
Zipper was willst du denn Mich finden kann ich auch
Du gehörst geschlossen Magic- Super wie Uwe yeah!

Aha! hey oma! was machst du hier?
kommt der Zug überhaupt mal an?
Ah.. doch ich hab da was gehört..

Aha, hey grandma! What do you do here?
Is a train even coming?
Ah.. I think I heard something..

————————————————–

 

NGOC
Wow I love the rap thanks for sharing it! By the way, hi everyone I’m Ngoc, a member of International Women* Space, and I am currently in the USA. There is a whole lot happening right now in the US, I think especially within the Asian American community I feel like there’s a reckoning taking place around what it means to be racialized Asian and coming to terms with the role that we play in racism and white supremacy. I had a really great conversation with Thao, a writer and organizer based in Berlin about all of this and I’m really excited to share it with you so let’s listen to the conversation shall we?
Thao can you introduce yourself and then also the collective DAMN* that you created?

 

THAO
Yeah, sure. First of all thank you for reaching out to me and inviting me to talk on the International Women* Space podcast. My name is Thao and I’m a writer and community organizer based in Berlin and I initiated DAMN* which means Deutsche Asiat*innen [German Asians] Make Noise in 2017 and it’s a political platform and activist collective that aims to connect and mobilize the Asian diaspora in Germany. Maybe to introduce DAMN*, I would perhaps start also how I… how I started my activism. My first contact with activism was actually an internship at a women’s shelter about six or seven years ago and due to my own experiences with sexual and domestic violence I realized from very early on that the system does not support everyone equally and usually protects the perpetrator and oppressor so I was very motivated to learn more about how women can seek help and protect themselves. I think this informed the community work I do with them quite a lot because it’s much about self-education, empowerment, and self-organization as self-protection.

 

NGOC
Thank you that was really powerful and I’m just excited to hear more about how DAMN* and you went about creating this safe and empowering space for people of the Asian diaspora during this pandemic.

 

THAO
The pandemic started, I think, two weeks after Hanau, right, the terror attack in Hanau. After Hanau specifically, we felt the urge to finally organize ourselves better and establish working groups and actually the first meeting was set on, I don’t know beginning of March, but then everything started to close down and we didn’t know whether we should meet up or not. Then we decided not to meet up offline so we postponed and during the pandemic and the lockdown we decided to just do the meetings online. This was really great actually because people who don’t live in Berlin could also participate in these meetings and this was really powerful because there were also people of East Asian descent who even for the first time experienced racism due to Corona and were not politicized at all but just needed some kind of space where they could talk about it or became interested in becoming more political or active in such community… groups.

So this meeting was a… became a space of people with many different backgrounds and at this event we started to establish working groups and distributed work. For me, it was so much more empowering, like the fact to empower people to do something instead of being a person who talks about anti-Asian racism only, you know, because DAMN* has never been something that tried to represent a group or represent a problem or be the voice of the Asian diaspora. It was more of a space where people can come together and empower each other and then feel empowered to also do something, it was not only about being seen and heard but actually take actions.

 

NGOC
So now I kind of want to talk about the fact that not only were we seeing racism against Asian people of course during Corona. There were also reports of racism against Black people in Asian countries. DAMN* recently organized a lot of events that were focused as well on taking action to build Black-Asian solidarity and to create space for reflection around what it means for us to be in solidarity. So how were you seeing anti-Blackness within Asian communities and what was the purpose that you saw in creating these events to go about addressing this anti-Blackness?

 

THAO
This is what I observed in the DAMN* group as well when we discussed it, that sometimes people would say that we could also discuss one racism and it’s either we talk about anti-Asian racism or we talk about anti-Black racism. And there’s often that understanding, ok, that if we only talk about anti-Blackness we kind of ignore our needs as well because I also encounter racism and why does nobody talk about anti-Asian racism and what about pandemic racism and pandemic racism is not only anti-Asian racism right? It’s something that I guess sparked interest a lot in the media, there was a lot of media or relatively quite a few coverage of anti-Asian racism here in Germany and in other European countries. We just have to make it clear that these issues have been side by side, is not either or and this mindset is also quite colonial because you are kind of forced to just concentrate on one, I mean this is also how the media functions too. They cover this topic and then this is what we’re supposed to concentrate on now and then they cover this and then this and then this, but this is not how this should work.
What I also wanted to say was that we definitely need to talk about colorism in our Asian communities. It’s just something very elementary actually. For example, here in Berlin there are a few Asian collectives but usually the emphasis is often on East Asians or Southeast Asians so in order to talk about anti-Blackness in our Asian communities we also have to debunk our own anti-Blackness, of course, and also how we work, it’s not only about talking about these topics and not taking action, we can have thousands of workshops about “let’s talk about colorism”, right? Then even invite someone who is from South Asia, for example, and then have them talk about colorism and then it’s not enough and I have observed that actually, that within our Asian communities we tokenize as well and that’s really problematic so we need to work on that and many other things.

 

NGOC
What do you envision for Black-Asian solidarity and how do we work towards it in this moment?

 

THAO
I think DAMN* has always tried to stay practical because… I used to be active in white leftist groups and there was generally a lot of theory but no action and a lot about big concepts but no specifics. So we try, within DAMN* we try to focus on specifics so if we focus on building Black-Asian solidarities it also means to educate our communities about the specifics of anti-Blackness so about oppressive systems, about capitalism and make them aware of what individuals can do. Capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy, homophobia, all of this that we need to break down and start to understand what it actually means, because if you don’t know what it means and then try to be an ally, it’s just performance because you don’t know your own position in this society and your privilege. We always talk about privileges but we often don’t talk about what we can do with them and how we can help each other also with our own resources. Definitely look into the concept of model minority because I feel this is a huge topic that kind of hinders us to show solidarity, especially because there’s this image of Asian people profiting off of white supremacy and Asians, East Asians, Vietnamese people specifically being the model minority, Migrations- [migration] wonder, whatever, so it is definitely important to speak about model minority in connection to other concepts, for example, capitalism and how this connects. It’s very important to look within our own communities first before we claim to be allies or whatever. To be an ally for me is more about becoming aware of all these structures and realizing, yes, we’re fighting the same fights and we’re here to support each other.

 

NGOC
Thank you for sharing all of that with us.

 

[IWS RADIO JINGLE]

 

DAHYE
Thank you Thao for your great inputs and your great work. I hope many listeners support DAMN*’s important actions!
Now we will listen to a song from a project by DJ Jee, Tsukasa Yajima and Suna Lim called “my little peace statue”. The peace statue is made to remember the history of women drafted as sexual slavery by the Japanese Military during the second world war, also known as “comfort women”, so it will never happen again to the next generation. The statues are installed in many places, but there are also little ones that we can buy and carry around, put it on our desks. The team made a film and photographed the little peace statues traveling around Berlin and being loved by many people.

AG Trostfrauen from Korea Verband organizes many actions, educational programs, and research on the “comfort women” issue. They are currently having a permanent exhibition called “comfort women” and our joint fight against sexual violence in their office in Moabit. This exhibition links structural sexual violence in diverse regions and gives space for visitors to participate in further action. Please visit their website for more information and send an email to mail@koreaverband.de to join their work or visit the exhibition.

So coming back to the my little peace statue project, this song contains names of the victims of the “comfort women” system all over the world with different voices. We would like to #SayTheirNames, who were victims of sexual violence, structural racism, and police violence.

 

[SONG: MY LITTLE PEACE STATUE ]

 

HEAWON
Hello again, we are back. We had a great talk today! Dahye, how can listeners learn more if they are interested in getting involved?

 

DAHYE
There is #Mygration Festival Deutschland, which is hosting many events to share the narratives of people with migrant backgrounds in their own way of expressions. International Women* Space is a cooperation partner of this festival. Due to the current situation, the Festival cannot be hosted in person, so we will have diverse online programs throughout this year. Un.Thai.tled is also a great collective of creatives in Berlin. They organise events to showcase talents from Thailand and in Germany to free themselves from easy labels and stereotypes, to bring the narrative back to their hands.

 

HEAWON
All right. We are now at the end of our show. Thank you, Esra Nayeon Karakaya, Jiye Seong-Yu, and Thao for sharing your knowledge and perspectives with us and our audience.

 

DAHYE
Thank you! Woo! Yeah!

 

DAHYE
Thank you very much everyone and we are looking forward to interacting more with you through IWS RADIO. Please spread this podcast to your friends, family, and comrades!

 

[IWS RADIO OUTRO]

Folgt in Kürze!