“People with an Asian background are often shy and are afraid to speak up, but you are not alone in this,” said Jingli Gao, president of CSA-EUR, in his opening speech. The main reason for organising the seminar was the increased discrimination against Asian people due to coronavirus. “Racist comments and remarks hurt you from the inside, and you don’t know what to do,” Gao said.
Fight against discrimination
“This seminar was organised in only one week, which shows how important this issue is,” Gao said. He welcomed the people who are attending the seminar through Facebook livestream because many people wanted to be at the seminar but were not able to attend it. He mentioned that the seminar had two goals. “We want to raise awareness for discrimination and convince you that the fight against discrimination is not something that you have to do on your own.”
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, many incidents of discrimination have surfaced online. A report has been filed against the Dutch radio channel Radio 10 for playing a song about coronavirus with the line ‘Voorkomen is beter dan Chinezen’ (‘Prevention is better than the Chinese’).
'Don't see it as normal'
The first part of the seminar consisted of practical information from a communal police officer and Linda Li from the Rotterdam Police. They explained to students what they can expect from the police when discrimination incidents happen. Always file a report, is their main advice. “Please don’t go to the media only with your story but come to us and file a report. That’s the only way we can start an investigation,” the police officer said. Li adds an important note. “Don’t see discrimination as something that just happens all the time. If you find something discriminating, just report it. Please don’t see it as normal.” It’s unknown how many reports have been filed by people of Asian ethnicity, but according to Li it’s not that much. “Most people from the Chinese public are quite hesitant to report to the police. Therefore, we try to save the trust.”
Other people that were present at the seminar are Julia Kreuwel from the Diversity & Inclusion Office, and Confidential Counselor Marlies Vreeswijk who both spoke about how the university can help students who feel discriminated against. “Everyone should feel at home and be able to excel in our university,” Kreuwel says. She also pointed at the new initiative of the ’Living room’, which is a space on campus where students can come to talk, connect and share experiences.
Avoid the problem
Throughout the seminar, the audience could submit their anonymous questions through Menti or via Facebook chat. A lot of these questions were on practical matters, such as how you can report verbal discrimination on the university. Additionally, a question that was asked a couple of times was ‘If a group of people is provoking you, what would be the best thing to do? The answer was simple: “Avoid the problem, try to ignore it. If there is a possibility to film the incident you should do so. However, keep in mind that the most important thing is your safety.” A student wondered whether it is allowed to wear a mask in public, to which the police officer replied: “It is allowed, as long as we can identify you.”
Students attending the seminar were glad that more awareness was created surrounding discrimination, especially on what students can do when it happens. “Most people around me who experience discrimination complain about it on WeChat but don’t go to the police. It is good to create more awareness,” said a student from the audience. Other students nod in agreement. A student explained an incident that happened to her the previous week. “I was cycling through the city and a group of people cycling behind me made some racist remarks about me.” Unfortunately, she is not the only one experiencing such incidents. “My friends, who are fully Chinese, are not going outside at night anymore, especially in the city center,” said another student. “They are afraid that they might encounter groups of people that harass them.” Online comments were also shocking to the students. “The internet is a scary place nowadays; unbelievable how terrible people can be from behind a screen.”