JOINT STATEMENT IN RESPONSE TO THE SEWELL REPORT: ETHNIC DISPARITIES AND INEQUALITY IN THE UK AMONG ESEA COMMUNITIES

This is a joint response by the authors and supporters of the published Response to the Call for Evidence on Ethnic Disparities and Inequality in the UK (published January 2021). This follows the publication of the Report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities on 31 March 2021.

The report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities chaired by Tony Sewell has found that there is no evidence of institutional racism in the UK and that Britain is a “beacon” for race relations worldwide. 

As a group of East and Southeast Asian (ESEA) community leaders, activists, academics, and migrants in the UK, we know this not to be the case. 

In January 2021, we submitted evidence of racial and ethnic disparities and inequalities as experienced by ESEA communities in the UK to the Commission, which we note has no members of ESEA heritage. Our submission demonstrated that there is a severe lack of representation of ESEA people in positions of power in the private sector, media, politics, and other decision making positions — amounting to about 0.27%. This is far below the proportion of ESEA people in this country, which is around 1%. However, this is itself a severe under-representation because of deficiencies in reporting ethnic data in the UK. We also found that Filipinos make up to 1 in 4 Covid-19 deaths amongst NHS staff. Despite this and despite being the third largest nationality working for the NHS, only 9 Filipinos have managerial posts with any ability to influence strategy and policy in the NHS.

From the above evidence to the racist Hostile Environment policy’s inhumane treatment of migrants, unlawful new plans for the immigration system, and the racist views espoused by our Prime Minister and other public leaders, we are surrounded by overwhelming everyday evidence that racism is embedded throughout and upheld through British policies and institutions.

Acts of racism, discrimination, and hate crimes are the outcomes of racist beliefs and institutions in mainstream British society. The report argues that “geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion have more significant impact on life chances than the existence of racism”, implying racism has no link to any of these factors and that it can be neatly separated apart from these systems and institutions. This is tantamount to saying racism is not the Government’s business. Research conducted in 2020 by the Runnymede Trust with the universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow demonstrates the pervasiveness and multifaceted nature of structural racism. In 2017, the Scottish Government produced a report on racial inequalities in the country that clearly identified the effects of institutionalised racism through the awarding gap between white-identifying individuals and ethnic minorities in the education system and employment. In 2016, the Equality and Human Rights Commission released a report providing comprehensive data and statistics of the same gaps throughout the UK. The EHRC further confirmed that the Home Office broke equalities law with the introduction of the Hostile Environment policy, which exposes the structural racism of the institutions that govern us. The intersections of class, race, and gender, at the very least, exacerbate the consequences of systemic forms of racism for specific demographics in the UK and further marginalises them. This pipeline that disenfranchises particular groups here is evident of the racist underpinnings of the UK that continue to privilege whiteness. 

Organisational racism can be seen in action in how British statutory agencies, such as the Metropolitan Police, continue to use terms such as ‘Oriental’ to identify and categorise anyone assumed to be of East and/or Southeast Asian heritage. The deployment of such derogatory terms in official policies and data collection highlights the continued colonial attitude towards ESEA people by British institutions. The 2021 Census too, fails to collect disaggregated data by ethnicity, using instead the umbrella category “Asian – Other” for non-Chinese ESEA people.

We also have serious concerns about the way in which data is presented and used in the report. In much of the data, there has been little to no attempt made to statistically isolate the effect of institutional racism, to separate it from other forms of discrimination, disadvantage, and other individual factors and hence it is not possible to draw sound conclusions based on the evidence presented. For example, the report (p. 55) cites evidence that “indicates that attainment is closely related to socio-economic status – once this is controlled for, all major ethnic groups perform better than White British pupils”. This data is used to dispel institutional racism, but actually cannot prove anything since the statistical study is so poorly designed. For one, it does not control for major individual differences in effort. In this specific case, ethnic minority groups who are cited as performing better than white pupils (after controlling for socioeconomic status) may be doing so because they spend more time studying or are studying more effectively than white pupils. If this were the case then this could point to institutional racism since non-white pupils need to work harder to prove themselves. This lack of statistical rigour damages the evidence presented in the report. A selective and superficial use of data is used to support a certain narrative, something which Tony Sewell made clear years before taking charge of the Commission. 

Furthermore, this report excludes the experiences and outcomes of ESEA people who are not Chinese. This over-representation of the Chinese ethnicity and its use as a proxy for ESEA reinforces the model minority myth of a monolithic high-achieving, successful community — erasing inequalities and issues within ESEA communities and pitting them against, for example, Black Caribbean and Gypsy, Roma, Traveller communities. Perhaps nowhere is this approach better encapsulated than in Recommendation 6, an inherently racist policy. Being stereotyped and further racialised is not the representation that minoritised communities are calling for.

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests over the summer of 2020, the Government’s recently proposed policing bill, and emerging conversations about Covid-fuelled racism against East and Southeast Asians, this report effectively silences and dismisses concerns and experiences of racialised people in the UK — washing the Government’s hands clean of any responsibility. This is a political act of neglect, which we firmly reject and condemn. 

Signed:

Anna Chan (Asian Leadership Collective)

Susan Cueva and Francesca Humi (Kanlungan Filipino Consortium)

Dr Daniel Fujiwara (London School of Economics and Political Science & Simetrica-Jacobs)

Kimi Jolly, Aerin Lai, Jacqueline Wallace (East and Southeast Asian Scotland – ESAS)

Professor Vivienne Lo (University College London)

Miles Ng, Hau-Yu Tam, Kim Richards, Daniel York Loh (End the Virus of Racism)

Mai-Anh Peterson (besea.n)

Dr Diana Yeh (City University)

Supporters:

Mariko Hayashi (Southeast and East Asian Centre – SEEAC)

Feiya Hu (Racism Unmasked Edinburgh)


CELEBRATE LUNAR NEW YEAR: INSPIRATION FOR THE ESEA COMMUNITY AND ALLIES.

Many Lunar New Year festivities have evolved from the traditions and the heritages they have come from. Read our snapshot and introduction into Lunar New Year as inspiration for you to find out more about this important holiday.

What is Lunar New Year?

Lunar New Year refers to Spring Festival, a national holiday which many East and South East Asian (ESEA) countries celebrate. You may have heard this being referred to as “Chinese New Year”, but many other countries outside of China celebrate this time of year with each country and culture having their own traditions.

When is Lunar New Year?

As you might have guessed, Lunar New Year doesn’t start on January 1st like our gregorian calendar year in Western countries. It follows the lunisolar calendar and can fall between January 21st and February 20th.

This year, it falls on the 12th February.

How can I celebrate Lunar New year?

Festivities and traditions vary, country to country, community to community, and even on an individual level! But there are some key themes:

Food

Food is always a big part of these festivities. Key themes on food items are to do with good luck, abundance, prosperity, and health! Be sure to try out all the different types of food items on offer, this is a great time to try something different and be able to share with others. Some food ideas to get you started:

  • Dumplings
  • Whole fish
  • Spring rolls
  • Niangao (Sticky pudding – Chinese)
  • Oranges
  • Noodles
  • banh chung (sticky rice parcels – Vietnamese)
  • Bitter melon
  • Eggs
  • Tikoy (glutinous rice dessert – Filipino)

Family and friends

Many families who celebrate Lunar New Year would have travelled back to their family homes and gathered to have a meal together. Due to the pandemic, this will not happen for many this year. Some ideas to celebrate Lunar New Year safely this year:

  • Set up a virtual call with your families & friends, and wish them a happy new year.
  • Dress up for the festivities, red is an auspicious colour for many ESEA cultures.
  • Support local ESEA communities during this time, search on IG, google, Etsy etc to support local small businesses near you.
  • Check out your local Chinatown and ESEA associations/community centres near you and see if they are taking part in any virtual sessions.

“I am an ally and want to celebrate and bring awareness to Lunar New Year, what should I consider if I set up Lunar New Year celebrations for my company?”

We’ve mentioned that many ESEA communities celebrate differently for Lunar New Year with varying levels of tradition and superstition. As allies, it is important to appreciate, but not appropriate other cultures when trying to bring positive awareness to festivities and heritages which may be different to our own.

Here are some key questions to ask yourself before you set up your own celebrations as part of your organisation, company, or group.

  • Are you working with your local established ESEA community, either in your company or outside of your company to host the event?
  • Are you supporting ESEA owned businesses for your catering, gifts/prizes, entertainment?
  • Have you done your own research on top of simply “asking” those in the ESEA community on how to celebrate?
  • Are you consistently giving back to the ESEA community in other ways outside of Lunar New Year or is this a one off?
  • Is there any element of your event which might have the potential to be perpetuating negative stereotypes, generalisations, or be insensitive towards the ESEA community?

Share your thoughts in the comments below or tag us on Instagram on how you are celebrating this year!


ASIAN LEADERSHIP COLLECTIVE STATEMENT | A JOINT RESPONSE TO THE CALL FOR EVIDENCE ON ETHNIC DISPARITIES AND INEQUALITY IN THE UK

A joint response from academics, politicians, professionals, and organisations representing the East and South East Asian (ESEA) communities in the UK.

This response aims to bring attention to the institutional and systemic inequalities facing ESEA people in the UK and is published with the consent of the individuals and organisations credited within. If the information contained within is used in any other publications or for any other purpose, full credit must be given. Download the report here.

The report highlights the disparities, inequalities and racism experienced by the ESEA population in the UK, which is one of the fastest growing minority groups, with the highest percentage of international students (ONS, 2011).

The report also makes several recommendations for government action to improve ESEA representation and tackle the sources of inequality and discrimination, as well as proposing the introduction of an ESEA History and Heritage month to celebrate and raise awareness of ESEA communities in the UK.

It provides evidence on inequalities and discrimination in the following areas:

  • Racial abuse and racial profiling
  • Data collection
  • Representation in the private sector
  • Representation in the public sector, including education, government and police force
  • Pay gaps
  • Educational performance and school bullying
  • Youth opportunities
  • Access to medical care

Asian Leadership Collective supports and stands with the East and South East Asian communities and their right to fair, equitable representation, and access to resources.

We stand with the individuals and organisations who are represented in this joint response: London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), University College London (UCL), City University of London, Simetrica-Jacobs, End the Virus of Racism, besea.n, ESA Scotland, Kanlungan, Southeast and East Asian Centre (SEEAC).

Asian Leadership Collective strives to increase and amplify leadership representation of East and South East Asian communities within companies and organisations across professional sectors in the UK. This includes those of mixed East and South East Asian (ESEA) heritage. We support and encourage allies in their journey for inclusivity and equality; providing a safe space for learning and engaging with the ESEA community. Asian Leadership Collective is a registered Community Interest Company and member of Social Enterprise UK, our focus is to provide resources and give back to community in the UK. Visit our website and social media for more information.

Press contact: Anna Chan

Email Address: annachan@asianleadership.co.uk


ASIAN LEADERSHIP COLLECTIVE STATEMENT ON HARMFUL NARRATIVES AND UNCONSCIOUS BIAS: DOMINO’S PIZZA – CONCRETE CLAIRE

Domino’s have been accused of perpetuating harmful narratives against the East and South East Asian community with using the line “Anything but Chinese” in their advert. The Advertising Standards Authority council’s decision “in the context of the ad it was unlikely to cause serious or wide spread offence”.

Domino’s pizza “the number one pizza company in the world and in every neighbourhood” in partnership with their agency VCCP released “Concrete Claire” as part of their “We got this” campaign in November 2020. Since then there has been discussion around the use of the line “Anything but Chinese” on social media and online news outlets.

The East and South East Asian (ESEA) community voiced their concerns over the damaging narrative and triggering nature of the standalone phrase.

“This line was completely unnecessary. East Asians & their businesses have been unfairly impacted bc of growing Covid-related racism; this only perpetuates the false narrative that chinese food is inherently dirty or discusting”
– @jiawongwrites

“To perpetuate and imply that we should avoid Chinese (and thereby ESEA businesses) given the current climate […] affected by Covid fuelled racism is IRRESPONSIBLE AND RACIST”
– @itsvivyau

Some have suggested that if other communities had been targeted, the public reaction would been different.

“Imagine if these actors had said “anything BUT Indian”. There’d be an uproar like no other.”
– @jinganyoung

Many wrote to The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the UK’s regulator of advertising to file a complaint. The council noted “that the phrase “Anything but Chinese” was used in a response to a question about what food the group wanted to order. […] while some viewers may find the phrase distasteful, in the context of the ad it was unlikely to cause serious or wide spread offence”.

Since the online discussions, Domino’s have issued an apology via news outlet Resonate.

The advert Concrete Claire is only the latest example of companies and organisations who have used harmful language and negative perceptions of the ESEA community. Read our statement on The Mahjong Line here. These incidents comes at a time where the ESEA community have been dealing with increased sinophobia and hate crime due to the pandemic.

Asian Leadership Collective are disappointed with the decision of the ASA council, the response lacks empathy or knowledge of the wider implications of the advert towards the ESEA community as mentioned in this statement. Whilst the jury is interested in “representing the perspectives of a wide cross section of society, including young people, families, charities and consumer groups.”, perhaps the ASA could consult with organisations who work within the communities who are being directly impacted.

This is inline with the initiative “UK Advertising Needs you Hub”, which addresses diversity and inclusion issues within the advertising industry, created by the Advertising Association, ISBA, and the IPA.

Whether intentionally or otherwise the advertising industry, like many others, has not naturally shaped itself to be highly diverse and inclusive. […] together with external organisations can begin to show a template for the changes you might want to make. […] Looking critically at our ways of working, processes, culture and actions to understand the points at which diversity is squeezed out of the system.”

-Jerry Daykin. Senior Media Director at GSK, Advertising Association’s Inclusion Action Group member and WFA Diversity Task Force board member

Asian Leadership Collective support and stand with the East and South East Asian communities across the globe on matters of harmful narratives and unconscious bias towards this community. We stand with End the Virus of Racism and BEATS in their statements.

Asian Leadership Collective strives to increase and amplify leadership representation of East and South East Asian communities within companies and organisations across professional sectors in the UK. This includes those of mixed East and South East Asian (ESEA) heritage. We support and encourage allies in their journey for inclusivity and equality; providing a safe space for learning and engaging with the ESEA community. Asian Leadership Collective is a registered Community Interest Company and member of Social Enterprise UK, our focus is to provide resources and give back to community in the UK. Visit our website and social media for more information.

Press contact: Anna Chan

Email Address: annachan@asianleadership.co.uk


ASIAN LEADERSHIP COLLECTIVE STATEMENT ON CULTURAL APPROPRIATION: THE MAHJONG LINE

The Majong Line accused of East and South East Asian cultural appropriation as their product line aims to “refresh” a traditional East Asian game. Online uproar saw the company disable all interaction on their Instagram page and removing content from their social media and website.

The Mahjong Line company launched in November 2020 with their product line of Mahjong sets. Since the new year, there has been a flurry of activity and discussion surrounding the Mahjong Line’s marketing, branding, and strategic approach to their “shared love for the game of American Mahjong, which carries a rich history here in the United States.”

Across social media, the East and South East Asian (ESEA) communities across the globe have voiced their concerns over cultural appropriation and erasure by the company stated by 3 women whom are not of ESEA heritage or ethnicity.

“Straight up disrespectful and profiting of a culture they are not even pretending to pay any homage to”
– @studioatao

“It is incredibly offensive, selfish, entitled and appalling that the traditional tiles weren’t enough for these women, so they took it upon themselves to decide that it needed to be changed to appeal to people like themselves”
– @alyssahowritings

Some of the ESEA community have offered to provide their consultation and guidance on how to navigate the situation

“It’s 2021 ladies. Keep up with the times […] If you’d like advice on how to respond publicly, reply to inquire about my consulting rates and availability. With growing pushback on social media, I implore you all respond publicly sooner rather than later”
– @beyonkz

Since the online activity from the ESEA community, The Mahjong Line have disabled all comments and tagging on their Instagram page of 3000+ follows. The company and companies associated to The Mahjong Line have issued their own statements. It is not clear what the next actions or steps are of the company at this point.

This incident comes at a time where the ESEA community have been dealing with increased sinophobia and hate crime due to the pandemic.

Asian Leadership Collective support and stand with the East and South East Asian communities across the globe on matters of damaging unconscious bias narratives and cultural appropriation.

Asian Leadership Collective strives to increase and amplify leadership representation of East and South East Asian communities within companies and organisations across professional sectors in the UK. This includes those of mixed East and South East Asian (ESEA) heritage. We support and encourage allies in their journey for inclusivity and equality; providing a safe space for learning and engaging with the ESEA community. Asian Leadership Collective is a registered Community Interest Company and member of Social Enterprise UK, our focus is to provide resources and give back to community in the UK. Visit our website and social media for more information.

Press contact: Anna Chan

Email Address: annachan@asianleadership.co.uk


Representation in Leadership – Why what you see matters.

One of the most talked about points you’ll often hear about today is the power of representation. Whether that be from what you read in the news, watch on TV, or stumble upon scrolling on your Instagram feed – it defines the approach in government and policies, the businesses we are able to buy from, to the companies we work in. It’s arguably one of the most important notions that defines our society, having a hand in how we view and treat each other – both positively and negatively. 

And this matters even more for those who are in senior or executive leadership positions.

So what does representation really mean? And why is it important for businesses and leadership?


Representation Matters

“If businesses are already lacking in racially diverse leader and diverse role models (which most are) it can be even more difficult for [underrepresented etheric minority] employees to progress in their careers”

CIPD, 2017. Report: Addressing the barriers to BAME employee career progression to the top

The above quote reinforces the idea that representation is essential to enable our communities to have a fair reflection of the society that we all exist in and contribute towards. Having the opinions, voices, and, physical appearance of the communities which embody the values we believe is paramount to personal and societal development. This is the idea of having a mix of opinions, experiences, and voices that exist in one space can both help to define and celebrate different identities but also adding to acceptance and progress as a whole. 

Representation shapes perceptions and is a powerful tool which can have positive and negative outcomes. This is why it is crucial to have diversity and a wide range of perspectives; ensuring that all stories are told from those who have experienced them.

East and South East Asian Leadership: we have a representation problem

Fair and representative East and South East Asian (ESEA) leadership representation in large UK businesses is virtually none existent. The lack of focused data and research on ESEA communities, the lumping together of minority groups into BAME categories all contributes in creating a skewed snapshot of how our society and businesses are made up. A most recent example is that Black and BAME Ethnic Groups are part of the diversity and inclusion initiatives for Standard Chartered Bank: with 12.7% BAME current senior leadership compared to the 1.3% of Black senior leadership, with 2025 targets of 20% and 5% respectively. The BAME category has a danger of misrepresenting and consolidating the diversity of the East and South East Asian community, and it’s need to be represented as a standalone group.

The true and definitive figures are difficult to obtain for the ESEA community, however industry reports can act as guidance and highlight where we can do better.

Although the FTSE 100 seems to fairing better on ethnic representation at Board level, the FSTE 250 and 350 have some work to do.

“150 [out of] 256 companies out of companies (59%) did not meet the target of having at least one director of colour on their Boards, with less ethnic diversity observed on the Boards of FTSE 250 companies.”

“FTSE 100 31 of 83 companies (37%) did not meet the target”
“FTSE 250 119 of 173 companies (69%) did not meet the target”

The Parker Review, 2020. Report: Ethnic Diversity Enriching Business Leadership. An update report from The Parker Review

So what do you do when you don’t “see” the representation you want to be? 

Representing yourself

You can step into that leadership role; at work, on social media, voting with your voice and opinion. You don’t need to already be in a leadership role to begin your journey in leading. Allies of the ESEA community and those who champion diversity and inclusion, you can engage with and encourage those in your circles to be part of the conversation. 

There is never a “right time” or “right moment” and you may be asking yourself “Am I ready for this?”. But it’s simple. Leadership is about taking action, with an open mindset. It’s about upholding the values you stand for and going on a journey with the ability to keep learning and adapting.


Asian Leadership Collective (ALC) is here to empower that leadership journey and increase the visibility of the next generation of ESEA leaders in the UK. No matter your industry, craft, or background, ALC champions authentic leadership and provides a space for collaboration, learning, and celebration of our communities achievements. 

Be part of the UK ESEA leadership movement.

Follow us on Instagram for the latest ALC activities and be the first the get the news on taking part in our community leadership conversations via our email newsletter!