How would you see yourself when everyone around you is different?
In the past, I have said that Black people don’t just come from one continent. We come from every continent. It is true and the historical record can bear witness, that black people are native to every part of the globe. In Asia, if you look carefully enough, you can find our people who have been living here for thousands of years.
With that said, being a black person who comes from Asia is a new identity that has yet to be navigated and charted. This brings us to the case of Etisey Chung. Because her father is Nigerian and her mother is Taiwanese, she is just that. Her identity, as much as possible, takes these two worlds and forges something wholly unique.
So how can you be a black person who comes from Asia? This is a question that many people are grappling with now. As black communities in Asia grow, this question will require a definite answer. As of now, most of us out here are expats. There is a different place in the world, besides Asia that we call home. We have some recourse to going back there.
But what about black people who call locations in Asia home? Asian societies are so homogenous and are notorious for never truly accepting outsiders. With this being the case, how does a black person who is from Asia feel about who they are in the context of their respective society? The above interview explores these ideas.
For a black person who was raised in an Asian society, for example Taiwan, would they ever feel connected to their own community? Etisey tells us no. Growing up, she felt disconnected from her own family. Although she speaks their local dialect of Chinese and these are her blood relatives, she still felt a sense of otherness.
Where did this feeling of being apart come from? Can we chalk it up to sheer racism? Is it more profound than that? Etisey is a remarkable character. She thinks and she listens and she adapts to her surroundings. She is truly an international person. She can communicate with people from anywhere.
This sort of mindset is vastly different. Etisey credits her mom, the way her mom raised her, and what her mom exposed her to for the way she thinks and the way she views people and the world. Her mom would have had to be a radical thinker to marry her father.
Many expats, especially black expats would argue that there is no racism is Asia. Things like police brutality, high crime and high unemployment are just sad memories in this part of the world. But for black people who were born in Asia, did they experience racism growing up?
Etisey gives an emphatic, yes! In my understanding, this comes from seeing people who could have made the effort to understand her but didn’t because they didn’t have to. She looks different and that is what makes her different. Speaking the language and knowing the culture because it’s her culture are not bonuses. Maybe it is in the best interest of Taiwanese people, not to understand.
Because more black people are coming to be born in Asia, Asian societies only stand to benefit. It’s going to force Asia to confront the colorism that has crippled many of these societies.
So what did Etisey learn and what can she teach to young black women who will be here in the future? Ultimately, the onus is not on you to please other people. Before anything else, you have to please yourself.