Outrage is something I am not comfortable with - having a stiff upper lip when there is something slightly controversial about my race is my default option. It’s almost a British value to stoically just get on with it. In an era of shouty politics - moaning and reinforcing political correctness churns my stomach too. However on this occasion, just letting it go is a disservice to the community or at the very least, to myself. If everyone can rant at an injustice, why can’t I?
Remember the national news when H&M had a boy wear that controversial t-hoody? Absolutely disgraceful, the national media rightly said. It resulted in H&M apologising and withdrawing the stock. Look at the contrast, when Atosa, one of the largest costume sellers on Amazon, was allowed to market their products with a blatantly offensive photo against the Chinese community. What media attention did that get? Nothing.
While the outfit itself was fine, having a kid make a small eyes gesture is not cool. It reminded me of a story six years ago when I was an assistant teacher at a school in County Durham. A new student made the same eye gesture to me on a school trip. I was uncomfortable but didn’t react to avoid embarrassing myself in front of senior colleagues, but unfortunately for him, another teacher saw the gesture and he got immediately expelled (despite my protests that that was too harsh). Apparently, it’s a school policy. So if the education system finds that gesture wrong and if the British Chinese community finds it wrong, then it should be acted on. Amazon and Atosa messed up here and they should say sorry, consistent with all the other apologies that various retailers publish to other groups far beyond race, like gender and LGBT when they do something stupid.
Yet when a friend called Amazon to signal their concern, they didn’t seem to understand why it was offensive.
The notion of speaking up for the British Chinese, let’s face it, is still lagging behind other minority groups. For reasons much too complicated for this blog (history, establishment inertia, apathy, poor organisation, disparate groups, profession etc.) we haven’t quite made it into mainstream media attention, aside from the brave BBC show Chinese Burn. The article I wrote about the British Chinese a year ago, is still on the first page of Google if you search for ‘British Chinese’. It’s not a particularly special article so the fact that after one whole year, not one worthy British Chinese news story has reached high on Google search is depressing.
However, there is hope. Enough of us complained to Amazon and now the offensive page has been taken down - a positive start. We made some more noise and we were not afraid to be outraged.
We can never forget, the power lies with the people who take action and stand up for themselves.