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Emma Ng wants to re-tell the story of anti-Asian racism in New Zealand. Not just because so few understand the long history of discrimination and scapegoating they have faced here, but because, as she writes "as long as we are allowed to forget, we will find ourselves returning to fight the the same battles".
She doesn't want it remembered as Chinese history, but New Zealand history. Ng examines what it means to be a second-generation Chinese New Zealander today, and the hurt that stems from the wide belief that Kiwi and Asian identities are mutually exclusive.
Chinese people first came to this country in the gold rushes of the s, and have since been singled out by a raft of anti-Chinese measures. Even New Zealand-born Chinese could not get the pension, vote or hold local body office. New Zealand may not be overtly legislating against Chinese New Zealanders and new immigrants to this day, but the residual disadvantages of having done so are clear.
Ng points to State Services Commission figures from showing only 2. Asian New Zealanders are underrepresented in Parliament, and their voter turnout is lowest of any group in the country except for youths - stats likely not unrelated to Chinese New Zealanders being denied the right to vote between and Ng finds it difficult to "find the language to articulate the subtleties" of how the racism in her life is expressed, and the harm it causes. She recounts several anecdotes from her own life that show how benign and casual racist attitudes can seem.
In one, she describes a high school party where she was asked constantly if she had met the only Asian guy there. In another situation, the judge of a fashion competition described her sister's garments as "very Asian" - perhaps intended as a compliment but not without the "chill of exclusion" such subtleties create.