Anna in the Guardian.
TUESDAY 16 JULY 2012
People of colour like me have been painted out of working-class history
It’s shocking how even voices on the left mythologise the history of Britain’s labour movement as an all-white affair
Black people have lived in Britain at least from Roman times, and some historians claim that north Africans were here as much as 3,000 years ago. We know that Indian people were here as far back as Shakespeare’s time. The first Chinese visitor we know of was the Jesuit priest Shen Foutsong, who communicated in Latin when he worked at Oxford’s Bodleian Library in the 17th century. His portrait still hangs in the Queen’s collection. People of colour have been part of the fabric of British society for centuries, but you won’t find many in official histories – either from the right (look at Michael Gove’s draft national curriculum) or, more shockingly, from the left.
MONDAY 22 OCTOBER 2012
Memo to the RSC: east Asians can be more than just dogs and maids
The Royal Shakespeare Company’s casting for The Orphan of Zhao seems to hark back to an age of British imperialism
It’s no fun being bred out of the cultural gene pool. Watching TV, theatre or film, I’m on constant alert for a glimpse of someone who looks Chinese, for the slightest resemblance to an estimated 499,999 others like me living in the UK. Barring Gok Wan, scientist Kevin Fong and the odd TV chef, UK Chinese are virtually absent from mainstream media. So it was with a sense of “here we go again” that we learned that the esteemed Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) is mounting the classic play The Orphan of Zhao in the way prize trophies usually get mounted: gutted and stuffed. This 13th-century Yuan-dynasty masterpiece may be the first Chinese play, to make it to the hallowed RSC, but the only parts given to actors of east Asian heritage are two dogs. And a maid-servant. Who dies. Tragically. …
THURSDAY 2 AUGUST 2012
The monstering of swimmer Ye Shiwen says much about declining superpowers
Chinese Olympic athletes are people, not comic book villains. Something’s going on when one nation is so singled out
It’s not cricket, you know. There’s something fiendishly cruel about the monstering of 16-year-old Ye Shiwen, who won a swimming gold in Saturday’s 400m individual medley. First she was labelled a cheat in front of a global audience and then refused an apology when repeated drugs tests show up clean as a whistle. First off the block was the host nation’s BBC commentator Clare Baldwin, who sprinted to the worst conclusion on zero evidence within seconds of Ye’s record-breaking win with her loaded comment: “How many questions will there be, Mark, about somebody who can suddenly swim so much faster than she has ever swum before?” With the starter pistol thus fired for the media witchhunt to find Ye guilty of winning while Chinese, in they all piled.
THURSDAY 7 AUGUST 2008
Don’t call me an Asian babe, Martin Bashir
An excitable Martin Bashir landed himself in trouble last week when he gave voice to the apparently sexist undertow of his inner world at a journalists’ banquet in Chicago. It’s not so much that he addressed the assembled women as “Asian babes” that so appals, or even that he did everything except demand that his co-host, Juju Chang, drop to her knees in front of him when he said a speech should “be like a dress on a beautiful woman – long enough to cover the important parts and short enough to keep your interest – like my colleague Juju’s”.