Why is it still OK to be racist towards Asians?

Edna in Venice by Ashley Abroad

This is an essay about casual racism, white privilege, and speaking out as an Asian minority in a white-dominated industry.

I’ve taken a few days to write this because I wanted to take the time to gather my thoughts, to present this as clearly and rationally as possible.


Last weekend a popular travel blogger posted a photo ranting about tourists behaving badly in front of a well-known tree in New Zealand. I was on board with the message of the caption — that people should be more respectful of nature and each other — until she ended said rant with the hashtag: #whenasiansattack.

I don’t like getting this confrontational (especially not this close to my birthday, as I’d rather not be fending off hate comments for the next week) — but I was so shocked at the glaring insensitivity of this blogger, I knew I had to say something.

This cannot go uncontested, because change does not happen by staying silent.

whenasiansattack hashtag


What astounded me further — and depressed me far more — was just how many commenters were agreeing with the blogger, and defending her choice of words.

“She was only calling out those who disrespect the planet!” they claimed. “She’s only trying to stand up for nature!”

If that were really the case, there would have been no need for the hashtag. By tagging it #whenasiansattack, she made it clear she wasn’t calling out all humans. She was calling out one particular race (and in pretty broad strokes at that).

By all means stand up for Mother Nature — but not by putting down an entire race of people.

“I’m an equal opportunity bitch!” the blogger defended at one point in the comments. Sure, that’s probably true, but I didn’t see you use #whennorwegiansattack. Or how about #whensouthcaroliniansattack? No? I’ve definitely been pushed aside for photos by those people.

If you’re going to call out everyone, call out EVERYONE.

As for the many people claiming, “It’s not racist / it’s not a big deal / you were only posting your opinion / she meant no ill will”:

I hope the rest of this post helps you realize why it is racist, why it is a big deal, and why posting that opinion continued the fostering of ill will against minorities.

Musee d'Orsay clock by Expat Edna


In the comments, I also saw a few people trying to disagree in a respectful way. Yet the blogger (and her supporters, by way of their defensive comments) kept responding, in no uncertain terms, “I give zero fucks”.

Instead of engaging in meaningful debates, in conversations that would enrich one’s understanding of other cultures — and isn’t that one of the benefits you’re supposed to get from travel? — the blogger and her supporters doubled down on the racist hashtag.

Several Asian fans (former fans, I’m guessing now) tried to share their past experiences with racism in the comments. To try to explain — respectfully and rationally — why #whyasiansattack felt so inappropriate.

Yet no one seemed to care. No one said, “I’m really sorry to hear you went through that.” No one even just said, “Wow that sucks.” Instead of taking those stories into consideration, they were blatantly ignored by the blogger and her supporters.

You know what that screams to me? That we are not seen as equals: that because we are not white, our life experiences don’t matter as much to you.

And sadly, this lack of empathy is common.

Ask anyone of a racial minority — Asian, Black, Hispanic — and they’ll tell you they’ve felt this at some point living in a white-dominated society: that our problems don’t matter as much. That our lives don’t matter as much. Things only matter when they happen to white people.

This blogger kept telling people to unfollow her, adding, “How’s the view from your high horse?” Yet she, and people like her, don’t realize THEY are the privileged ones.

They don’t see how high their horse stands, just by the accidental luck of being born white.

You want to talk about a high horse? You invented the damn horse. 


PrivilegeSo, let me help you with that empathy problem. Let me try to help you understand what it’s like to travel with dark tan skin, almond-shaped eyes, and black hair.

Because you have NO. PLACE. to talk about race when you don’t know the microaggressions we face every damn day.

First, if you haven’t read this post about Encountering Racism Abroad, please do. And make sure to dive into the comments section, where so many strangers have also shared their experiences. The racism minorities face, we face all over the world, all the time.

Growing up Asian in a white town meant being bullied because people thought that since I looked different, I must not have the same feelings. (One girl said to my face in the 7th grade, “Oh you have a sister? She must be ugly then, since she’s related to you.”)

Traveling while Asian means people constantly noting, either overtly or subtly, your “otherness”. Constantly being asked where you’re “really from”, or why your English is so good, or if you eat dog — questions I bet no one asks someone with blonde hair and white skin.

Edna on Ile St Louis by Joe Provost

Traveling while Asian means living in a world of double standards — and feeling unwelcome.

When my boyfriend takes his shoes off on an airplane, he’s just a traveler getting comfortable. When I do it — I’m “inconsiderate” and get dirty looks.

When a white couple walks down the street, they’re just a couple. When I travel with my boyfriend, people assume either a) I’m digging for a green card b) he has a fetish c) I’m a hooker d) all of the above.

When non-Asians use selfie sticks, they’re just being tourists. But me? I’d be that “vain” Asian, oh my god why do you need so many photos of yourself. (This is why I’ve refused to ever use one.)

Which brings me to the one that drives me most up the wall: the double standard in photography.

Isn’t it funny that this blogger, who makes a living through taking pretty photos, looks down on others who might do the same? I bet she and I go through the same routine of getting Instagram-worthy shots — but I’m the one who gets labeled “tourist” and she gets labeled “photographer”. Hilarious, right?

Anecdote: I used to go out a lot with a (now famous, but then unknown) blogger in Paris. Whenever her giant DSLR came out, no one batted an eye — she could have used the brightest flash, the loudest shutter, she could have jumped up on the bloody table — but because she was this gorgeous blonde Swede, no one gave a damn.

Yet the second my camera came out at meals? “Ugh, those Asian tourists, they have to take a picture of everything.”

Didn’t matter that I was living in Paris; I had residency, a job, I spoke French — I was in every way the same expat as the Swedish blogger. But because I looked the way I did, and not the way she did, I got flack and she did not.

Svartifoss, Iceland by Expat Edna

This is what it comes down to:

If you’ve never been SPAT ON IN PUBLIC solely because of the color of your skin — you can’t talk.

If you’ve never switched jewelry to the “married” finger when traveling, just so people won’t assume your boyfriend BOUGHT YOU for the evening — you can’t talk.

If you’ve never been told you’re LESS BEAUTIFUL after a few days in the sun, because you’re being held to standards of beauty based on the majority race — you can’t talk.

If you’ve never been shamed by strangers for LOVING who you love, simply because you have different skin tones — you can’t talk.

If you’ve never been made to feel inferior, like you’re a lesser human being, just because you’re not white — you can. not. talk.

Being Asian is not a joke. We are not your punchline.

If you’re white, most likely you’ll never be the victim of a hate crime because of the color of your skin. You won’t know what it’s like to be on guard against microagressions every. single. day.

You’re not burdened by the mental stress it adds to every inconsequential task.

See, everything you do in your daily life, I do with a double check in the back of my mind — to make sure I’m not coming off as “too Asian”, for fear of furthering a stereotype and “making my race look bad”.

Can’t you see how insane that sounds?

There have been times I’ve asked white friends to take photos of my lunch or dinner plate for me, because I can just TELL the rest of the customers in the restaurant will shoot dirty looks if I do it.

I’m a food blogger and I can’t do my ‘job’ sometimes because of I’m aware about how I — and by extension, my race as a whole — will be perceived. I try so, so hard not to contribute to the stereotype.

Stop and let that sink in. Can you please try to imagine how exhausting that is?

To constantly feel like you have to be on your best behavior because you know people will judge your entire race based on YOU?

(If I had been at the tree in that Instagram photo, you bet I would have been super careful not to step on anyone’s toes.)

But it doesn’t matter, anyway, apparently — because no matter what I do, just one hashtag from a popular white blogger helps perpetuate it anyway.

One step forward, two steps back.

Thank you, Young Adventuress, for helping further the stereotype that all Asians are rude, obnoxious, uncouth, and will “attack” you with their cameras no matter where they go.

With prevailing attitudes like this, I SO look forward to moving to New Zealand later this year.


Finally, to those who argue this isn’t racism: let’s replace ‘Asian’ with other minority groups.

Can you imagine the uproar if you captioned a photo #whenblacksattack? What about #whenjewsattack or #whenqueersattack? Do you think those phrases are acceptable or funny?

So how is it ok to paint all Asians with a broad brush and claim you’re not racist? Why is it ok to turn around and say the exact same thing about Asians, and claim it’s “just a joke”?

How is it perfectly acceptable, in a society fighting so hard for racial equality between black and white people, to still throw Asians under the bus? (perfect example: this year’s Oscars.)

Using the term “When Asians Attack” IS racist. Stop protesting — it is.

Casual racism like this hurts minorities EVERYWHERE.

  • In the blogger’s adopted home of New Zealand, just two weeks ago this op-ed came out — written by a Kiwi-Chinese who, despite being born and raised in New Zealand, no longer feels welcome in her own country: “I am viewed daily as just another foreigner who is here to take from local New Zealanders. Despite how much I love the land I spent my childhood in, I get annoyed glances because people who share the same blood as me are taking away opportunities. Except these opportunities are taken from me too.
  • Fellow Asian blogger Nellie experienced it in Melbourne: “I was 17 and on my first backpacking trip. A vagabond was walking around the train asking for some change, my friends and I said we didn’t have any. He turned around and spit at my friend and said, ‘Argh Asians are always the stingiest.’ That left us really shocked. I’m just appalled by how many people call themselves travelers but don’t seem to have any tolerance for people of other race.”

Again: if you’re going to make assumptions about someone based on how they look: yes, that is racism.

If you’re going to make blanket statements about an entire ethnicity based on the behavior of a few: yes, that is racism.

One comment defending the blogger said, “Anyone who doesn’t get the humour behind the hashtag hasn’t traveled enough. I can’t think of a single place I’ve gone where I haven’t encountered Asian folk with cameras getting stressy.”

(Um, hi, I’ve been traveling for eight years and I still don’t see the humor.)

You see why this is racist, right? Asian people aren’t the only people who get “stressy” with a camera.

What if you went to the Eiffel Tower and saw me there — would you assume I was stressy with a camera because I was an Asian? Why can’t I be stressy just because I’m a good photographer? Because I care about quality? Because it’s my job? (Or because I’m quite a naturally high-stress person, regardless of race?)

Being Asian has nothing to do with it. I’ve definitely met my share of stressy American, German, Kiwi photographers — yet they don’t get labeled as such. They have the luxury of knowing their actions don’t speak for their entire race or nationality.

Neither should ours.

Me watching the sunset from Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh - by Expat Edna


This essay is not an attack on a blogger or a hashtag — this goes waaaay beyond one person or one photo.

But I have to thank her for getting me angry enough to finally write this. For showing me, through her and her supporters’ comments, just how many people think the way she does.

Who think casual racism is funny. Who think it’s still okay to attack Asians. Who belittle the struggles we face, for the sake of a joke.

Why is that? Is it because we’re the ‘model minority’? Because we’re seen as pushovers, that we won’t fight back? You think we all just do tai chi in the mornings and zen away our problems?

No. Nope. I’m standing up to all of you who keep telling Asians, “They’re just jokes. It’s not a big deal. Relax.”

We deserve the same respect as everyone else. We are not the “other”. We are EQUAL.

Rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t say it about your black friend, your Muslim friend, your LGBT friend, hell, your mother — it’s not okay to say it about Asians, either.

#Whenasiansattack should not be dismissed as “no big deal”.

It is casual racism. It is a microagression that makes so many aspects of travel and daily life for minorities that much more difficult or stressful, and keeps us stuck in a place of racial inequality that is utterly depressing in 2016.

I hope this little lesson in empathy has shown you what it’s like to walk in my shoes — and the next time you see someone being casually racist towards a minority group, you choose bravery and speak up for all of us.

Standing up to those in the wrong is the only way things will change. I thank you in advance.

Also worth reading:

photo credits: lead photo by Ashley Abroad; fb screenshot via Oneika the Traveller

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  1. Well written Edna!! Thank you for speaking up!!

  2. Thanks for writing this. You’re absolutely right. I live in Hong Kong and there is even a big difference and a bit of tension between Hong Kongers and tourists from mainland China. Painting all Asians with the same brush is ugly and disingenuous. The term “Asians” is broader than people realize. Filipinos, Indonesians, and Thais are Asian as well but don’t get lumped in with Chinese or Koreans. The stereotypes you mentioned will be hard to dispel but perhaps we should be aware of how hurtful they are.

    My daughter’s best friend is Korean, adopted by an American family. She responds to questions with humour. When someone asks her, “What are you?” she says, “I’m Jewish.”

  3. Hell to the YES to this post Edna!! I am so glad that you shared your point of view and so SICK of this white-dominated travel blogging industry we find ourselves in that encourages tone-deafness and casual racism.

    Even when I wrote my blog post on the whole Young Adventuress/Wanaka Tree incident (thanks for linking to it, by the way) I had to take a step back and rid myself of any emotion because I KNEW that I came off upset or overly critical that my views would be discounted and reduced to/dismissed as the “Angry Black Girl” overreacting at an “honest joke”.

    You’re right, it’s exhausting having to temper my thoughts, feelings, and actions so that white people don’t feel uncomfortable, and, even as someone who is unapologetic in my blackness and quest for equality, I still find myself “toning myself down” in certain respect so I’m not immediately with some ridiculous stereotype about black people.

    Travelling as a visible minority is different and unless you’ve ever experienced it you have absolutely no right to comment on it or discount that the difference exists. I too often get stopped at immigration while my white husband doesn’t get a second look; it’s annoying when we travel together and they assume he has a fetish; I’m totally fed up with fielding comments from locals about how well I must dance/sing/play sports.

    Also, I must say that I find it disappointing that none of the “big names” in the our travel blogging circle (who all happen to be white, I might add) have directly addressed Young Adventuress’ comments on their blogs or in a public forum. It would seem that only the visible minorities like you or I are impacted/implicated enough to take a stand against this blogger (and such a popular one!) in a public space.

    It also speaks a lot to the complicit nature of “mainstream” white bloggers who are quick to protect “one of their own”– in an industry where relationships are currency I imagine that people don’t want to burn bridges (even by calling out racism… hmmm). I do find it really unfortunate because this would have been great teachable moment and discussion point for the many readers who simply do not have a clue.

    Thanks again for highlighting this important topic and giving a voice to this sort of casual racism, my friend! Can’t wait to catch up with you in person this week!!

  4. Edna, I’m so happy you wrote this. F**k that girl in the 7th grade.

    I did just want to say that members of my [Jewish] family have experienced many acts of racism, and they are considered white. Personally, I always try to overpay my share of the check when dining out in a group so that no one thinks I’m the “cheap jew”. I know this is silly but unfortunately it stems from comments overheard when I was younger that stay with me to this day.

  5. I have to say that most of the things you said have to happen to you before you can talk about racism have happened to me. (Including being spat on.) And I am very white. Verging on blonde. But when you travel, and white becomes the minority, you’re also going to encounter racism. Which makes it rather disturbing that this traveler doesn’t see the harm in her comments. There are parts of the world that do not look favorably on white people, and when you go to such places, it is impossible not to see how microaggressions are awful. I rarely have to face such things and I can still see it. It’s willful ignorance to not see the harm. It really sucks and I’m sorry.

  6. Well said. Edna!!! Bravo!

  7. Wow, Edna. This hit me right in the feels! I’m always conscious to call people out on their racist BS, and not to further spread incorrect stereotypes, but I hadn’t really considered what it must be like to travel or even *exist* as part of a minority group. I’m sorry you’ve had such shitty experiences :( This is a great post however.

    I will admit to only half paying to the original post, and I missed all the hashtags. I agreed with her sentiments, then logged in again later to see all the kerfuffle from herself and multiple travel bloggers. I was super confused, but once I’d worked it out, needless to say I unfollowed her promptly. The lack of humility, consideration and understanding on her behalf was shocking, and I was really disappointed to find people supporting her point of view.

  8. Boom. Hell. Yes. You write in a way that’s soooo easy to feel what you’re feeling. I’m white, but you put me right there with you facing everything that you have to go through simply by being Asian. Loved this post!

  9. Joella says:

    Good for you, Edna. I’m glad you wrote this. I missed the Instagram thing and am just finding out about it now through various blog posts. I’m appalled at that blogger to be honest and would have commented if I’d seen her post. I’ve lived in a couple of different countries in Asia (most recently China) and the racial stereotypes I hear casually being thrown around about Asian people disgust me. I don’t know why it is deemed “acceptable” to say bad things about Asian people as a collective- it’s like some people refuse to acknowledge that everyone is an individual and an actual person with thoughts and feelings. I hate it when I hear or read people saying things like “All Chinese people are so rude because.. xyz” as if every single person in China is the same and as if white/western people are the ones who get to decide what is rude/good manners in every country! The other day I saw a Facebook comment from another blogger raging against a certain Asian country and how they wanted to write a post about how horrible the country was but couldn’t as it would be deemed racist! Unbelievable! I mean if even the blogger themself thinks their thoughts are racist then they definitely are. I really wanted to call them out on their narrow minded dislike for this country but I’m not friends with them so couldn’t (another of my friends had commented on the post so it showed up in my feed). Anyway, I’m sorry this is still happening and I hope more people start to wake up and realise it’s not ok.

  10. This breaks my heart, how can we be in 2016 and have this still happening!?

  11. Kudos to you Edna! Brave lady! Thank you for being so bold and dare to speak out your thoughts. Behind every casual racism punchline, the “white privilage” and everything else it all boils down being an ignorant and disrepectful human!

  12. Holy hell! It disgusts me that you have had these experiences. And I completely agree about that hashtag, except it isn’t casual racism to me–it’s overt. Anyone who can justify it is absolutely being racist.

    I have had the experience of sticking out in a place and I hate it. But I have the privilege of having the “properly pale” skin tone so that unlike you I can easily escape it just by making a change to a “more white” place. It was exhausting enough for me in Latin America and Asia, but to have to deal with that practically 24/7. . . my heart just breaks that you and others have to go through this bullshit.

    Thank you so much for addressing this and sharing your experiences. I think they are fantastic examples of privilege that hopefully will get through to the people without significantly thicker skulls.

  13. I know comments are not supposed to be one word, but sometimes, one word says it all—– Bravo.

  14. Beautifull written post, Edna. You brought to light a topic that really needs to be discussed. I’ve traveled a lot, and I’ve sadly seen many cultures, including my own, where it’s seen as “good fun” or just a joke to make fun of the Asian tourist stereotype. But why? You’re completely right, why is it still seen as acceptable to be casually racist towards Asians, but not other groups of people? Unfortunately, I did come across that in New Zealand as well. I had a Chinese boss at the bar I worked at, and it took her more time than it should’ve to gain the respect of customers and even some of the workers at the bar – it’s sad how easy it is to write off someone completely because of their race. With that said, there were so many wonderful and welcoming people I met in New Zealand as well, who didn’t make those casual assumptions and prejudices – I hope you find more of the latter when you move there. And thank you for writing this, next time I hear someone making a joke about “Asian Tourists” I hope I’ll have the wherewithal to say something.

  15. I was just finishing a post on that topic. Because while I am not Adian I was absolutely appauled by it and you are so right – it is racism, it ain’t funny and everybody whether Asian or not should speak up against it, because it is the only decent thing to do. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts!

  16. I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through this. As a white person, you’re right. I haven’t had to deal with most of those things (though I have experienced horrible sexism, which is a rant for another day). I’ve seen friends go through this, though, and it’s always bothered me. I’ve never understood why people always feel the need to cut each other down and put down those they see as different. We’re all humans just trying to get by in this crazy world.

  17. Great post. I completely agree with you. I am sorry these people were unable to stop and think about their actions. Change comes from voicing the problems but I think some of the biggest backlash from whites people is a Lack of understanding white privilege and not enough relationships with POC. I also think there are people who are afraid of giving up their white privilege so they would rather stay quiet.

  18. Wow Edna, this article is heartbreaking. You are right that non people of color definitely don’t realize all the microaggressions that happen on a daily basis. I certainly didn’t and it is very eye opening. Thank you for sharing your story.

    I saw that photo on my IG feed and I cringed when I saw that hashtag. I knew it rubbed me the wrong way I moved on and didn’t think much about it- which shows I’m guilty of being complicit in this kind of thing. Speaking up is definitely important and win more knowledge now I hope I can speak up next time I see crap like that. And it’s exactly how you labeled it: casual racism. People say “don’t get upset over it, she was just trying to be funny.” But to use a race of people as the butt of a joke–therein lies the deeper and more significant problem. I hope many more people read your piece! Xx Amy

  19. Young adventuress is so racist. Shes been called out so many times and wont stop. Ive stopped reading her blog because of that. She attributes it to being “honest” and not being afraid to say what she thinks… but thats crap. This is a very good point.

  20. Hi Edna, Great to find your blog. We have many things in common. As an Asian-American living abroad (and from my experiences growing up and living in the U.S.) I can totally relate to everything you have so eloquently wrote about here. I had no idea this hashtag #whenasiansattack was used. Some people… :/ Our voices matter too. Thanks for taking time out to write this great post.

  21. Sabina says:

    Hello Edna,

    I just read your post because one of my friends liked it and I couldn’t pass by without saying a few things…

    First of all, I’m really sorry you’ve been going through this. It does suck and I wish people understood how hard it can get. HOWEVER, this is not just a race issue. Just so you understand, I’m white and I have been going through a lot of “bullying”, mostly because of where I’m from… I was going through it while traveling on my own (cause a single white Polish girl cannot do that without being called a hooker), same while living abroad in oh so white Ireland (because I “moved there with a sole purpose of stealing jobs and Irish men”) and later on while being married to my Asian ex. And yes it was Asians (Chinese to be exact) that were absolutely racist against me as I wasn’t from their culture, they didn’t like how I dressed, looked, what I liked to eat and the fact that I didn’t speak their language and thought the only reason I married an Asian guy, was not because I was in love but because I wanted a green card.

    A lot of people, especially in America, think that white people are privileged, yet I have never felt this way. People always raise their brows when I tell them why I moved to the USA (even though I did it 100% legally what meant months of sacrifice gathering paper work and a lot of hard earned money out of my pocket). Yes I moved here to be with my now ex but what they don’t understand is I gave up a way better life where I came from and if not my ex, I would have never thought of moving. But for them, I’m just a gold digger (even though I had more money that my American man had) etc.

    Oh yeah, I’ve been asked if we have running water back home (in Poland), if we have any other food than potatoes and cabbage and if I’ve ever seen BMW cars and for sure I’ve never been in a Jaguar because Poland must be a 3rd world country (some don’t even know where exactly Poland is so go figure)… I’ve heard all the possible things about me from either race and as much as at the beginning I took all of this to heart and tried to hide where I was from, in time it made me stronger. I laugh now when I hear those comments and for sure I do not care what people think about me. What counts is that I and my loved ones, know the truth. What other people think and say, it’s on them! I know we are all different and react differently but nowadays humanity became over sensitive and too fragile. We care too much about what others think and say etc. because we are trying to belong. And yes, I say “we” as humans. The truth is, we do belong! We belong to our planet earth, that’s our country and humanity is our race. That’s all I always respond to comments of judgmental people…

    The truth is, I really don’t think that RACISM is the problem, I think INTOLERANCE is!!! Instead of educating people about racism only, let’s talk about all the differences we all have! That’s the real issue and that’s why it’s so hard to change people’s mentality… We want to believe it’s the racism because it seems easier to be thrown in a bag with others like us… Yet somehow not just colored skin people are bullied, it’s also gay, lesbians, transgender, people who wear bright color clothing, who are pierced, tattooed, short, tall, fat, skinny, pretty, less pretty, vegetarians, vegans or meat eaters, poor or rich, smart or less intelligent, etc! These are not race attributes!

    That’s what brings me to this: Please do not assume that only because white people are not minority, they have this racism/bullying free life because that makes you as small minded as the people you call racist ;)

    I wish you all the best with your adventures! <3

    • Junia says:

      Hi Sabina, im not trying to deny your experiences of racism as a Polish female but I think your reply to Edna’s post isn’t entirely relevant in focusing on bullying. First of all racism and bullying aren’t the same thing at all. Secondly, racism is a form of intolerance so why should that and not racism specifically be named as the problem? Edna used that example of an act of bullying to show one experience of racism, not to say that only non-white people get bullied.
      It’s great that YOU no longer care about the stereotypical racist comments people make about you but that doesn’t mean that it’s ok for people to make such generalisations. Because those comments aren’t actually about you Sabina, they’re a sentiment being made about every single person like you in the world. The same as the hastag #whenasiansattack. And neither have any merit, but they still leave a negative effect on not just the individual who hears them’s life but anyone else’s who is part of that group. And that’s not even taking into account how such sentiments become institutionalised & then negatively & greatly affect whole sections of societies.
      And that is a level of hate that should not exist in my opinion and doesn’t have to if each one of us all were tolerant & stopped thinking in such ways.

    • Sabina makes good points. Racism is a problem, but not always the reason for insensitive behavior. It isn’t racism or intolerance but IGNORANCE and genuine curiosity. America is a big place, isolated by oceans with lots to explore so we don’t get out much. To many Americans, Europe and China are places we learn about in Social Studies class or at Epcot so forgive us. The incident that started Edna’s post was wrong. Just wrong. But worrying about what strangers think will eat you alive.

      In Hong Kong, I have been passed by taxi drivers who then picked up Chinese passengers up the road. I was insulted until I realized it might not be racist, but they don’t have enough confidence in their English to pick up a Western passenger. There is some racism against Westerners here, but I blame the individual, not the entire culture.

      There are ignoramuses in every society. Don’t give them room in your head or assume that stupid questions are malicious. You’ll never see most of these people again so their opinions don’t matter. Not using a selfie stick will not dispel the stereotype so click away. Just don’t make a peace sign. (I WILL judge you for that, not as an Asian but as a doofus. ;-)) If a stereotype can be made of Hong Kongers, they are remarkably immune to getting angry. They’ve taught me to just get over it and on with it for which I am very grateful.

      Happy travels! I so enjoy hearing about them.

      • jay b. says:

        hi sharon,

        this will get arduous:

        i enjoyed your post and it resonates. i live in china. as a man of color, there are people in china who are either curious, ignorant (uninformed), or (woefully) ignorant. irregardless, like you i don’t let a few rogue people prompt me to make a sweeping conclusion of a country of 1.3 billion (and growing). i have been in china for three years now, and i have enjoyed my experience greatly. majority speaking, i have been treated well by locals, at work, and whenever i have traveled/travel throughout the country.

        the cab situation you have experienced in hong kong happens here in beijing as well (quite a bit). there could be a plethora of reasons as to why it happens. and, to reiterate your point, it happens to all types of ‘laowai’ (foreigners). all we can do is speculate and get over it.

        skin color is extraneous when it comes to racism. doesn’t matter if it happens more to a certain group of people, what kind it is, etcetera, etcetera. it is all unadulterated bullshit, wide and deep. a friend of mine who is danish lived in st. croix for a bit and experienced racism from the locals (black) while she was dating a local guy. and, she wasn’t received by some of the locals when she first got there. being white, pretty, with a nice smile doesn’t always go over.

        i dated a jamaican girl and one time we were talking about something and somehow got on the topic of so interracially. she said: “if i were to ever look at a white girl, she slap me.” the fuck? a lot of islanders have this mentality about white people. i love the islands, but the mindset of some living there is behind the curve a smidgen. i promptly ended that relationship because this wasn’t the first racist thing she did or said. she would turn her nose up at attractive white women when we were out and about. she had her own issues going on, but still, ain’t nobody got time for that!

        i have zero tolerance for racism. i have no qualms about cutting friendships, firing people, or using other means of accountability regarding this. in this day and age where there are more resources (more than ever) at our fingertips than we can shake a stick at, (to me) it is totally inexcusable to be doing the same ol’ 2-step and not to wise up. don’t know about something, ask. no excuses. even if someone has had a bad experience with another race, in a world of seven billion plus, one still can’t/shouldn’t generalize an entire group of people. if so, either the north pole or antarctica are still available for residence. shit, those places are even changing by the day.

        sharon, i agree with you. contrary to what it may look like on the outside, america is way behind the 8-ball in regards to ‘getting out’ and seeing the world. the run-of-the-mill american (only) knows about these foreign lands from text books and so on. it’s their responsibility to get out and see the world. getting a passport is still a tall order (to some).

        observationally, i have seen via my travels: that when (some) people do vacation in places like the caribbean, south africa, countries in asia, just rattling off the top of my head – it is very likely that they aren’t fully seeing the place they are visiting. they are still in their own little bubble. to them, the stamp in the passport is substantial enough to say they’ve been to _____. i personally know some like this (my students being ‘some’). sitting on the resort and doing the tourist thing is fine and dandy, i do this myself (smiles). but to understand something that isn’t like you, going to those uncharted places is the way (in my mind).

        mindset aside, i truly experienced how warm-hearted jamaicans are when one night i went to a shindig way off of the beaten path. i was the only ‘yankee’ there. yes, i got stared at, people were curious, shit, so was i (smiles). largely speaking, people were smiling, dancing, caring for one another, good times. i never felt unsafe or hassled. nor did i come there sideways, with a bunch of foolishness and chip on my shoulder. coming with an open-mind and heart will get you far, very far. that experience was better than any red stripe beer served beachfront by someone who may be pretending to be nice.

        it can be safely inferred that if he/she has deeply immersed in a culture/s different from theirs will be a bit accepting/tolerant to others who don’t look like them. or, more knowledgeable than they were going in. it truly takes a lot of bubble bursting and gumption (that many don’t possess) to do so.

        to expatedna: some people are slow with the memorandum, can’t read the memorandum, or unfortunately don’t care for the memorandum. regardless, there are people (many) out here who admire what you are doing.

  22. Amazing post Edna, it’s fucked up how obtuse people can be.

  23. There’s a reason YA gets so much hate mail!

    Great post! I’m glad some people are speaking out.

  24. Hi Edna, I saw this on my Bloglovin feed and knew immediately I’d relate to it. People who have never been on the receiving end of prejudice can be so blind to it, but the sad thing is racism is still very prevalent today, whether it’s towards Asians or any other race. I too have spent my whole life trying not to fit the ‘Asian stereotype’, and still encounter casual racism to this day, despite having lived in the UK for nearly my entire life. Thank you for highlighting the issue – you’re definitely not alone on this.


  25. I don’t have anything very erudite to add (and it’s not my place to add anything anyway!) but I just wanted to say I’m so sorry to hear about your experiences, and that they’re such common experiences :( (why are people so AWFUL so much of the time??!)

  26. Preach girl, preach. Thanks for shedding light on something even I have brushed off over time. It happens so much that I forget casual racism is still racism and by shrugging it off, it pertpetuates the stereotype and problem more so. Often as travel bloggers, I think we all live with a bit more tolerance than non-travelers but I guess I was wrong. Still shocked by what occurred, though I’m glad there are many like you who chose to stand up and called it out for what it is. Thank you, Edna.

  27. Thanks for sharing your insight on this. As a white person, sometimes it’s hard to see just how bad it is… Though I have heard my fair share of sweeping generalizations about Asians, and it always makes me uncomfortable. Especially coming from travellers. We should be open-minded enough to recognize the diversity of an entire continent, not to mention the individuals who inhabit it!

    • jay b. says:

      agreed. it’s is tomfoolery to make sweeping generalizations about anyone or anything in a world of 7 billion people. that said, what are the odds of an entire group of people being exactly the same?

      a lot of people let an experience or three lead to their inference and they charge it to the game and say: (insert group of people here) are _____________ or #sillycommentaboutgroupofpeople

      just when we think we got something figured out about something the question changes. people surprise you. and, this is a great thing!

  28. Have you spoken to or e-mailed Young Adventuress?

  29. Noelle says:

    Brilliant. Thank you for this post.

  30. “Standing up to those in the wrong is the only way things will change.” Hell yes.

  31. I didn’t think I was going to comment on this. I didn’t want to get involved, but the more comments I’ve read the more I do want to add my thoughts:

    I spent 3 years living in Asia and honestly a thought I often had, especially in Thailand, was how much white people (okay, not a blanket statement – drunk, or pedophilic, irresponsible, disrespectful, arrogant white people) were ruining it and I felt ashamed by association (as a mostly-white girl). That is so much more damaging than a few people taking photos.

    I have profound respect for the cultures I spent time in, perhaps because I studied them and learned the language when in Taiwan, but even if I hadn’t, I don’t get using that hashtag. At all.

    Anyone who is saying, “she apologized, let it go!” what I find unfortunate is having those sentiments in the first place. You had every right to write this, didn’t need to ‘consult’ anyone first, and I think it was brave of you.

    • jay b. says:

      living in beijing, same scenario with the expats – a large number of them are out of control. not just the whites, blacks, indians, whoever. wont get into all the gory details but a lot of them come with this strong sense of entitlement. i have a small (and i do mean small) circle of friends i hang out with. there have been some white expats who’ve have been bragging about their ‘white privilege’ to get/do whatever they want here. come to work late/drunk, half-ass do their jobs, have their way with the locals, and a strong etcetera. actually, their ‘luck’ is running out on that tip. the two places i have worked at, the bosses have had no qualms about letting go or reprimanding people who fuck up. and, they’re quite open to hiring ANYONE who can do the job.

      learning about why things are the way they are by reading/studying, traveling, asking questions, etc. – these are the best ways to somewhat ‘get it.’

      an apology is a start, but to get back in folk good graces requires a bit more than that, if she is up to that. apologies are oftentimes a cop out and/or contrived and inauthentic.

  32. Thank you for writing this. I am part Japanese, part Cherokee – which basically makes me kind of ethnically ambiguous and leads to me hearing racial slurs that don’t even apply to my race. Since I speak Spanish, people, even friends, will say things like “let’s ask our resident Mexican.” I find myself feeling furious on behalf of the cultures that aren’t even mine, because it doesn’t matter. Racism against ANY race is wrong. Judging me because I have dark skin, regardless of what race you attribute that skin to, is disgusting. Good for you for speaking up.

  33. This is so true and very much an issue. I have been traveling in Asia for about four months now and I have seen this kind of casual racism from many travelers. “This is probably dog meat” “watch out Asian woman driving” “the Chinese camera squad” and it goes on and on. We can’t change these people but we can start a discourse and hope our words influence others to live a bit more conscientiously. Cheers to you for speaking your mind in a calm, mature, and articulate way.

  34. Thank you, Edna, for this wonderful post. While I would have been appalled at that hashtag myself if I had seen it, as a white person, I found it eye-opening to read of the “casual racism” you have encountered in your life. And I am equally appalled to learn that the blogger and so many of her followers defended her use of the tag.
    But here is an interesting side note: Apparently Liz cared more about the controversy than she cared to admit with her “I don’t give a fuck” attitude, or at least about how many followers she lost. The photo has been taken down from her IG feed. I just went to look for it as I wanted to read the comments for myself, and it is gone. There IS a photo of the lone Wanaka tree, and a couple of oblique references in the comments about the brouhaha, but that particular pic, with its hateful hashtag, is gone. And I am glad it is. Thank you for enlightening me with this post.

  35. Thank you for sharing such an articulate, poignant and brave thought piece. I always enjoy reading your posts.

  36. Faith says:

    Thank you, thank you for speaking up and standing up for yourself, and for Asians everywhere. There is so much wrong with casual racism and it’s frustrating to see how people don’t care when it happens to Asians. This kind of behaviour is so rampant (Oscars!! The Asians taking food photos comment! Getting yelled ‘ni hao’ by strangers!) that I think we can fall into easily accept that this is how it is, and just shrug it off and brush it under the carpet when it happens. Or at least I’ve been guilty of just letting people’s comments slide. Thanks for speaking out and reminding me and other Asians that we shouldn’t stand for this rubbish. And bringing this issue to the fore in this predominately white community. Hopefully it will make people think twice about their preconceived notions.

  37. Thank you for this article. I’ve not encountered any racism like that, but I’m an Indian, and we do travel a lot and spend a lot on luxury items. In spite of that, everywhere I travelled, I was asked, “Do Indians have money to travel?” …. Umm, yeah, considering I’m spending my (or my father’s) hard earned money here, I surely have money to travel. We DO NOT have snakes roaming around and elephants walking in broad daylight.

    The sort of apathy towards Asia is ridiculous. Apparently we’re only good to be in photographs about how #Exotic the place is. Downright despicable.

  38. This post makes me so happy I could cry. I remember writing a speech about casual racism in high school (WELL over seven years ago now), and how nowadays it isn’t always the blatant kind we’re used to seeing in history books (i.e. forcing someone to move on the bus, segregating bathrooms, etc… well in 2007 it was a lot more blurred in the US than in 2015/6) but these small microaggressions. I was never bullied like you were, but it was the little jokes got increasingly irritating. “Why don’t you understand this? You’re supposed to be good at math. HA HA” or “Is your favorite Disney princess Mulan?” Or posting a sleepy selfie and being all “Oh, I have Asian eyes today.” None of it alone is offensive enough to derail the mood to have a discussion about racism, but added up over time…it’s why Asians are constantly thrown under the bus or made the butt of jokes on a national scale (Um, seconding that HELLO, OSCARS).

    I try to keep in mind that things are changing, slowly but surely, and we just have to continue with the gentle, but firm reminders (like your post) that casual racism isn’t funny. AND as travel bloggers we have the responsibility to be mindful of how our words come across. By all means, keep it real and express your controversial opinions so long as you have a thought out logic behind them not just in the moment frustration. The thing is, there is no real logic behind that hashtag, and as you said, if you wouldn’t use black, LGBTQ, or your own mother in the phrasing, then it’s not okay to throw Asians in the mix.

    Side Note: I can’t BELIEVE I’ve never heard of your site before! I only found it when I googled travel Snapchatters to follow and you came up on the list. Hope you’re loving Bali and your birthday! If my vacation dates go according to plan, I’m going to be there for my 24th birthday in August!

  39. Very well said Edna. It’s a shame that we still have to talk about this in 2016. I am patiently waiting for the day we shall all live in peace and harmony. So help us God!

  40. Well written, Edna! It’s definitely one of the dark sides of traveling that many chose to ignore but you definitely put it out for debate.

  41. As an Asian solo female traveler, I’ve had my share of experiencing racism when I travel. Kudos to you for articulating the issue well.

  42. Huh, I just visited her fb page and it seems as though she has now deleted the post. She also posted an apology message that seems a little insincere to me, she says “I made a mistake and I’m sorry” but does not even address what her mistakes are so that her fans are still in the comments saying things like “Wow, you don’t deserve all this hate at all!!! They’re just haterz luv u 4ever!!! xoxo” Also she seems to pride herself in her “I don’t give a fuck attitude” but that attitude can be very harmful because you don’t actually engage in meaningful conversation that way.
    Anyway, thank you so much for writing this post! I did not see all this drama happening but I’m glad you addressed it in such a clear and cohesive manner for those of us who weren’t following along on her page. I totally feel you with the “I have to think about everything I do because I’m representing my entire race…” being Asian too. It’s really awful because I feel like I’m always either following a stereotype or breaking one. If I’m good at math I’m just another asian whose good at math, if I’m bad at math I’m trying too hard to break stereotypes. I can never just be me without judgement.

  43. Hi Edna,

    What is the best thing about this post is not just the honesty and heartfelt writing, but also that you haven’t used it to attack people but got your point across extremely eloquently.

    I have to admit to being shocked when I read the hashtag from that blogger.
    Being completely honest although I am not racist in any way myself, and I do call out friends or family if I hear any of them using racism around me I definitely didn’t think as much about how it effected those concerned until it happened to me.

    Yes, I was a victim of racism, and it wasn’t casual it was to my face and very direct and yes I’m white. I was on holiday in Mauritius a number of years ago when I had a holiday romance with a local guy who I met while he was working at the hotel I was staying in, it was never going to be a love story but we were having fun and we were young no harm done.
    That was until a friend of his who was also my diving instructor while on my trip felt the need to tell me that I wasn’t good enough for his friend because I was white. I couldn’t actually believe the words coming out of his mouth, I would never have even thought to say this to someone about who they could have any kind of relationship with purely down to skin colour!
    I walked away, calmed down, spoke to a mutual friend in the hope they could explain and then went back the next evening when I had calmed down to talk to him. I had a calm and rational conversation that went along of the lines of if I had said to you that you weren’t good enough for me because you’re black I would have been called a hideous racist and I want to know why you think it’s different because you said it to me?
    His answer was that was he was very sorry and having spoken to our mutual friend he realised that his reaction was not the correct one. He was apparently saying this because he knew his friend had developed feelings for me and that he was worried he would get hurt as apparently he was once in relationship with a traveller who was white that ended very badly and he was assuming that we were all the same. That I understand, love for your friends is important, but be honest about that and don’t attack me for something that I cannot control.
    We had a long discussion about race and culture that evening while sitting on the veranda of my room drinking coconut water fresh from the coconut and we bonded, two people from different backgrounds and different skin colours and do you know what for both of us that was a huge learning experience.

    I hope that there comes a day in my lifetime when everyone can be free to love who they love and be who they are without judgement and assumption from others, but until then keep being amazing and being true to yourself.

    Thankyou for being so honest in this post and sharing your experiences, it really taught me a lot. x

  44. Wow, well done! I wish more people would actually have the open mind they claim to have and casually “funny” racist remarks are just not ok. For instance, when I was in Australia that really put me off because I encountered it a lot. Also, many travellers have shown disregard to other cultures as well during my travels. I do get confronted with culture shock and frustrations myself but I make an effort to check my feelings and reflect on what is going on and not state any harsh generalisations. Sometimes it’s hard and sometimes I can hear stereotypes playing in my head, which I hate. It’s scary how racism is so all pervasive that it can get in your head so easily without wanting to. Language really is powerful and people should acknowledge that it shapes our world perception.

    I am sorry that Young Adventuress showed so little regard to your complaint; I really like her but that’s not ok.

  45. Amy Persons says:

    It’s quite simple It if hurts someone elsAmye’s feelings, it isn’t funny. It’s a cheap shot. You carefully constructed a narrative that we all need, regardless of on which side of the equation we are, to consider fully. Brava. And that girl from seventh grade can suck eggs.

  46. Nicely said. I really hope you enjoy your time in New Zealand – we Kiwis are not all bad, I swear!

  47. Edna, the answer is, it’s NOT ok.
    I feel like I want to say sorry that this is happening, but it’s just undermining the problem. A sorry isn’t enough. I hope that you can feel OK doing whatever you want one day and not having to change your every day life to suit others so they don’t look down upon or assume some negative stereotype. This problem in society is a joke! I feel….disgusted and terrible? to say the least…
    All I can say is I’m sorry this is something you and others have to go through.

    I lived in SE Asia for years and it was extremely awkward being put on a pedestal for one simple reason: my skin is white. I would wear no makeup, my hair looked like a rat nest from not being washed for days, and I’d be in dirty hippy clothing that in total cost me $4 and I was told, “you’re so beautiful and I’m so ugly.” This was said by locals or my students (Thailand) on nearly a daily basis. I would always respond with a thank you and a (genuine) you are beautiful too! (bc of course, they were!) I would sometimes ask them why they called themselves ugly… They think they are UGLY because they are darker and have different eyes. That’s it. WTF? Why is white skin and rounder eyes sensationalized as being “the way to be”? It broke my heart to think they thought this. I would always try to explain (esp to my Thai students) that they too are beautiful. I would explain things like…I love your dark skin and almond eyes. I think you’re beautiful. We are all beautiful. You should think all people are beautiful the way they are! People who are white want YOUR skin color. It’s so beautiful.
    It was a bit difficult bc of their limited English, but I always made it a point to tell them they were beautiful, their outfit was nice, their hair is so cool, and compliment them anytime I could. They always thought they were ugly! It made me incredibly sad to see how low they thought of themselves.

    All of the people in advertisements in Thailand have VERY light skin (like even whiter than mine lol) and were often mixed race so they were “less Asian.” I was friends with one guy who was used in some Thai ads, they loved him because he was English/Thai mix. This is the look they wanted.
    I’m at a loss for words. Well…Kinda :)
    It’s time for everyone to wake up. I wish you the best and hope Bali is treating you well <3

  48. Edna, this was so good. Casual racism is so often brushed off as irrelevant because the intention isn’t to harm, but that only perpetuates the problem. I can’t remember where I read the analogy (perhaps the call in/call out article linked in Oneika’s post) about stepping on someone’s foot – yes, it’s an accident, but as soon as you realize you’re hurting someone you step off and apologize. You don’t keep standing on their foot, insisting that it’s OK because you didn’t intend to hurt them.

  49. Susan, formerly of Splendor in the Lemongrass :) says:

    YESSS! EDNA! Thank you for this. It must be exhausting having to explain yourself again and again to people who are blind to their own privilege and to take time out from your amazing Bali trip to call out racist BS. Thanks for doing it anyway. Firsthand accounts of racism are super important for us white people who are (trying to be) anti-racist.

  50. The worst part is that the blogger in question (Young Adventuress) didn’t get a massive backlash since Asians seem to be acceptable targets in the NorthAmerican/European/Australian collective mind set.

    Now, imagine if she had used hashtags like #whenafricansattack or #whenmuslimsattack and it’s crystal clear how the hypocrisy of the Western World works.

  51. Knowing how insular the travel blogging community is, I realise the strength it took you to write this article and call out Liz. I’m sure Racism is hard to face at the best of times, but when its coming from within your community that must be incredibly confronting. I’m usually someone that can get behind Liz’s general ‘hatersgonnahate’ attitude, but this was not ok and I’m glad in the end she removed it.

    I’ve seen people of all races and backgrounds act incredibly badly while travelling. It’s not an ‘asian’ problem its a ‘bad tourist’ problem. To put it any other way is racist in whatever context. Thank you so much for being brave enough to write this article. It’s definitely made me stop and check my white privilege. xx

  52. What an excellent post! I actually saw the original post on FB and questioned it in my head but never said anything. Shame on me for not saying anything and Bravo to you for addressing it here!

  53. Edna, thank you so much for posting about your experiences! I’m a longtime reader of this blog but this is the first time I have commented. I just wanted to say that your essay was a gift to me as a reader. I relate to so much of it and during a recent trip to Italy, I told my friend that I was thinking about writing about my experiences backpacking as a solo Asian-American female. I, at times, feel bad discussing these issues because I already know I should be grateful that I am even traveling and have that opportunity but at the same time, our voices do need to be heard. I rarely meet fellow Asian-American backpackers on the road and when I try to discuss some of these issues to fellow backpackers I meet on the road, I have been called “over-sensitive,” “a politically correct American,” “to get over it,” “every stereotype is kind of true,” etc…I am also in a multiracial relationship (although my boyfriend is half white and half Asian, he passes as white) and I get the judgmental stares and comments all the time. There were moments when we traveled around Italy when I just wanted to stay inside the hotel because I was exhausted from all the attention. There are many instances like the time I went to Prague and had a child pull back his eyes and start shooting things and playing the game “kill the Chinese!” Other funny instances like the time a group of Australians sat next to me and my boyfriend and said they were so relieved to get away from the “loud American table” only to have their mouths hanging open when they heard me talking. Just recently, I had a group of American girls asked me to take a photo for them and one muttered “so glad she speaks English!”

    The only positive attention I might get is when I tell someone I am Korean-American and they tell me how much they love K-Pop and how “Korean girls are the hottest.” I don’t know anything about K-pop so I usually just nod and listen. And then of course I always get the, are you North Korean or South Korean? Do Koreans eat dogs? Why do Koreans get so much plastic surgery? etc…Also, when I try to defend myself about the racist incidents I have faced, I can’t tell you the number of times people throw in my face, “well Koreans are the most racist!” I haven’t been to Korean in over twenty years and how is that any justification? Plus, they think I don’t know that? I’ve experienced the judgmental remarks from Koreans for being Korean-American or for not fitting the perfect prototype: I am dark, I am overweight, I don’t have a good waist, I travel too much, etc…sometimes it feels like I don’t fit in anywhere. On good days/most days, I don’t let it get to me. On bad days, like the day in Prague, I couldn’t hold back the tears. It wasn’t just that incident but the buildup and culmination of all the incidents from before. I felt horrible about who I was and I felt horrible that my German boyfriend had to deal with this because he was dating me. I asked him if he wished he was with a white girl or if he missed his ex, who was Polish, at least he didn’t have to deal with the attention and my up and down emotions. And that is the saddest thing. I don’t want to be affected by it but I can’t deny the fact that it hurts my feelings. I’m not a robot, after all.

    The irony and double standard about photographs is something that I’ve seen a lot. For example, when I went to Auschwitz, guess who had the most amount of selfie sticks and took the most inappropriate selfie photos on the train tracks, gas chambers, in front of the barbed wire? I had couples asking me to take smiling photos like they were on a vacation to Hawaii. Everyone doing this was white. I don’t even have a DSLR. My family isn’t wealthy, I’m not some spoiled rich kid from China and yet people love to make assumptions. And when I dare to take a single photo in front of say, the Eiffel Tower, I start getting the comments. When I dare to go to a church to listen to a choir sing, I start getting the “too many Asian tourists.” Asians are tourists, not travelers, in their eyes. We are locusts, hoarding a space. What also bothers me is that I see white tourists go to Asia all the time and wear inappropriate clothes to temples, prey upon Asian girls because we are easy (apparently?), ruining nature and causing trouble (in places like Laos), and yet…they are treated like celebrities. In Korea there is a phrase “white people can get away with murder.” And yet, oftentimes, it seems like my very presence, with or without me taking photos, causes discussion and stares. I have also asked many times for my boyfriend or friends to take photos for me because I am embarrassed. I sometimes don’t take pictures in front of things or when I do, I rush it because I don’t like the negative attention only to end up with me looking pretty awkward in pictures at times. Afterwards, I always wonder why I let it bother me. Clearly, haters gonna hate, regardless of what I do. After all, isn’t that me letting them win? Letting them weigh me down with their beliefs to the point when I feel like I can’t do the same thing they are doing? The hypocrisy of it all totally bites.

    I also just think it is ironic the number of Brooklyn, Bronx, and NY caps I see while backpacking in Europe from people who totally do not reflect the values and beliefs of the city that I have spent most of my formative adult years in. New York is the most diverse city in the world. Brooklyn is not a label, even though it has become that in recent years. And do I scream, ugh, another European or Southern tourist when they take a million selfies on the Brooklyn Bridge or crowd the nightclubs? No! Because people in New York are too busy to care honestly. :P

  54. Thanks Edna. It’s so important to take a stand! It’s people like you that chip away stereotypes and racism one voice at a time. Fun fact: I am a white American with fair skin and freckles (when the ideal is a Hollywood tan) and I’ve been ridiculed and sneered at for being too white. I’ve endured the lovely ‘Do you ever go outside?’ and being called see-through, transparent, vampire, you name it. As a young teenager, I even resorted to painful tanning beds to try and change myself (to no avail I might add). Mean-spirited people will get you no matter what color your skin is.

  55. Thank you for sharing your opinion, Enda. As an Asian, I sometimes feel same when I travel around Europe. I wish people don’t use prejudice to see people so do I.

  56. Wow, thank you for writing this. I’m Asian American and a frequent traveller and I can related to so much (especially “where are you really from’ and being mistaken as a prostitute when I travel with my husband.)
    I also get lots of equally inappropriate comments about being ‘mixed’ (my dad is American) and strangers all over the world seem to think it’s appropriate to comment on this.

    I usually laugh these things off because it’s the ‘easy’ thing to do, but the truth is I shouldn’t. Thank you for the reminder and for having the courage to write this .

  57. Zanne says:

    Thank you, Edna, for speaking your mind for the greater good. I am Asian married to a European and certainly have had my fair share of racist comments ranging from, “Do you live in trees where you come from?” to “You have good food to eat back home in —?”, and they came from relatives back in Europe. Obviously I was also not spared from the side-eye glances wondering if my husband picked me up from some exotic bar back in Asia. I’ll admit though that I have made casual racist comments in passing myself and I am grateful for your article on this topic indirectly calling me out as well. I will definitely be bringing this up for discussion with my own family. We all need to strive to make a difference and change begins with us. Keep up the good work, Edna.

  58. Carol says:

    Thank you so much for writing this and sharing your experience! As a white female with a white (different nationality, but still light-skinned) boyfriend, I am shocked at the way you have been treated. To be honest, I had never really thought about any of the horrible instances of racism you mentioned in your piece. The fact that you can’t travel judgement-free with your love makes me sick. I’m sorry for the stupid questions and judgmental looks you’ve gotten, and I hope that people will take this message to heart. We all want to be happy, loved, and safe in this world, regardless of skin color.

  59. Reality4U says:

    Sadly, I know the days are gone that people work SO hard to find SOMETHING they can call offensive, racist, ect….. Here’s a newflash that many of you obviously either are incapable (maybe) or unwilling (probably) of accepting….just because you’re ‘OFFENDED’ doesn’t make it ‘OFFENSIVE’.

  60. Thank you Edna for so bravely speaking your mind. As an Asian-American, the causal racism of Young Adventuress deeply saddens me and makes me lose all respect for her as a blogger. It’s so important that we continue to talk about racism in all its forms, especially casual racism. Thanks for creating a space to continue the conversation.

  61. I’ve been in Africa for the past few weeks and largely missed all this drama play out on social media. I’m glad that you wrote this because you’re right – it’s NOT okay, and more people need to realize that. I’ve been traveling with a lot of Americans and Aussies recently, and the amount of casually racist remarks that I hear on a daily basis make me really sad. :(

  62. George says:

    The Kiwi girl’s experience tells us that there is one standard for whites and another for non-whites. When the racist Brits who don’t want foreigners in their country, but are more than willing to buy homes in Spain, they are contributing the economy. However, when Asians buy up property in Vancouver or Auckland, they are taking opportunities away from the locals. Totally disgusting!


    “I disagree, what we’ve put into Spain living here, yes we love the economy, but we also strengthen the economy far more.”


    Then in the US we have pollsters in California insult all our intelligence telling us that 40% of Asians in CA support Trump. It tells us that these guys think we are all stupid. People who claim that over 20% of non-whites will vote for Trump are nothing but racists!

  63. George says:

    Lot of East Asian women especially women of Chinese origin think that there is no more white racism against them. Met many in Singapore and they are in for a rude awakening!

  64. I don't want backlash for this comment says:

    Not to make invalid the point of your post, but there is a difference between racism and stereotyping. Neither are good, but I would argue the original poster’s hashtag was stereotyping.

  65. Geez, Edna, some of your experiences are completely unreal! It’s crazy that so much casual racism still exists. Thanks for writing this post. It’s very eloquent and really made me feel just a sliver of the anxiety, discomfort, and outrage you must feel all the time. Communication like this will go a long way towards building empathy.

  66. Being of South Asian origin, unless the Asians deal with their own racism, it will be very difficult to complain about white racism….


  67. Edna, I love you so much and the weird thing is I never think of you as “Asian,” but rather “someone who’s uplifting, full of joy and whose travels I LOVE following” and reading all the bad experiences you’ve encountered while traveling breaks my heart. Keep doing what you do: telling great stories, taking bad-ass photos and being an all-around inspiration.

  68. Alicia says:

    Thank you very much for writing this article, sharing your experiences and feeling and making us aware of the racism. If we want racism to stop, we have to first become aware of it. I have been discriminated against, and sadly as I was reading your article I could recall several moments in my life where I too have been racist. It is good to have the opportunity to reflect on it, and hopefully, keep learning and being respectful towards everyone, especially those who look different from us. Thank you.

  69. Great post – I used to be a big fan of YA – it was one of the first travel blogs I started reading and encouraged me to start my own but after that post I no longer go onto her blog. For me, it wasn’t just the initial post (which was bad enough) but her attitude and total disregard to people who challenged her on it. I was so disgusted by the way she behaved.
    I’m glad you have been able to post an articulate, honest response.

  70. Hi Edna, I am so sorry to hear that you have had to go through these things and I am pleased that you are speaking out about them. As a white traveller I have never had to deal with casual racism (although I have been labelled a ‘hooligan’ or an ‘imperialist’ a number of times simply because I am British), but I saw it firsthand when I travelled in Europe with my two Indian friends last summer.

    Honestly, until this trip I never fully understood how much white privilege I have. Firstly, I could not believe how many hoops they had to jump through simply to obtain a visa to travel to Europe. I had to write a letter on their behalf explaining that I had ‘invited’ them and booked/paid for everything – despite the fact that these are two independent working women, who have way more money than I do. They had to give all my details (name, address, DOB, Passport number etc…) and those of everybody we planned to meet along the way, as well as a detailed explanation as to why we would be meeting them. After this, they had 2 phone interviews to explain exactly why they were going, where we would visit, and who we would meet there. They had to promise to return to India at the end of the trip. After all this, they had an agonising 4 week wait to see if it was approved. The stupidity of the system was that in order to apply for the visa they had to show that all the bookings were paid for, but the visa application also said not to book anything incase the visa is denied! One of them said that some of her friends have NEVER been granted a visa to travel :-(

    Once we were on the trip I saw just how Asian travellers are viewed in Europe. I saw the German vendor roll his eyes when they paid for a boat trip entirely with coins, before he called across to me (standing way out of the way) and asked if I had a note instead. I saw the immigration officer pull them out of a queue of around 1000 people when we disembarked the ferry. When I went with them she said ‘Not you! Just them’. I explained that we were travelling together and if she took them she took me too – she allowed us all to go immediately. I saw the staring, the giggles and the pointing when we were on the train. I saw how touts flocked to sell us tours in Stockholm – a city where I lived for 3 years and was never approached once by a tout. It was an eye-opening experience, for sure.

    I read many travel blogs, but I get so tired of the ‘Don’t Call Me Lucky’ posts coming primarily from British or American, white, 20-something females who, quite frankly, don’t have a clue. The Young Adventuress post is just another example of that naive, sheltered world-view. I feel sorry for her because I don’t think she really understood what she was saying when she wrote that hashtag, but I hope that posts like yours can challenge and change her mindset. We all make mistakes, but it’s how we learn from them that matters the most.

  71. Amelie says:

    Thank you so much for this post. As an Asian American who also likes to travel, it’s comforting to see someone to write about this topic in depth. I’ve recently even decided to take a break on dating for a while only because every guy I’ve met only liked that I was Asian. When I go on assignment people always mention, oh, I know this other Asian person.

    And while these kind of comments are easier to tolerate (for me) while abroad because it’s a different country with a different history, experiencing in the USA, my home, the place that is boasts about being the melting pot, is different. The USA was built by immigration, so how can so many people still act as though if you’re Asian you must not have been born here, even after I specify that I’m from this state. Feeling like a stranger in your own country by people from your own country is no joke. And applaud you for drawing attention to the fact that many people still think it’s ok to be racist towards Asians. Thank you.

  72. Vomit on YA says:

    Ugh, I hate to break it to you, but YA’s craptastic blog has reeked of godawful amounts of privilege since its inception. I can’t stomach the number of curated selfies that she tries to pass off as something other than tragic vanity. I refuse to visit her site!

  73. bobcat303 says:

    yo. YO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    im going to honestly scream this whole post resonates with me so much!
    Im sorry if I drive out of my lane right now, but tbh, just a tiny thing, I find it a bit weird when fellow asian americans, rightfully are angry that white people dont give a blistered bleeding fuck about the bullfuckery we go through on the regular, but then go around to say like….” well if this happened to black or latinx folks”… in regard s to like offensiveness? I mean, I feel like I get kind of a different perspective/feeling. It’s realllyyyyy common for some ass to say “angry black woman” unironically. There was a billboard in regards to Hands Up Don’t Shoot that said “Pants Up Don’t Loot”…like really?? There are a lot of white people who want to say the n word simply because it ends with an “a” it must not be a slur! And the fact that when that black kid fell in that Cleveland zoo and everyone started bitching about how the damn gorilla was shot….and yet in the next minute talk about how Tamir Rice’s death is because of the actions of that poor 12 year old who will never become 13. IDK I just see a lot, I know us Asians have a huge other monster to deal with, especially east asians, because of the model minority myth and therefore not even other POC recognize that we have shit to deal with. idk. it’s complicated.

  74. Thank you for writing this and making yourself vulnerable to help others understand. Thoughtful and fair.

  75. next time – try to have a take in a couple of paragraphs or so
    otherwise, it’s just ranting nonsense
    “To constantly feel like you have to be on your best behavior because you know people will judge your entire race based on YOU?”
    oh thanks for just doing the same to white people
    get over yourself – as a pretty asian female you have the golden ticket (is that racist? against goldies)
    stop living through racist color lenses – in life there are the decent and indecent –
    and that’s the black and white of it (pun intended)

  76. Interesting and provoking to read. Thanks for sharing your experience…

  77. Hi Edna, I’m really happy to read your article. I can see how bold your thoughts are. Wow, you are so brave. I’m happy to be an Asian here.

  78. Silvana says:

    Great post, Edna. I, too have encountered racism all my life, when I travel and at the work place. Maybe that blogger needs to spend some time deep in the jungle somewhere alone instead of traveling to so called safe and privilege countries. Then she could write a memoir of her time there being the saviour of the tribes and have a movie made – *sarcasm*

  79. So very important to share! Glad you could do it in such a conclusive and inclusive way. It really does seems that “It’s never a big deal until it happens to you” or someone who you love, or someone who looks like you. Keep speaking up, you have allies! <3

  80. Hi Edna, very thought-provoking article, thanks for writing it and sharing some painful experiences of yours. I can’t even imagine how it must feel to be constantly walking on egg-shells and be mindful of your behavior, in order not to perpetuate any stereotypes.
    That’s another point – it’s a thin line when stereotyping crosses the line to casual racism. I don’t think many people realize the harm they do by casually joking about minorities! And they expect not to get any backlash, because “freedom of speech” and “they should really feel free to speak their mind”, ugh!
    I’ve been living in Thailand for the last 2 years, and even by Thai tourists (speaking in English to their expat friends) I’ve heard comments about “those Chinese tourists everywhere!”

    As someone else pointed in the comments, it’s not a matter of race – it’s a matter of being a bad tourist. And a bad tourist can belong in any race!

    Keep up the good work, it’s a pleasure reading your site :)

  81. Love it!!! Thank you for such a powerful post!

    I’ve been going through the same thing. Right now I’m traveling in England. Today I helped out my elderly neighbor carry her groceries to her home. There were a lot of people at that time since she was having a gathering. Then she said, “Oh good Lord thank you for my free Filipino maid.” I was grossly shocked because everyone didn’t seem to mind and she had to repeat it twice. I was at the brink of voicing out my frustration but I just smiled, said “Hope you have a great weekend,” then walked away. I’m never the type to confront.

    It’s kind of frustrating and it’s more frustrating when people do not believe that you are just here to travel. Some people give hints that there is a care home that I can work for, or there is a Filipino who can help me find a job. God! At 27 I’ve travelled to 37 countries and I had the luxury of going back and forth in countries I like. Last year I went to Europe 4 times to and from the Philippines. Not that I’m insanely rich, but I’ve got a comfortable lifestyle because I’m smart with my money and where I want to spend it. Plus I have wealthy parents whom I can call out for help haha!

    I’ve always loved traveling but at this stage I’m just appalled by the fact that with the surge in travel and internet use, which are supposed to “close the gaps” between nations, why is it that people are not getting emotionally smarter? Why do they still have antiquated and archaic views of the world and the people who live in it?

    For my travels this year I’ve taken solitude within and have enjoyed reading instead. Can’t wait to go back home this December.

  82. Debsywebsy says:

    Hi Edna

    Enjoyed reading this. Is the Swedish blogger Carol Olsson?

    I am Asian and when I travel I get the weird looks with my husband. Doesn’t matter if we are mindful not to be in the way or if we try to be polite in english. We still get the looks. We met an Irish who asked us why we spoke English (our first langauge). I hope he asked out of curiosity but I could tell he was not initially very friendly with us. That being said we also met other beautiful hearted people in our travels too. Even though I have lived in europe before and we both travel, doesn’t stop the fact people will judge.

    Race and prejudice sometimes prevent others from having good friendships but I also think when they think like that they are not worth the friendship.

    Love your article.


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