Stop Asian Hate: Where are you REALLY from?
by Virtue Staff
06 Aug 22

This year, for the 2nd ever East & South East Asian Heritage month here in the UK, we’re reclaiming our identities by reclaiming this question. The majority of ESEA believe people in the UK don’t know when they’re being racist and that’s where the problem lies; when people don’t know what racism looks like.

Microaggressions are one of the most common forms of racism. Unlike blatant acts of hate, they are more subtle and harder to identify. Disguised as jokes and compliments they often go unremarked but the weight of the words stays with the victims.

Asking someone where they’re really from removes their autonomy to define their identity, which is why we wanted to open up the conversation about this loaded question. Over the coming weeks you’ll hear creative voices from the global ESEA community as we look to unpack and re-define Where Are You Really From.

If we don’t know the weight of our words, we can go around hurting people when we speak. Check before you ask someone “Where are you from?” and if you spot microaggression, call it out.


Nicole Chui

We commissioned and spoke to Nicole Chui (she/her) who created the artwork you see above. She’s a London based embroidery artist whose mission is to "disrupt perfection, encourage people to break boundaries and inspire others to embrace their raw emotions." Currently exhibiting in Somerset House, we’re super proud to collaborate with her to explore her experience of microaggressions.

Tell us about yourself

My name is Nicole Chui and I’m an embroidery artist based in London. I’ve been in London for almost 10 years, but was born and raised in Hong Kong, and have both Hong Kong & Malaysian heritage. My work is messy, brash, and disruptive which is a reflection of how I tend to express all the things I want to share! I’ve just finished this piece of art for vice, and now I’m working on doing a talk and an embroidery art workshop for ESEA heritage month. I’m also taking part in a few exhibitions during London Design Festival towards the end of September so watch out for those. I am also the co-founder of Baesianz FC, a football club for women, non binary and trans people of Asian heritage.

How does it make you feel to be asked “Where are you really from?”

Othered, suspicious, and annoyed. I get extremely suspicious when someone who isn’t Asian asks me that because most times they just want to use it as an excuse to talk about their one holiday to Asia rather than actually have a genuine conversation with you.

How important is identity to you? To your work?

It’s important to me because all my work is personal. It’s inevitably a part of who I am because I create based on my emotion and my experiences. That is something that I can’t change.

Do you feel your identity changes and fluctuates based on who you’re with? Where you are? Throughout time?

Yes, I feel like I’m always growing and developing. I don’t believe in staying stagnant and my art is also a reflection of that development. I always feel like there’s room for me to learn and be open about things around me in life.

What does heritage mean to you?

Heritage is something that I cannot change and it will always be a part of who I am. To me, my heritage is something to be proud of no matter where I go.

Race and how we choose to identify are important things, so is there a better way to ask you more about your heritage?

Be genuine and respectful- don’t talk AT ME about my heritage or where I come from. Just be decent and ask questions about my experience rather than just repeat the question 'wHeRe ArE yOu rEaLLY FrOm’. That should be normal anyway but people are weird.

What steps can people take to ensure we're headed in a direction where more people feel welcome?

Be empathetic and respectful of peoples experience. Also call out bullshit and racist jokes that are blurted casually.

Can you speak about intersectionality, if that’s something you identify with?

I think intersectionality is extremely important in every discussion and movement for change. Everyone has their own unique experiences of discrimination and oppression, and we are not a monolith. We’re still figuring out what "ESEA" means to all of us, and sometimes I feel like the celebratory events are still too east asian-centric which is problematic, as that is not inclusive of south-east asians. While we do have similarities in various asian cultures, it’s important to distinguish that not everyone has the same experience. That is something that needs to be pushed and actively realised by people in the forefront of organisations pushing for ESEA heritage month, representation, and voices. Within that, there still needs to be more empathy and people must actively push for more understanding through conversations about how class, race, sexual orientation and gender create a whole other layer of the experience of being an east asian or south-east asian in community, families, and life in the diaspora/motherland.

What kind of representation would you like to see more of?

More fearlessly vocal east asian and south-east asian leaders who want to push for intersection and positive changes in general. I would particularly love to see more women, trans and non binary people at the forefront of everything I stand for, particularly want to see more east asian and southeast asian women in football here.

IG: @thatsewnicole |

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