Under the Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) label, BESEAs have never been able to refer to themselves using the correct geographical term, Asian. This is another slight to BESEAs, part and parcel of the way our experiences of racism and racial discrimination continues to go un-acknowledged.
Asian is a term, which in the UK describes those whose heritage is that of the subcontinent of India. BESEAs have been stuck with being described as Oriental or Chinese. For the most part, China or identifying as Chinese became the catch-all. This ignorance of the differences between the rich spectrum of ethnicities is symbolic of a lack of understanding driven by a colonial perspective and amounts to the racist notion that “we all look the same.” This should be abolished.
In the same manner that the term Black has now come to be understood, to represent and describe people of Black, African and Caribbean heritage, we believe that using the broad term British East and South East Asian can act as an umbrella and acknowledge our diversity.
We use the term BESEA to mean people of the following descent: Brunei, Burma, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, East Timor, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Mongolia, North Korea, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and their diasporas. These people remain severely underrepresented in the arts in the UK.