Interview with Erin Chew

How did you get involved with (and what is your role with) YOMYOMF

Actually a few years ago, I ran a camapaign against a racist Facebook page called HUMANS OF SUNNYBANK which was mocking all Asian stereotypes (, and I happen to find this on Google. That was the first time I heard of YOMYOMF. Through a mutual friend on Facebook, I was connected to the creative director of YOMYOMF and thanked the site for covering the campaign. Later on I sent them (via FB) some materials on stuff happening in Australia which involved Asians to see if they were interested in writing about it. And then I was asked to write it for them and so I did. Later I just continued to submit pieces to them as YOMYOMF is an open platform for anyone to express a POV or talk about a project they are working on - really the only qualification is that it needs to have relevancy for Asians. From there, the rest is history and now I have been so lucky to have the opportunities to blog for YOMYOMF. Roles wise I just write for them, and one of my major focuses is on Asian Australian issues as well as issues affecting Asians all over the world - particularly social issues.

What do you see as the differences and similarities to being Asian in Australia and Asian in the United States?

There are many differences between Asian Australians and Asian Americans in terms of our experiences of understanding our cultural identity and fighting the never ending battle of us falling into the "model minority" myth. Because both Australia and the US are western societies, our understanding of western culture and our stereotypes of being successful in school are very similar in terms of experiences. The other similarity is that we both share the Gold Rush histories of when the first wave of mass Asian migration really occurred.

In my opinion, Asian Americans are much more mobilized in terms of social activism and are more organised when it comes to advocacy and empowerment of Asian Americans. Whereas in Australia we are still at least 10 - 15 years behind. A lot of this is primarily due to the fact that Asian Americans have "Asian American" heroes to revere and be inspired by - for eg. Grace Lee Boggs, Yuri Kochiyama etc whereas in Australia we have no documented facts of who our Asian Australian heroes were from past generations. Also Native Americans have more self determination than Australian Indigenous peoples and Asian Americans are more woke in terms of standing in solidarity with Native American causes, where in Australia there really isn’t anything like this. Also, Australia has never really had a civil rights movement and therefore we have no benchmark in terms of looking at where we should be in terms of our own Asian empowerment.

What are the issues that are most important to you?

For me empowerment of Asians is the most important issue. This is the reason I write and the reason I do a lot of the advocacy work I do. As a 5 year old, my first memories of school were being called a "Communist" and a "Chink", and I was physically bullied by older white kids for looking Asian. Thinking back, I do not want future generations experiencing this and I that is why i work hard in the advocacy for Asian Australians and really Asians everywhere.

I also have concerns over the whole whitewashing in Hollywood, and how Asians are somehow not seen as "sellable" in terms of being leads in major blockbuster films. Why is our worth less than a white actor? Is it that being Asian we are more inferior?

Asian feminism is another issue important to me, because despite the fact that some people may feel Asian women have some sort of sexual privileges, we know that this is not true - we are objectified as women and are targets of sexual exploitation. Also Asian feminism always gets hidden in the bigger mainstream feminist movement and we always have to yell louder to be heard.

Lastly, I am passionate about advocating on LGBTI issues because our Asian LGBTI community are always left our of conversations on Asian social activism.

 What inspired you to start the Asian Australian Alliance and what do you hope for the future of that organization?

I started the Asian Australian Alliance in 2013 as an advocacy network for Asian Australian empowerment and to provide provide a space for all Asian Australians to be able to talk about the issues relevant to us. My inspiration really came from spending significant periods of time in California and the US as a whole and working and mingling with Asian American advocacy groups.

Have you ever been to the East Coast or Boston in particular? How about our Chinatown? If not, off the top of your head what do you think of when you think of Boston Chinatown?

I have never been to Boston ( it is on my list to visit next year) but I have been to both DC and NYC. I have seen pictures of Boston's Chinatown and love how it still retains a lot of its authenticity and history in terms of the buildings and stores. NYC Chinatown is the same - I love how you almost feel as though you are in Asia somewhere and the food is so awesome. I assume Boston Chinatown would be similar where you are just transformed into anywhere in China or Hong Kong.