“It is the strangest yellow, that wallpaper!”: rising above the Yellow Peril

Editor | Cassandra Lau

With so much talk about religion, politics, and cultural appropriation throughout the 21stCentury, Asian prejudice has been carefully concealed behind a yellow wallpaper: out-of-sight but very much present.

However, this summer has been a celebration of diversity as Asian-American actors, directors and writers step into the limelight. It is almost impossible to miss Netflix’s new film based on Jenny Han’s novel, ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’ starring Lana Condor: the first Asian-American romantic lead, and the all Asian cast film, ‘Crazy Rich Asians’, directed by Jon M. Chu. Both films have been extremely well received, prompting debates and raising awareness towards the social struggles Asian minorities have been facing in the west. Closer to home, Royal Holloway breaks university records with its unprecedented phenomenon: no publication at RHUL has ever been led by an Asian student before, but this year, not one but three Asian women from the English Department are simultaneously stepping up to the role which is unseen of in the UK.

“The fact that all three students are Asian women reflects the rapidly changing demographic of the English Department and its enthusiastic commitment to a diverse and multi-cultural student body,” says Head of English, Professor Juliet John, “The English department is very proud to have produced such talented and motivated students and to see them put their writing and editing skills to such great effect!”


From the Editors


I was absolutely thrilled when offered editor-in-chief for The Founderby Dan Brady – but now I am even more thrilled to share this platform with two other talented female Asian editors. It has all been so surreal and I feel that I won’t be able to wrap my head around it until our last issue’s been properly published. Saying this, I do hope that, a few years down the line, diversity won’t be a cause of celebration, but a norm.

Brady notes how “great [it is] to see student media adapt alongside changes,” and with the number of international students at the university, “it only seems right that these students
are properly represented in student media outlets. Balance is essential in journalism, and this is certainly a step in the right direction.”

Though racial prejudice still exists within educational institutions, I have been fortunate enough to have found supportive teachers and professors to prompt me to constantly challenge and improve myself. Though it is about time we see some diversity in university papers, I strongly believe that changes like this will open up greater opportunities for BAME students to pursue their interests.

“Balance is essential in journalism, and this is certainly a step in the right direction.”

42186160_522683971492619_4542794313502818304_nWithout further ado, from Hong Kong, Michele Theil, 20, has been elected editor-in-chief of the official Student Union magazine, The Orbital. Theil says, “It’s amazing that the students of RHUL [trust that] I would champion their thoughts and opinions through the medium of magazine journalism.” Theil has an impressive resume, participating in RHUL media since 2016. Under the wing of then editor-in-chief and managing editor of The Founder, Dan Brady, she took on the role of Deputy Online Editor, and has been writing for both The Founder and The Orbitalsince. Competitive at heart, the two papers have long been at odds but Theil and I are hoping that greater results can be achieved by supporting each other.

“Don’t let other people’s opinions affect you. They don’t matter nearly as much as what you think of yourself.”


At Royal Holloway’s creative writing magazine, QUAD, Sandra Leung, 20, will be passed the editor-in-chief baton by her peers. The Shanghainese creative writing student expresses her anticipation to combine creative writing with editorial responsibility explaining, “Managing this media outlet provides a platform for people to showcase writing pieces that writers have poured their time, effort, and heart into.” Extremely accomplished, Leung has worked as a freelance writer at Society 19 and LND magazine since 2017 and recently worked at Hong Kong’s Television Broadcast Limited (TVB) as an intern.


“Hard work always pays off, and never let adversity deter you from pursuing what you’re passionate about.”


To Our Younger Selves

Talking to Leung and Theil, we discussed what have been the main hindrances of getting to where we are now, and what we wish we could’ve told our younger selves. Theil notes how, “racial micro-aggressions are always a thing”, whether in educational institutions or in the workplace. The former was especially prominent at my boarding school: I recall being made to take GCSE English as a Second Language despite English being my mother-tongue, and later advised to take IELTS despite achieving full marks in IGCSE and A-Level English Language and Literature. As a teenager, it was very disheartening but I was luckily surrounded by supportive peers. Less fortunate, Theil explains her greatest barrier was, “People not taking [her] seriously and telling [her] that what [she does] is a waste of time and that journalism is too hard to try to make it in.” She stresses, “Don’t let other people’s opinions affect you. They don’t matter nearly as much as what you think of yourself.” For Leung, the issue resided at home as her “parents [have an] ambivalent attitude towards [her] chosen field of study.” She wishes she knew that, “Hard work always pays off, and never let adversity deter you from pursuing what you’re passionate about.”

Currently, there still remains a significant lack of Asian writers in western media. According to Professor John. There is bias both conscious and unconscious, not just within individuals, but woven into the fabric of society at all levels; this is both cause and effect of inequality. More Asians [and women] in leadership roles will help to change things and the media is very important in how society is represented and understands itself.” With the media being such a powerful force, the phenomenon “is therefore not just personal but political, a visible, hopeful marker of equality of opportunity and progress towards a more equal future,” concludes John. I hope all students, regardless of race, gender, or age, know that they can be whatever they want to be, and that each story of success will be a step closer to this more equal future.





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