Recognising the distinctions between ethnicity, nationality and identity can lead to better understanding, say Kathleen Tan and Jasper Togoton
‘Where are you originally from?’ ‘Your English is very good…’ These comments are familiar to a lot of us, yet they reveal a common misperception.
Following equality, diversion and inclusion (EDI) efforts over the past two years and the great work of the CSP’s BAME Network, we have recognised the ongoing lack of representation and visibility of the East/South East Asian community within the profession. That is, people who identify as East Asian/South East Asian; belong to nationalities including Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore; and whose ethnicities are Chinese, Malay or Filipino.
Using one of us as an example, I – Kathleen – introduce myself as Malaysian Chinese, with Malaysian being my nationality and Chinese being my ethnicity. The common confusion is that being Chinese ethnically does not mean Chinese nationality. The key to note here is, people can share the same nationality but be of different ethnic groups and people who share an ethnic identity can be of different nationalities. Ethnicity is someone’s regional cultural heritage, and nationality is the legal identification of a person in international law.
People can share the same nationality but be of different ethnic groups and people who share an ethnic identity can be of different nationalities.
Coming from one place to another, in this case the UK, can come with challenges. Discovering a new self-identity in a pantheon of cultures, languages, and people, whilst holding true to your nationality and ethnicity, is one of them.
As much as we believe in the good intentions of people to be understanding and interested in the backgrounds of physio staff, there is a need for greater awareness and knowledge of nuances between ethnicity, nationality and identity – and with that, the opportunity to be acknowledged as an individual.
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