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Perspective on Anti-Asian Racism

For those who don’t know, my family immigrated to Canada in 1981. We have owned and operated a family Chinese-Canadian restaurant in Port Colborne for over 30 years. Above is a picture of the takeout order we took down this past Sunday for someone who called to place an “order.” Since my mom answered using speaker phone, I was able to hear the whole conversation. A few red flags made the call stand out immediately: their mocking tone, they didn’t seem to know what they wanted to order, and they ended the call with saying something about the word “Asian” but they hung up before finishing their phrase. It was odd. Luckily, we asked for their phone number which seemed made up (222-3467). As we expected, no one came to pick up the order.

There is something inherently wrong with this behaviour, even though it may appear mundane and not a very “hateful” act. My family is a visible minority in a predominantly white city, and I’ve seen incidents like this happen far too often. These “subtle acts of racism” occur countless times in our community, but the worst part is that us visible minorities tend to brush it off. My mom was truly not fazed by the prank phone call, and went about her day as if it was normal. But these incidents shouldn’t be normal.

I don’t blame her though. It’s the norm that subtle discrimination gets swept under the rug, because…what can we do, right? Perhaps it’s a desire to fit in and be model citizens, but what if we don’t want to be? If we weren’t the friendly family everyone has grown to love, would we be subjected to even more hateful acts?

When I was growing up, there was no shortage of “pulling your eyes wider” to imitate smaller Asian eyes, or even have songs like “me Chinese, me no dumb, we stick finger up me bum” (sorry for the vulgarness but for some reason this jingle stuck). Although this was not commonplace, it did happen. Never once did I stand up and explain why it was so wrong. It seems ingrained in our culture and society that we should ignore racist acts and be the better person.

As more and more discrimination is being brought to the forefront, we need to consider our actions as both aggressors, victims, and bystanders. We have to recognize that discrimination happens constantly and it doesn’t always look like someone being physically abused on the street. Victims and bystanders need to know that it is not okay, and that these actions are not tolerated. Ultimately, we need to practice empathy for one another and just be caring human beings. At the end of the day, I am hoping that this was an isolated incident based on ignorance, immaturity and lack of understanding.

Spread love not hate,

Jacky Li

    Are you AHAA?