Have I experienced racism as an Asian-American woman? Yes. I’ve long since believed that it’s part of the territory of moving in this world with my racialized body and I’ve refused to let it harden me. For those ignorant acts to define me would mean victory for those small individuals and I frankly refuse to give them the satisfaction. Right now though, we are living in an increasingly dangerous world and it is time to speak up.
Let’s lay this bear: I am a Canadian woman of Southeast Asian descent. I immigrated to Toronto at the age of six and have since then been an honor student, have a Master’s degree and a Ph.D. I am a published scholar, worked with refugees, volunteered with women’s groups, became a mother and now am a Permanent Resident of the United States, working in elementary education. Think of all the intersectionality that the racist person misses out on by just judging me on the shape of my eyes and shade of my skin. Think of all the missed opportunities that exist when we make reductionist choices and forego knowing the essence of someone through discrimination. By taking things at face value you cannot learn or connect with others. I am tired of individuals believing that they have the right to deem people to be lesser than.
To go beyond the hurt that this can cause, right now our community members are facing violence. One of my grandfather’s favorite activities when he visited us was to walk around Toronto. If he lived here now he would be in danger of being preyed on by domestic terrorists and their criminal acts. Let’s call them what they are: hate crimes. These older people might be out to pick up their grandchildren from school, run errands to help support families, get out of the house during a time when we spend so much time inside and away from communities and yet they cannot practice their god given right to exist safely. These acts are a stain on any society.
So, what can you do? Be an upstander. If you witness these acts, call for help, get out your camera and record the violence so that they can be judged by the law and do your best to defuse the situation. As for the Asian community, this is not the time to just take this abuse. It is a time to be brave and name where these acts stem from: racism. Racism is built on a history of those in power practicing dehumanization. Whether it was in the halls of Versailles or on the streets of North Toronto, the times that my husband has witnessed racism against me or others, he has called them racists. He has used his privilege as a tall, white male to say that what these perpetrators bring to the world is morally corrupt and wrong.
For us, each and every day, do not let discriminatory thoughts get us down. Racism is a cage that degrades the soul and narrows the mind and frankly, we are better than this.