May President’s Message
by Judy Hanazawa
May Greetings Community Members!
The President’s message for May is about what is happening to Asian Canadians as the Covid pandemic continues its reign over daily life. I’m hoping people are keeping safe and well. I know community members are generally pretty resilient yet isolation is a challenge and am hoping people are finding ways to stay positive as the days go by. Many people have caring families around them but others are on their own so staying connected to friends who are ‘family’ is so important too.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been having conversations with GVJCCA board member Lily Shinde who has given me her accounts about racist incidents she has personally witnessed or experienced.
Lily has had personal experience where acquaintances have stated she is the cause of the virus. They have said it was meant to be a joke. Someone asked if she needed her water bottle (which she always carries), because she has Covid 19. She has been yelled at to get off the sidewalk by a woman gardening closeby. Lily is a polite yet assertive individual who will not stay silent when she encounters demeaning, blaming, discriminatory or racist behavior. She spoke to the woman who retreated into her house. She has actually been thanked by a few people for teaching them about the harm of unthinking racist behavior.
Lily described a particularly disturbing incident about a mother and her two sons waiting for a bus who were accosted by a Caucasian man yelling and accusing them of spreading the virus. He spit on the mother. Lily heard this exchange as she walked toward the bus stop. The son called out in anger at the man. Lily sought the help of another man who ran after the offender. Words were spoken but the offender ran off. As Lily sat with the family on the bus later, the mom wiped off her jacket, and her boys were questioning why this happened. This was their first such incident and they were originally from the Philipines. Lily spoke to them about racism and how in this time of Covid 19 some people were targeting Asians. She advised the children it was good to stand up for their mom but to be careful. She felt the offender could have gotten more violent with the son yelling at him. The mother was concerned about her children too.
Both Lily and another board member have had angry stares and words directed at them while they have worn their masks.
News reports have increased about Asians being targeted as the pandemic continues. In the last few days TV reports refer to a young Asian woman who was on her cel in a supermarket being accosted by a yelling Caucasian woman who ended up kicking her. The incident was reported to the police but the young woman chose not to lay charges. Yesterday there was footage on TV showing a frail 92 year old Asian elder with dementia being bodily thrown out of a grocery store by a hulking Caucasian man making racist remarks to him about Covid 19. Five reports of hate crimes with an anti Asian element were reported to police in March 2020. Unfortunately many racialized communities do not trust the police due to their own negative experience. It is critical for law enforcement to deal effectively and appropriately with both victims and offenders of hate crimes. Much like the incident involving the mother and her two boys who Lily Shinde encountered, many incidents are not reported. Although the mother was understandably concerned about safety, the offender has gotten away free to spread his hate and target someone else. The attacker of the 92 year old elder in the grocery store has yet to be charged.
Right now there is a national Pan Asian network being established to document anti-Asian racism incidents, present concerns to governments and authorities calling for effective steps to ensure zero tolerance. Asians too need to learn and apply personal tools and skills to stand up to racism and use our voices so we are heard. Everything possible should be done to educate, prevent, and establish solidarity so that Asians and all society stand together against racism.
Please note in the May Bulletin, the NAJC is presenting their statement about Anti Asian Covid 19 related incidents along with an NAJC form to complete so that racism incidents during Covid 19 can be documented.
All of us are in this together to overcome the virus and this includes standing against racism. Terms outlined in the Consultation Report about BC Redress for Japanese Canadians referred to the ongoing need to erase racism’s presence in society and the virtual world, despite our elders telling their stories so that no other community is targeted. Our experience with Covid 19 is another lesson that the battle is far from over. There is a need for all to make a focused effort to address, learn, fight and eradicate the poison that racism is. Take good care all.