“I worry about your Popo going out on her own. I’m glad she’s independent, but also relieved that with the pandemic she doesn’t venture out at all”
“I worry about you too, Mommy, you’re an Asian woman. It’s all so random.”
This is scary shit. I NEVER thought that the anti-Asian sentiment would be a “thing” for my daughter, for my kids to have to deal with, let alone it being arguably worse than when my parents and grandparents made their way into Canada. My kids have explored their Asian heritage for school – the Chinese Exclusion act is part of their Canadian history curriculum. They know of the head tax placed on their great grandfather; the reason for the somewhat fractured family dynamics. For me, micro-aggressions, schoolyard taunts, passive aggressive conversations, verbal slurs are one thing. The new normal in 2021 -random physical assaults and killings in broad daylight? This is civilized society?
It’s always there, you know. I grew up in assimilation mode, following the model established by my father – survival really. Be one with the every day Canadian white person. Don’t stick out, relish in the fact that you don’t have a Chinese accent – take it as a compliment when people call that out. Sometimes I would get the “You look mixed, actually, I can see it….”
I’m a banana – white on the inside, yellow on the out. The racist undertones. Through words, through actions. I am still yellow on the inside. You don’t say anything. You just deal and move on.
My husband made an assumption the other day, “You didn’t experience much racism growing up, did you?” To which I replied, “I haven’t mentioned it, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t felt it. And not just growing up, even in adulthood.” I love my husband, don’t get me wrong. He’s not racist at all. He’s just a white Canadian male. How could he understand or see it? We’ve been together 35 years- it was worth the conversation.
I suppose the fact that I would usually laugh at the “being Asian” jokes in conversation and in social media posts, make it seem like things have always been cool. And for the most part it hasn’t been a big deal. Nowadays, it really bothers me. I can’t look at it in the same way, it’s just not that funny anymore.
When I look back, I get a bit angry. Not huge events, but they niggle, like tiny cuts stung with saline. This is growing up in multi-cultural Canada.
-forced to miss recess regularly to talk to the new girl from China – I barely spoke Cantonese and she only Mandarin #resentfulawkwardness;
-being yelled at in a public washroom in Vancouver for taking locals’ jobs (I was a visiting tourist);
– on a European tour, being positioned in a group photo with the only other Asian in group – away from my white boyfriend (seriously ?);
-years ago at a global work event, being seated at the table for Asian countries – despite being the Canadian rep.
The NOW is a lot to process. What to do, what to say. I haven’t acknowledged any of the recent events on my social media accounts. A lifetime of being quiet about it doesn’t translate easily.