“Desperation and fear can make people do a lot of things.” A phrase that comedian Trevor Noah said in the Netflix show with Jerry Seinfeld “Comedians in cars getting coffee”.
Racism sounds like such a heavy and serious subject that I always try to avoid discussing it. In that Netflix episode, Trevor was explaining “apartheid” to Jerry and how everything sounds so ridiculous in today’s world. That’s right. Racism is ridiculous in nature yet it is still, sadly, everywhere.
According to Dictionary.com, the word “Racism” means:
- a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.
- hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.
Basically, it is generalization of a whole group of people, in a negative way. A long time ago, when I was walking to class through Queen’s park in downtown Toronto, I was on the phone with my mom speaking in Mandarin of course. A guy passing by, a random white guy, yelled at me :”Go Home!” and continued on his way. It took me a few minutes to realize that he was talking to me; then another few minutes to fully understand what was really going on here. I wasn’t speaking English, in “his” country, therefore, I should go back to where I came from. This was my first and most direct encounter of racism in Canada. And yes, I remember that experience vividly to this day.
The most recent Coronavirus brought some of these comments back to me again. A coworker brought his twitter feed to me, showing an Asian man eating what looked at live rats in a video cut. “See, that’s what Chinese people eat.” It made me furious and sad at the same time to have to explain to him that not all Chinese people eat rats or bats. The fact is that stupid people do stupid things AND there are stupid people everywhere in the world. Another fact is that people in China are also furious about these certain stupid individuals who probably consumed wild animals which caused thousands of other innocent people to suffer from this new virus.
I cannot even start with these Twitter comments about how Canada should never allow any Chinese in, or other vicious attacks. With social media as a platform and in the shadow of anonymity, these “twitter warriors” can spread a lot of fear and rumors just by sitting on their toilets. They have no concerns with the consequences of their words because they will never really need to face it. But nonetheless, these people behind their cellphones are as ugly and hurtful as their words. The lady who does my nails is Vietnamese. She told me that her business is hurting from the rumors about this Coronavirus because to some white people, Vietnamese and Chinese are all the same. So customers are avoiding her nail salon, basically because they don’t want to get sick. If you think about this situation a few years later, it can be quite funny actually. The nail lady is a Canadian, who immigrated from Vietnam more than 20 years ago. She has never really visited China, only flew by as a transit stop when she used to visit Vietnam few years back. Other than me, all her other clients are local white women. The chances of getting the new virus from her is the same as from the bus driver, or the KEG waitress. But she is Asian.
Some people say that Trump caused all these racism. Nah. Racism is already in these people’s system. It just that racism generally gets frowned upon in public so most people were hush-hush about it. Until the president of United State “legitimized” the hatred and fear from his frequent twitter feeds. Oh, since the president can do it, it must be ok!
ANYWAY. It is unlike me to get so political and emotional in my writing. It surprises me sometimes how dealing with these subtle racism affect me subconsciously. Do I really belong here? Can I call this country home? Should I behave better because people see me not as me, but as Chinese? Will I get a fair chance at the next promotion? How can I react to my coworkers’s inappropriate jokes about Asians?
Nothing makes it right to hurt another person, especially based on their skin color or cultural background. Don’t be an asshole. That’s all I am asking.