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Allyship - Asian Perspective

2020 has been a year of awakening and growth for me within my own identity as a Chinese-Canadian.

My parents were born and raised in Hong Kong and immigrated to Canada in the 70s. My four siblings and I are all second generation Canadians. 

To be honest, I have identified as Canadian most of my life. Within our home, we spoke English, we celebrated Canadian holidays, and we grew up in a predominantly white community. Aside from our traditional Chinese dinners and the occasional visit to Chinatown in Toronto, we didn’t seem to acknowledge a lot of our culture. 

Of course, I didn’t and can’t hide the fact that I’m Chinese. I didn’t face overt racism, in the form of slur words or hatred. Instead, I faced microaggressions. Comments that referred to my math skills, or lack thereof, or how I speak English very clearly. 

After college and being in the workforce was when I started to recognize that being a woman of colour put me at a disadvantage. I wasn’t surprised to learn of the wage gap between myself and my white colleagues, nor was I surprised when I was spoken over or not taken seriously. 

However, that wasn’t a battle I was prepared to take on, so I stayed quiet and hoped that my hard work would one day be acknowledged and my voice would be heard. Perhaps, a behaviour tied to my upbringing of work hard, stay quiet, don’t cause any conflict which most likely stemmed from the “model-minority” myth that assumes and boxes all Asians to act a certain way.

But then 2020 hit.

As I’m sure you are well aware, COVID19 allegedly started in China. This reignited hate towards the Asian community and even Indigenous people mistaken for being Asian, within Canada and America. And as I heard about these cases and the hatred that was running rampant toward the Asian community, I started to peel back the layers to my own ignorance. Within my very own community. 

I went through an identity crisis of my own. How could I have been so blind to what Asian-Canadians face? How could I have lived 30+ years and not really have understood my roots or culture?

In my usual style, I dove deeper into learning about the history of immigration as a whole within Canada. I was mortified to discover how our history lessons sugar coated much of our deep, dark history. 

Then the tragic death of George Floyd came to light. A Black man begging for his life, for breath, for his mom and my heart shattered to pieces.  

Shamefully, this wasn’t the first incident involving a person of the Black community. I just wasn’t awake enough to understand what was happening, buried within my own lack of understanding of what people of colour face, especially the Black and Indigenous communities. 

But here we are. In the present moment. Where I now know better and can do more to stand in solidarity. 

I actually didn’t know what I, as a person of colour, could do to be an ally. Would my own oppressed voice make a difference?

I had to dig deeper to find that the answer is yes. 

A big part of the systems that were built to oppress, relied on dividing the races. The model minority myth I had referred to earlier was built on Asians being successful because of their hard work and law-abiding ways. And it was used to position that if Asian people can succeed even while facing racism, what stops other people of colour?

But the answer to that is that the Black community is not afforded such opportunities.

I started digging deeper. Looking into the history of the Black community. Asking more questions, listening more actively when Black people share their experiences. 

This is not easy work. In fact, it is ugly to realize and call out your own biases and ignorance. I have so much work to do myself.

Let this be your wake up call! Boys and men are afraid to leave their houses, be out in public, or even go for a jog on their own street! Mothers have to tell their sons not to wear their hoods or put their hands in their pockets, to watch every step they take. Can you imagine fearing for your child’s safety every time they leave the house? Or in Breonna Taylor’s case, sleeps in her own bed??!! My throat closes and my heart breaks even writing that. 

This is totally unacceptable and outrageous. 

Is this the world we want for our children? 

We need to elevate Black voices. Listen with empathy and compassion when they share their experiences. Get to the root of these dangerously oppressive systems and break them down. A good example would be when Black students ask for the removal of police services within schools, engage in the conversation to hear their experience and perspective before shutting it down. 

But first we need to be an ally. Stand in solidarity with the Black community. If you are wondering how, listen to the suggestions of Black people, such as donating to certain causes, research and consider volunteering or supporting local Black led community groups, show up at Black Lives Matter rallies, and email your local politicians to push for the change the Black community is asking for. 

One closing note, do your own research. We have a wealth of information at our fingertips all of the time. Google, watch YouTube videos, follow Black leaders on social media, and research to gain a better understanding of what the BIPOC community faces. Please take it upon yourselves to do the work rather than placing the onus on the Black community to educate you on what they have been going through or what you can do.