“Where should I begin? I don’t think I need to recapitulate what has been happening regarding #AsianHateCrimes. I’ll begin with three personal stories.
First one happened in 2013 when my boyfriend, Stephen, now husband, and I drove a U-Haul with all our belongings from Calgary back to Toronto. When in a small town in Saskatchewan, we stopped by a Wendy’s for a quick lunch. Just as we were enjoying our burgers, this little girl around five years old was sitting right beside our table, holding her doll, and poking half of her body from behind her mom. She was staring at me as she was amazed, yet with a little uncertainty.
She then whispered to her mom: ‘Mommy, why she looks so different from us?’
She didn’t realize her whisper didn’t have the outcome she wished. Many of us heard her loud and clear. Her mom quickly picked her up and moved her onto the other side of the table.
‘Shhh…don’t ask something like that,’ she said. Our eyes met and she quickly looked away.
A second story happened more recently.
Eli was born with jaundice, which means he not only was born with slightly more bilirubin in his body, but also appeared more yellow than his peers.
When we took him to the Oakville hospital for a check-up, and the pediatrician commented, ‘I wouldn’t worry too much. I mean, he is mixed-race right? So he will never be as white as his daddy, and will always have some yellow in him.’
I was speechless when I heard it. In shock, actually. And the ironic part was I didn’t want to cause a scene. My ‘model citizen’ hat was dominating my rage.
And the third story was a comment from a family member of Stephen, whom I shall not name.
When I told her Eli’s skin was very dry, she commented, ‘Asians usually have dry skin, right?’ I was thinking to myself, ‘Where did that even come from?’ But again, I didn’t say a thing.
Out of the three incidents, there was one common thread: subtle racism. And another: I was quiet. I didn’t want to cause a scene. I didn’t know better. I always gave others the benefit of the doubt.
Naw, that’s not racism. She is not racist. I was just being too sensitive. Too delusional. Too quick to jump to conclusions.
I wish I could go back to the little girl in Wendy’s when she looked at me with wonder, curiosity, and uncertainty, and approached her with nothing but kindness.
‘I look different because I’m Chinese-Canadian. I’m Asian. I have a different skin tone. Different eyes. There are many other different people in this world who look very different from you, but we are all connected. Being different is beautiful.’
I wouldn’t expect she would understand entirely what I meant. She might even think I was being nonsensical. But silence shouldn’t be an option. This conversation might just serve as a seed to grow in her one day. But her mother and the people around her need to keep watering until this happens.”
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