Not just Atlanta, but also Victoria
Acknowledging the racism and white supremacy embedded in Canadian society
A long post below I hope you’ll read and reflect on, I wanted to share something about the terrible shootings in Atlanta yesterday where a white man targeted Asian people, targeted women, and targeted typically vulnerable and typically stigmatized people who rely on sex work to pay the bills…
I like to take snapshots, particularly at night. The night before the shootings, I used my pocket phone gizmo to try astrophotography. It meant standing out in the dark in the park for a long time. I got some nice shots. Above is a snapshot I took the other night.
“It must be nice to be able to walk outside in the dark,” my wife said, when I returned home. It was a genuine and sincere remark. “It must be nice.”
“I see lots of women out jogging at twilight,” I said, pretty clueless (which makes me part of the problem).
“Well, they’re white,” my wife said. She is from Japan, and presents as Asian. “I am not sure if I want to walk around outside at night right now. Too dangerous for Asians.”
The next day the targeted shootings in Atlanta happened. I’m not sure how many of my friends in Canada have been following it, but racial attacks against Asian-Americans have increased since the start of the pandemic. It’s thought that the initial characterization of covid as “the China virus” and the “Wuhan flu” may have triggered these remarks, along with growing racist attitudes that Trumpism has enabled.
There is also a long history of immigration laws that excluded or targeted people of Asian descent in both Canada and the U.S., the effects of which live on in how our society regards people who look like my wife.
It’s not just in the United States. The Vancouver area has seen these attacks, as well as Toronto and other cities. Here in Victoria, it has been a constant source of worry when my wife goes out to the shops.
So far nothing bad has happened to her, but, in her sweet, kind and good-natured way, she has reported (white) people being rude to her in the shops, dodging out of the way, bumping into her.
She encountered this sort of behaviour in Victoria and in Sidney, where we used to live, before the pandemic. She regularly experienced low-grade harassment at the bus stop. She’s even been followed home. It’s hard to tell if this is because she presents as Asian, or because she’s a woman, and this is something all woman experience, or a combination of both.
There are few if any meaningful remedies for experiencing racist behaviour. Last March, our younger son was racially taunted at elementary school. He presents as Japanese. Two other boys accused him of spreading the “Wuhan flu.” It upset him at the time, mostly because the same boys had stolen and vandalized his sled the previous week, and then lied about it.
With the sled, the school moved swiftly to rectify the situation by suspending the boys. The parent of one of the boys purchased a replacement sled. It wasn’t a great solution, but at least she recognized the hurt her own son had caused.
However, when I reported the subsequent harassment — this was after the two boys had stolen his sled! — the school downplayed the issue.
“I’ll talk to them about it,” said the principal. But there was no follow-up, and no acknowledgement of hurt.
I also informed the parent of one of the boys that her son had made racist comments. Her reply was, “He feels terrible that you said he was a racist.”
The lesson for me was that even me, a big, articulate white man who, thanks to a previous career as a high school teacher, knows the professional jargon teachers use, could not get any white person to take racism seriously.
I wondered what sorts of harassment or ongoing, simmering microaggressions families who are not white must endure year after year.
The point here is not to commiserate with my wife (she’s tough) or my younger son (he is happy living his best life this year in middle school, just kicking ass).
But, in the aftermath of yet another racialized mass shooting, to consider what sort of racist, white supremacist society we live in, and often benefit from.
Be a little more aware of how you act out in the world, what you aren’t seeing, and how you might help make things better.
White supremacy is embedded in Canadian culture. Misogyny is embedded into Canadian culture.
This makes going about our daily lives pretty easy for people like me, but potentially deadly for a lot of other people.
Thanks for reading.