Let us take this time of mourning to resolve to end racism and racialized injustice, to actively promote safety, belonging, and dignity for all our friends, family and community members of Asian descent, and to strengthen the fabric of Canadian society so it reflects our shared values of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.
On March 16, 2021, we learned of the tragic killings of eight innocent people in Atlanta, Georgia, six of whom were Asian-American women. As yet another act of senseless gun violence, this event was heartbreaking. Understood also as a non-random act of racialized misogyny targeting low-wage workers whose lives are too-often devalued, this devastating event further catalyzes our resolve to speak up against anti-Asian racism and the demeaning ways that Asian women, in particular, are too-often portrayed.
Violent racism is not just an American problem. Since the COVID-19 outbreak began just over one year ago, people of Asian descent in Canada, and especially here in B.C., have also been racially targeted, assaulted, and harassed. A report released just days after the Atlanta attacks has documented more than 1,150 incidents reported to Chinese-Canadian community and advocacy groups across the country between March 2020 and the end of February 2021 – nearly half of which have taken place in B.C. and/or since January of this year.
This scapegoating of people of Asian descent is particularly painful when seen in the context of a long history of anti-Asian racism in Canada, including the Chinese head tax (1885-1923), the Chinese Exclusion Act (1923-1947) and the internment of Japanese-Canadians during World War II. All generate a myth of perpetual foreignness that Asian-Canadians still face today, regardless of how many generations their families have been in Canada. Still, for various reasons, including the model minority myth and “adjacency” to white culture, anti-Asian racism has too often been overlooked, minimized or dismissed.
We can and must do better. We can turn this time of mourning into a time of increased resolve to end racism and racialized injustice, to actively promote safety, belonging, and dignity for all our friends, family and community members of Asian descent, and to strengthen the fabric of Canadian society so it reflects our shared values of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.
To counter racism, let us spread truths and appreciation. We offer our gratitude to Chinese and other Asian communities who have contributed significantly to the fight against COVID-19 by sharing knowledge about the virus, implementing strict safety measures such as self-isolation, and modelling consideration of others (since long before COVID) by wearing masks in public.
Let us stand up to hate, intolerance, xenophobia, nativism, and all hurtful actions and speech that are motivated by bias and discrimination. Let us also recognize how anti-Asian racism intersects with other dimensions of identity that puts certain people further at risk – particularly seniors, those with limited English fluency, low-income individuals, women, frontline workers, individuals without permanent immigration status, LGBTQ+ community members, and those facing mental illness.
Position statements and expressions of sadness are not enough to bring about change. Through the Mir Centre for Peace, our various departments, schools, and student-led initiatives, Selkirk College will continue to work actively for justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion, as well as decolonization and reconciliation. Information on Selkirk College’s commitments can be found in our Strategic Plan.
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We also encourage you to reach out for emotional support. Resources for students can be found here. Support for employees can accessed by using the 24/7 Employee and Family Assistance Plan (EFAP) through Homewood Health at 1-800-663-1142.
Jennie Barron, Chair of Mir Centre for Peace
Angus Graeme, Selkirk College President