Friday Musings

I have been called many different things, been referred to by many different labels, and perceived myself as many things.

But I have never been ashamed of who I am, or felt singled out. Yes, I am Asian, but I was born and raised in Canada, and went to school here. My friends come from diverse backgrounds and are of various ethnicities. I have dated Caucasian guys. I have never felt different, less, or inferior due to my race. The last racial slur – I heard was when I was less than 10 years old, when some neighborhood kids were singing a song which was distinctly racial. I guess I didn’t fully grasp the implications then – other than that I was being made fun of.

But today, today’s incident was different. I was headed to work, walking down Granville Street, when a well dressed guy in sneakers deliberately elbowed me, and called me a “chink”. I was furious. I couldn’t believe my ears. My first reaction was to call him “racist pig” loud enough for the passerbys to hear. I kept walking.

And then I felt hot angry tears sting my eyes, I have not shed a tear over being called a name in a very long time. And then anger – really, have we not progressed? Have we forgotten, that cliche as it might sound, Canada was built on the backs of immigrants, not to mention blatant disregard for First Nations rights>

I am not naive; I know racism exists, but it has been such a long time since I have had racial slurs hurled at me. And in a city with so much racial diversity no less.

We work, we pay taxes, we own homes, and dare I say, that it’s not often I see a Chinese panhandler????

I have been ashamed of of many things, but I have never been ashamed to be a Canadian, not until today. While I believe, and fervently hope, that individuals like the one I encountered today represent a small proportion of the population, the incident leaves a very sour taste in my mouth.

As for the guy today – maybe he was mentally ill? Maybe not. Perhaps his parents were ingnorant, taught him that racism is okay. Or maybe he needs someone to blame for a rotten childhood. I’ll never know but I don’t need to. There is absolutely no excuse for racism.

Prior to today, I didn’t actually think I would hear such racial slurs out of a grown man’s mouth, but I guess the world never ceases to shock. I will say that for anyone who believes racism does not happen in Vancouver, think again. I sure will.

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One Response to Friday Musings

  1. Viv says:

    Hey Kristine, I was going through Dave’s Broadway Run club website, and found your blog. I actually did a long run with you (and a the Running Room group in preparation for the 2010 Victoria Marathon) a few years ago. PS: you know my cousin Dorthy! I saw her in your picture at the Nike Marathon in San Francisco… small world! You probably don’t remember me, but your story makes me feel compelled to share one of my own. Racism in Vancouver is an appalling thing to have to face. I mean as an Asian Canadian, born and raised in Vancouver, I know the world outside isn’t perfect (and regularly face racial slurs when I travel outside our borders – but I’ve come to expect that it happens, and ignore it – it’s not my home turf) but I know how upsetting it is to have it happen when your in your own hometown. Somehow it’s just more wrong when it happens in the diverse city one grew up in. You assume this kind of thing never happens here and when it does, it’s really very upsetting. I posted this story of mine as a Facebook post and dug it up just to share with you (hope it makes you feel better and certainly less alone!):

    I was riding up the big hill on Ontario today, and the gears on my 1980s beater bike got stuck on the big gear – stuff like this happens all the time on old bikes… I pulled over to fix it, and this man walks by and jeered “Don’t know how to get up a hill chink?” …As the words settled in, my first reaction was to let him walk away without saying anything (after-all I faced hourly bouts of rampant racism when I travel, so it’s not like it’s the first time something like this has happened to me) …but then I remembered that this is my hometown, and I won’t tolerate being abused like this in my own hometown. The guy had walked half a block up the hill, and I yelled back at him, loudly, but politely (no need to stoop to his level now right?): “You know that’s very rude” … “And unnecessary.” He heard me. He probably also noticed that I speak better English than he did. A minute later, I fixed the gears on my bike and blasted up that hill like I was riding a 15lb full-carbon race-demon rather than a 35lb beater that was probably older than me. Man can I ever conjure up the super-human strength when I’m pissed off… I heard him say something like “Whoa ho ho” when I sped by but didn’t spare him a second glance – people like him aren’t worth that much. I just let the sight of my ass leaving him in the dust do the talking. Score: Vivian: 1 / Pitiful Loser: 0

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