Asian Canadians launch letter campaign to address racism in their own communities

A reminder that racism is not just a white/black issue but that it exists among many groups.

One of the stronger legacies of former Minister Jason Kenney was his broadening the integration focus of multiculturalism to include such tensions between and among visible minority groups, not just between the “mainstream” and visible minorities.

Good initiative:

A group that represents young Asian Canadians is taking an anti-black racism education program to their parents, grannies, uncles and aunties to help break down longstanding tensions between the two minority groups.

In light of the backlash against Black Lives Matter, the aftermath of Toronto’s Pride parade and recent police gun violence in the U.S., hundreds of Asian Canadians plan to launch a letter campaign this week reaching out to elders in their own communities.

The campaign, which follows a similar effort in the United States, aims to create a space for “open and honest conversations” about racial justice, police violence and anti-blackness in Canada’s Asian diasporas.

“The letter is meant to help Asians start having conversations within their own communities about anti-black racism, and specifically, about the anti-black racism that Asians are complicit in,” said Ren Ito, a Japanese Canadian from Toronto and one of the organizers of the Canadian campaign.

“The reality, though, is that different Asian communities are shaped by race and racism in different ways. And this means that different communities have different needs when it comes to starting conversations about anti-black racism or even about racism in general.”

A similar letter effort by Asian Americans was spurred by the recent killings of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota.

“For some of us in Canada and in Toronto in particular, the timing was also apt because we’ve had to deal with controversy and racist backlash against Black Lives Matter-Toronto for their actions during the Pride parade to hold Pride Toronto accountable for its marginalization of queer and trans people of colour,” said Ito, 28, who came here with his family from Japan at age 2 and is a PhD student at the University of Toronto.

The letters are being translated into Japanese, Korean, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Chinese, Hindi, Farsi, Punjabi, Tamil, Urdu, Spanish and Arabic to help supporters from these communities reach out to their peers and their own ethnic media, said Anita Ragunathan, another campaign organizer.

“I began the conversation about anti-black racism within our community with my parents following the murder of Trayvon Martin in Florida (in 2012). It’s an ongoing conversation, and I am hopeful that this letter will help them understand why this is so important to me and others in our generation,” said Ragunathan, 27, who was born in Toronto to Tamil immigrant parents.

“To refuse to speak against racism is to be complicit in allowing it to happen.”

Another organizer, Sun, an artist and educator who has gone by one name for about 10 years, said anti-blackness is almost a given in many Asian communities.

“Many of our communities conform and internalize these ideas in very deep and unconscious ways. This is problematic, and we need to work towards unlearning these oppressive ideas so we can build healthier communities,” said Sun, who came to Canada from Korea when she was 5.

“The media is complicit in perpetuating these biases. Our parents turn on their televisions and see images of black men as ‘thugs’ and ‘criminals.’ Victims of police brutality are not treated as such. Instead of their humanity being the focus, we hear about their records alongside photos that are meant to make them look menacing. We are brainwashed to forget that these men and women are fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters.”

Sun had first-hand exposure to her community’s anti-black sentiment when her father disowned her six years ago because she had a black partner.

Source: Asian Canadians launch letter campaign to address racism in their own communities | Toronto Star

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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