By Sandeep Tatla
From boardrooms to kitchen tables, conversations around race, and specifically anti-Black racism, are happening across the country. As Pan-Asians, many of us have felt the sting of racism. In recent months, we have seen a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes connected to COVID-19 misinformation. We know racism’s insidious nature and how it shows up when you least expect it and scars that it leaves behind.
We hold our breath in anticipation. Finally, will things change this time?
For many of us, we see ourselves on the side of the oppressed. In fact, we get grouped together. The term BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) is a term that has gained greater traction recently, especially here in Canada. And the reality is, as Asians, we do face systemic racism, but we also play a role in perpetuating and maintaining racial/White privilege. We need to take a hard look in the mirror and recognize the role we play in maintaining Black oppression.
For us to stand in solidarity and act to eradicate anti-Black racism, we need to look deep into our cultural norms and deeply–held biases that unmistakably perpetuate anti-Blackness. Whites are being called upon to address their White privilege. As Pan-Asians, we must acknowledge that we too hold privilege in the racial hierarchy. We benefit from the “model minority” bias in this hierarchy – we are held up as high achievers and hard working – and many of us have been able to scale to higher socio-economic success.
Many of us are quick to attribute our success to our own efforts, working twice as hard as our White colleagues, and/or to our hard-working immigrant parents, who toiled and sacrificed for a better future for their families. While this reality may be true for many, what some fail to consider is that Blacks also work hard but face different systemic challenges. A look at some basic statistics underscores a stark reality:
- In 2018, Black Canadians were more likely than any other racial group in Canada to be victims of hate crime, and five times more than East and South Asians.
- Black youth have higher educational aspirations than other youth but have lower levels of educational attainment.
- Of 1,639 board members from 178 corporations located in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Calgary, there are only 13 Black board members (0.79%), while White members held 1,483 spots (91%), and other racialized members held 61 spots. Note: Black people make up almost 10% of the Toronto population and 3.5% of Canada’s population.
In a recent panel discussion, “Brown complicity in White Supremacy,” Herveen Singh, a Canadian education administration professor at Zayed University in Dubai, said: “Essentially, the model minority myth was created to take attention away from the enslavement of Black people and replace it with ‘you’re just not working hard enough,’ not taking into account the hundreds of years of slavery, the eugenics project, that firmly puts White people at the top of the hierarchy” and then she goes on to say that Blacks are “are firmly at the bottom of this racial hierarchy.” Adding that brown people are usually placed “somewhere in the middle.”