January 5, 2022
Ivonne Garcia, Diversity Circles Student Ambassador
Diversity Circles, BCIT Respect, Diversity, and Inclusion, BCIT Student Association, and BCIT Faculty & Staff Association co-presented “Facing the Realities”, a panel on Anti-Asian Racism on November 19, 2021.
The event took place virtually and over fifty attendees joined to listen to the experiences and visions of the three special guests: Karl Chen, BCIT alumnus and founder of Ryse Professional Asian Network; Minnie Ng from Yarrow Intergenerational Society for Justice 世代同行會; and Steven Ngo from the Vietnamese Professionals Association of BC.
The event opened with a welcome by Squamish Nation community member, Aaron “Splash” Nelson-Moody who sang a Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) welcome song and provided opening words. All panelists made their introductions and the hour and a half conversation focused on some of the realities Asian communities in Vancouver face, but are not always acknowledged or seen by other members of the community. Matters regarding access to health, work, and education and other basic services were the core of the panel.
All three panelists agreed that while acknowledging the realities can be a culture-shock for many, the issues are indeed real, even if we fail to see them. Whether by being immigrants or just looking a certain way, all panelists had experienced some sort of discrimination or form of Anti-Asian hate, and by seeing or experiencing instances they are creating and taking part in changing these painful realities.
During the panel the “Model Minority” myth also came out as a common form of Anti-Asian racism, perpetuating the idea that Asians are great at math, music geniuses, and law-abiding. Acknowledging the differences among individuals is crucial, especially in such a diverse community that’s more than just one kind of “Asian” and holds so many nationalities and backgrounds.
Projects that go from delivering groceries to seniors in the Chinatown and Downtown Eastside areas, to the translation of police reports so the community can speak up when incidents of Anti-Asian racism occur were some of the initiatives and projects the three guests have been part of to reshape an environment that’s clearly leaving out communities that are willing to teach and share their culture with the rest of the city.
Raising awareness and helping the community understand the struggles of others, as well as unlearning attitudes and behaviours towards others was the final call from guest panelists, even if it starts by having uncomfortable conversations or realizations about our own perceptions and behaviours.
Aaron “Splash” Nelson-Moody closed the event by offering his reflections from listening to the panelists and providing appreciation for their words and the work they are doing, “I don’t know what causes racism, I don’t know what causes discrimination, but I feel like, when we lose touch with our personal humanity, maybe we start to take it out on each other. So I feel inspired by your strength of humanity today.”