A series of small in-person rallies and a Zoom event are scheduled to take place Monday (May 10) for the National Day of Action Against Anti-Asian Racism.
The event was organized by Doris Mah, a Burnaby woman who was shocked to hear of an Asian women assaulted at a Safeway just five blocks away, where Mah herself shopped regularly.
So Mah took action. She went to speak to Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley, and the city proclaimed May 10 the Day of Action Against Asian Racism. But Mah was just getting started. She reached out to 1,000 cities across Canada and heard back from 100. Of those, 30 agreed to declare a day of action against anti-Asian racism on May 10.
Mah said she was shocked when cities even as far away as Toronto agreed.
“I’m not a politician – I’m just one person from a city named Burnaby which is not even well known in Ontario,” she said.
But with the cities also came the support of more than eight million Canadians.
“It’s an unbelievable amount of support that has shown that people want to do something about it,” Mah told Black Press Media by phone.
“I think people need to channel their support into something that they can do.”
The number one thing that Mah hopes that Monday’s day of action impresses upon Canadians is that there is no room for racism in their communities.
“And number two, racism is a learned experience. We have to unlearn, intentionally unlearn what we’ve learned. And so education and awareness is very important,” she said.
Mah said that many Asian immigrants, especially the first generations, do not feel like they can report racism.
“We wanted to tell the people who experienced racism in a very overt or covert way that it’s okay, it is absolutely acceptable for them to come out and say that,” she said.
“If you experience workplace discrimination, what do you do? You just keep your head down.”
Others, Mah said, fear bringing shame to their families.
“In our culture – in a lot of people cultures – you don’t show people’s dirty laundry. It doesn’t it doesn’t bring honour to your family.”
Luckily, that is changing in the younger generations.
“A lot of the movement right now, driven by second and thirds generations of young millennial Asians because they are angry, ” Mah said, seeing “images of somebody like their father and grandfather, their grandmother and mother being harassed like this.”
The movement Mah started has been supported by everyone from everyday Canadians, to labour unions to the B.C. Teachers’ Federation. Mah said that for her, seeing support from teachers hit on an especially personal level. The union pledged to go beyond teaching children to not be racist, committing to being “actively and deliberately antiracist.”
“I have three kids and the racism and discrimination is very real,” she said.
“This means the whole world to me as a parent.”
TheNational Day of Action Against Anti-Asian Racism will be marked by a series of rallies at SkyTrain stations across Metro Vancouver. The rallies will each be small, with no more than five people all wearing masks, but a larger Zoom event will be held at 5 p.m. To register, click here.