Tell us your Story
We want to hear your stories about racial injustices you've faced as an Asian Canadian. It can be a story from your childhood or something more recent. You can be kept anonymous if you wish. Please go to the contact us form and submit your story.
I was sitting at my desk in a small construction site office. A project manager from Fraser Health walked in, and started chatting with a co-worker about Covid19. The conversation turned into the origin of the virus. And I heard she said Chinese people eat everything. These words have burnt into my head. I couldn't think of any words to say to her because she was the client. I got up and left the office.
I am a 4th generation Japanese Canadian who has faced racism all my life. However, since the pandemic started, the number of assaults has skyrocketed and I have lost count. Last fall alone, I had 6 attacks in 10 days and this past spring I had 4 in a month ( including being called a "f**king asian," being spat at, told to " go back to where you came from", and much more). All of these occurred here in Coquitlam. I am tired of being silenced and want to help raise awareness and to make positive changes. Thank you so much for starting this society!
My daughter and I were harassed at Walmart Coquitlam Centre Mall last March. We were accused of spreading the Covid 19, we got into an altercation.
It is summer in the late 1960’s in Vancouver’s West End. A hot, muggy, clothes sticking to your body kind of day. The West End was an oasis in the city. To me it was paradise, English Bay, beaches, palm trees and mom and pop corner stores. Corner stores, often found on the corners of streets, nestled in the residential parts of the West End. I learned recently that zoning bylaws did not exist in the first parts of the 20th Century and many homeowners turned their properties into corner stores as well as other businesses. I understood that this was how our family grocery store was born. It grew into an IGA from a single-family home sometime in the 1950’s.
My mother was born in Canton, China and my father in Vancouver, BC. Our family had two apartments above two family businesses, a grocery store, Yeasting’s IGA and the Maple Leaf Bakery in the 1200 block of Davie Street in the West End. The bakery continues to operate today. I lived in one apartment with my parents and three sisters. My brother was not born until the early 1970’s. My Ngin Ngin, Toisan for paternal grandmother, lived in the other apartment.
When I was not in school, I spent much of my time at the store. I would stand quietly next to my dad as he worked as a cashier and served customers. Other times, in the back of the store, away from customers, I stood by my Ngin Ngin as she prepped vegetables and fruits for sale in the store. She would trim off any wilted parts, wash and then display them neatly in the produce section.
I had many happy memories of growing up in the store. My cousins would come visit on weekends and we would play. We had a warehouse full of boxes containing dry goods such as flour, tea, canned soup, paper towels and stuff like that. In amongst the stacks of boxes, we played games like cops and robbers and other times, we pretended we were families in homes next to each other. I always felt safe in the store. It was an extension of home.
I attended school at Lord Roberts Elementary, just a few blocks from where we lived. It was at school, the first time it happened. I was about 7 years old, and a boy looked at me and sneered “Chink!!!”. I did not really know what “Chink” meant, but I knew it was because of how I looked, that I was Chinese. It had nothing to do with who I was, but it hurt like it had everything to do with who I was.
The children’s phrase “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me” could not be further from the truth. I swallowed the hurt and squeezed my eyes tightly to try not to burst into tears. I felt like I had just been slapped across the face. I felt my face grow hot and I felt shame. I don’t remember ever sharing with my parents or anyone what had happened. I felt like it was all my fault that I was called “Chink!”. I got in enough trouble with my parents, as I often did not listen or follow the rules. I did not say anything because I believed it my fault it happened.
When I looked in the mirror, I did not see a “Chinese” girl, the face looking back at me was just little girl with black hair and brown eyes.
Now I am 60 years old. I am the mother of two adult sons and a grandmother and the word still hurts. It will never not hurt, because I am being judged by simply how I look, and not because of who I am. Too many people have been knocked over, attacked, beaten and killed because they look like me.
Growing up in Squamish at the age of 6-9, I was teased, chased and made fun of routinely by children from school. I was called “chink", and they would use their fingers to stretch their eyes to make them look slanted. I was ashamed, embarrassed, helpless and sad… often.
I remember one instance, I had a show and tell toy that I brought to school one day. I loved and cherished it so much as I didn't have many toys growing up. It was actually a pencil sharpener but to me it was a toy because it was in the shape of a miniature stove. On my walk home after school, I heard them chanting "Chinese, Japanese...dirty knees, look at these!" The chanting got louder and closer. I started walking a little faster and then started running. There was a path that was very steep and I must have tripped on a root or rock and I took a very bad tumble. I still have some scars on my knees from the fall. My toy was damaged when I took the spill but I didn't care as I was fearful of getting beat. The tears welled up in my eyes. My tears weren't from the gash in my leg, but it was because my toy was now broken. I got up as fast as I fell and kept running until I got home. It was traumatizing and I will never forget the countless days that I was harassed. I didn't understand why I was hated so much at the time.
I will no longer stay silent. I'm not a young child anymore and as a community ambassador I would like to do all that I can to stand up to racism. By connecting people to share stories we can begin having authentic conversations, create awareness and eliminate discrimination by integrating a sustainable and long term strategy. There is power in collaboration and connection. "We" is stronger than me. AIS would love to hear from you. Share your story so that we can heal together.