Why are we so shocked by recent waves of anti-Asian violence?

March 19, 2021

By Toronto Star |

How could this be happening to us?

Despite the similar xenophobic, scapegoating and scaremongering rhetoric that took place during SARS, the vitriol surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic has sent a shock wave through Asian Canadian communities.

Last year, our organization, the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter, partnered with several groups across the country to launch an online reporting platform, “Fight COVID Racism,” to track anti-Asian racism during the pandemic. Together with Elimin8hate, we have received over 1,000 reports of racism. The reports range from shunning to physical attacks, including the 92-year old man with dementia who was aggressively shoved out of a convenience store in Vancouver and the research fellow from South Korea who was stabbed on the way to buy groceries in Montreal.

As Asian Canadians, we are accustomed to the occasional racial slurs, stereotyping and microaggressions that are essentially par for the course in Canadian society. Still, the recent onslaught of anti-Asian violence, which culminated in the March 16 terrorist attack in Atlanta, came as a surprise to many. It really shouldn’t have been that shocking.

Racially motivated attacks are far from new. Brutal attacks on Black and Indigenous communities are despairingly normalized, and so too are racially targeted shootings. What made us think that racial violence couldn’t happen to us? Could it be that the “model minority myth” led many of us to believe that Asian Canadians were immune to violent physical attacks and racially motivated killings? If we did all the “right” things — study hard, get good grades, keep our heads down — did that not earn us some proximity to whiteness and thus protection from racially motivated attacks?

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