Labour studies program discusses anti-Asian racism

BC community organizers vocalize incidents of anti-Asian racism and the urgent need to fight it

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The photo is of three speakers sitting on stage, while the moderator stands next to them by the podium. Behind them is a screen with a slideshow playing.
The speakers recall growing up being subjected to Evangelical and patriarchal biases. PHOTO: Pranjali J Mann / The Peak

By: Pranjali J Mann, News Writer

On May 30, SFU David Lam Center and labour studies program, in collaboration with the BC chapter of the Asian Canadian Labour Alliance (ACLA) hosted a panel. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Anushay Malik, SFU history and labour studies professor. The panel included Dr. Sharanjit Kaur Sandhra, karine ng 吴珏颖, and Rohini Arora ਰੋਹਿਨੀ ਅਰੋੜਾ. The event opened with discussion on how identity and community shaped the panelists’ work and life.

The event focused on the “global rise in anti-Asian racism by speaking to some of the activists who have been organizing and building solidarities against it.” Sandhra noted as a child in Abbotsford, she was exposed to Evangelical ideals in public school. 

ng had a similar experience. She said since her mother went to an all girls school, gender was a large part of their households. “As a child, you really absorb these [biases] and you internalize them. And I didn’t have a language to articulate what that meant. But I knew that there was a hierarchy. I knew what it meant to be a woman or girl, and I knew what it meant to be a boy or man,” ng explained.

Arora spoke about being a child of immigrants from another country. “My mom’s words will always stick with me [ . . . ] She said, ‘make your own white.’ And so that’s been an undertone and part of my identity, really, was coming from a community where self determination was a reality.” She added this is not limited to the Sikh community. “It’s anyone that’s not part of the white majority.”

The last discussion question asked the speakers to share a piece of poetry or artwork for what community means to them today. ng chose a quote from the book Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong:

“We [Asians] were reputed to be so accomplished, and so law abiding, we will disappear into this country’s amnesiac fog, we will not be the power but become absorbed by power, not share the power of whites, but the stooges to a white ideology that exploited our ancestors. This country insists that our racial identity is beside the point. That it has nothing to do with being bullied or passed over for promotion or cut off every time we talk. Our race has nothing to do with this country even, which is why we’re often listed as ‘Other’ in polls.”

Sandhra quoted bell hooks. “There can be no love without justice.” She reiterated, “When we talk about our rights. It’s very easy to talk and couch it in a comfortable language around love. But if we have no justice, we can’t even talk about love. Give us justice first, then we’ll talk about that.”

To make this equality and justice a reality, Sandhra emphasized the need to hold conversations like this. She noted, “You actually need to teach children about issues of race and anti-racism, and systems of discrimination and systemic structure.” 

She further explained “It’s not political to talk about race, it’s our life and our lived experience.”