I've actually written a shorter form of this on Instagram, but I also wanted to make a blog post about something that has been weighing on my mind for the past couple of weeks. Actually, if I am being honest, this is an issue that has been deep inside my brain and consciousness; effectively suppressed for a long, long time.
I started Pithy Apothecary as a love letter to my two cultures: being both Chinese and Canadian. I love being able to create beautiful products that express my Chinese-Canadian identity, and being inspired by my heritage and my present. While I am immensely proud of my identity, I felt the need to say my piece due to recent and horrific events.
I am heartbroken and outraged over the recent terror attacks against Asians (that have increased dramatically since the beginning of the pandemic). It’s hard to put exactly into words the emotions that I feel right now, and the anxiety I have while worrying about the safety of my grandparents, parents, friends and myself living in a North American, English-speaking country.
I immigrated to Canada at a very young age; lived and grew up in a small city here in British Columbia. My schools were predominantly white; I remember being made fun of how I dressed (too colourful, shirts with grammatically-incorrect English) and my “smelly” packed lunches that my mom lovingly prepared. Back then I was simply taught to endure all these micro-aggressions as all my family wanted was to be accepted and fit in. It was super difficult for my parents to learn English; they gave up their careers and accomplishments to come to a foreign country where so many things seemed unfamiliar—just for the chance for a better life for them and their child. They grew up during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China (a bloody period of massive social, economic and political upheaval) that ruined millions of lives. It was probably due to witnessing tremendous poverty and injustice, surviving on food rations, living under Communist rule, my parents were shaped into having somewhat passive personalities that never spoke up for themselves. This was also a personality trait that they passed down to me when I was growing up as an "Other" in British Columbia. We felt that we needed to be quiet, to endure, and to be grateful to occupy this space that we were given. Now that I'm in my 30s, and have shed much of my original shyness and meekness. I realized that to grow up internalizing and normalizing racism is not O.K, and as a soon-to-be mother I find myself having many conversations with my Caucasian husband about the differences in our childhoods, and our future plans and worries for our children.
I now live in Vancouver with a much larger Asian community, but I realized that these issues haven’t changed, in fact, they have been escalating. I’ve been called the ch**k word many times while walking around downtown, I’ve been in a cab where the driver boasted about not picking up a group of Asians but my group was fine since the majority was White and I was the only Asian (therefore making it acceptable for him to allow us into the cab). I've had so many instances of people shouting "Konnichiwa" to me because in that split second of seeing me they judge me for the colour of my skin without actually getting to know me as "all Asians look the same".
Situations like these are just common and part of daily life for many Asian Canadian/Americans.
There is a lot of pain in the Asian Canadian/American communities that must be addressed. We need to empower and support our local AAPI communities and businesses. We can donate, speak up and speak out - we need to be active in creating change for ourselves and future generations.
Please join us in trying to be better, and I implore you to seek out resources, donate, and also lift up your Asian/AAPI friends and local businesses. We need to continue this important discourse and show that solidarity matters.
This is a really good local link of resources to look at from the Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia: Anti-Racism Resources.
And you can also donate at Gofundme to support AAPI communities and organizations.