As a proud Asian American, I am tired of reading article after article of Asians being portrayed as fearful victims or terrified bystanders to increasingly violent attacks of hate and xenophobia. Yes the attacks are chilling and appalling. But we are not just fearful or terrified. We are proud. We are strong. Despite our diverse ethnicities and histories, we each come from a powerful lineage of people who have survived brutal wars, famines, generations of pain and suffering. We know what it’s like to overcome, to work so damn hard on behalf of a dream – the dream of freedom, prosperity and a better life for our children. We have worked so hard and achieved so much.
Just this past February, our community celebrated new heights of representation as the South-Korean movie “Parasite” won multiple Academy Awards – including the venerable Best Picture award. America also had a viable Asian American presidential candidate in Andrew Yang. How far we have fallen from those heights…
I grew up as the child of immigrant parents who, like countless other immigrants, did what they could to provide for their family. Having immigrated to Canada in the 1970s, my parents first ran a 24-hour convenience store in downtown Toronto (within a few miles from where the Netflix series “Kim’s Convenience” is filmed), had a failed business venture in the velvet print industry, and then went on to run a video store, “Video 99”, for the bulk of my childhood.
When I think of my parents during my childhood, certain images are seared forever in my mind. Like the time my mom was weeping in rage, Korean profanities flowing out of her mouth, because a customer had spat on her for attempting to collect a $3.99 video late charge in her thickly-accented English. Or like the time my dad overturned a video shelving display because of his frustration with the slow business painfully amplified by the number of thefts that had occurred in our store. Or the time he ran out of our store in his slippers with a baseball bat convinced he could somehow attack one of these teenage thieves and teach them a lesson. Or all the times my mom hugged me wearily while reminding us not to open the front door and to only pick up the phone after we heard our special phone code (three rings, pause, and then another three rings) as she left us to work overnight at the print shop.