I grew up in Whitby, Ont., a predominantly white city.
Asians in my high school were few and far between, and anyone who was black sat in an area dubbed "Cafrica" in the cafeteria (for the most part, voluntarily). The town is even nicknamed "White-by" because of the high population of Caucasians.
Growing up, I didn't experience too much racism, aside from the occasional chant of "ching, chong, chang" and the pulling of eyes from ignorant classmates.
But over the weekend, for the first time in 27 years, a random man called me a chink at the local grocery store.
The word chink, for those who don't know, is an ethnic slur targeted towards Asians, particularly those of Chinese descent.
He said it in passing, muttering it under his breath as if he was disgusted or annoyed. I was in the middle of texting a friend when it happened. Rage and shock filled inside of me. Who the hell was this racist man and how dare he use this slur towards me?
I contemplated throwing back a retort, but he had already walked away. So I followed him. I followed him, while furiously texting my friend what had just happened, and I Snapchatted a video of him before looking him straight in the eye while walking by him.
Seeing everyone put him down didn't make me feel better. In fact, it made me feel worse.
My body was shaking from anger, but also in fear from the negativity that shot from his eyes. That fear quickly turned to more rage, and I hit "Add to Story" on Snapchat, writing, "This man called me a chink. Fuck you." I then posted an image of him on Facebook, explaining the story. The post was flooded with messages of support from friends of all races, something that was greatly appreciated.
But most of the messages were quick to attack the man (just like I did), saying he was old, sad, lonely, disgusting, looked drunk, probably had mental illness, etc.
Seeing everyone put him down didn't make me feel better. In fact, it made me feel worse. Something felt wrong fighting negativity with more negativity. Verbally attacking him did not make the situation better, and encouraging those attacks made me just as bad as him.
I promptly deleted my Snapchat video and hid my Facebook post.
I am in no way saying his behaviour is acceptable, but what I've learned through the years is that hatred and discrimination is taught and learned, and it is very difficult to break out of it if that's all you know. And I am fairly certain that is all that man knows.
I am lucky enough to have been raised by a mother who taught me to accept everyone, and to never discriminate a person based on race, skin colour, sexual orientation or size. Coming from a Chinese family, this is usually quite rare.
This man and many others, however, probably didn't have the same luxury, therefore living a life of ignorance. For this reason, I genuinely feel sad for him and for those who are in similar positions. Because even though he is very obviously racist, it's unfortunate he is unable to see and appreciate the diverse country we live in.
In the end, sending positivity his way was the only thing that made me cool down and let go of the incident. Staying angry and sending hate his way wasn't going to help me or change him. And at the end of the day, the world needs more love and acceptance, not more hatred and discrimination.
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