Mother-Daughter Duo Tackles Anti-Asian Racism

Their workshop creates space for an important conversation about what anti-Asian racism look like

Alarmed that elders in Asian communities were being abused, Campbell River mother-daughter duo create space for dialogue

Racism is nothing new to Thanh Tazumi.

Since the mid-1990’s when Campbell River’s Vietnamese community faced intense racism, breaking down bigotry has shaped this community leader’s career.

Thanh works for the John Howard Society of North Island. She led some of the first Walk Away from Racism events and has facilitated workshops across Canada on diversity, inclusion, cultural awareness, and Anti-racism Response Training (A.R.T.)

However, 2020 saw a rise in ugly anti-Asian incidents in Canada and the U.S. alongside COVID-19. And that has brought new importance to Thanh’s work.

“When I saw news reports of Asian seniors in San Francisco and Vancouver being spat on or pushed to the ground, I thought about my 86-year-old mother,” Thanh said in a recent interview for the Campbell River Mirror. “A video of two 15-year-old girls in Coquitlam being told by a white woman to ‘go back to where you came from’ even though they were born in Canada, made me think of my nieces and daughters.”

Asian men and women are being attacked verbally and physically at bus stops, trains, and grocery stores. Political leaders have also stoked racism with terms like “China virus,” a favourite of former US President Donald Trump. The Vancouver Police Department reports that there’s been a seven-fold increase in anti—Asian hate crimes in the past year. Thanh says that videos and reports of elders in Asian communities across the continent being spat on and pushed to the ground are frequently in the news.

But the March 16 Atlanta shooting was the breaking point.

“While I was celebrating my birthday with my family on the evening of March 16, eight people, six of whom were Asian women, were murdered because a man felt that massage parlours were a temptation for him,” Thanh said.

Her daughter Charis also felt the pain of the March 16 event and led an effort to raise funds for the families in Atlanta. But Thanh and Charis wanted to do more.

Their workshop “The Story You May Not Know: what does anti-Asian racism look like?” provides information and a space for this important conversation.

In the workshop, Thanh shares stories of her experience as a refugee, and as a working Asian mother in a white society. Then, together with her daughter Charis, they talk about the often overlooked “microaggressions” that Asian minorities face daily.  

Carolyn Moi, an English as an additional language instructor and workshop attendee, noted that “racialized or non-racialized, this conversation is for anyone who welcomes the opportunity to listen, to feel, to understand, to gain insight, to build awareness, to reflect, and to learn.”