The Society of United Professionals stands in solidarity with Asian communities following a white gunman’s attack on three Asian-owned businesses in the Atlanta, GA area that killed eight women, six of whom were of Asian descent.
According to a translated Korean news report that cited a witness to the shooting, the gunman said, “I’m going to kill all Asians.” Given this report, the shooter’s effort to seek out Asian women, and the local police spokesman’s comments that diminished the shooter’s actions as the culmination of a “bad day,” the Society urges law enforcement to thoroughly investigate whether the March 16 mass shooting meets the legal definition of a hate crime.
Whether or not this shooter is charged with a hate crime, these homicides are part of a broader trend of anti-Asian racism both in the United States and Canada. The Society joined with our international union, the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, to denounce the rising tide of hate against people of Asian descent last May. To the Society’s great dismay, anti-Asian racism has only intensified with a rise in violent assaults that often target Asian elders.
The sharp spike in anti-Asian racism over the past year is connected to unfounded scapegoating over the global Coronavirus pandemic. From fringe white supremacist groups to former President of the United States Donald Trump, use of terms like “China Virus” exacerbated racist sentiments that already existed. This discrimination led to more than 1,000 reports of anti-Asian racism in Canada over the past 12 months through two community-run web sites, www.elimin8hate.org and www.covidracism.ca. Of the reports received, 30% included a physical assault and 60% targeted women. More than half of incidents occurred in a public place or a grocery store. Reported racist acts included being assaulted and beaten, spat and coughed on, targeted property damage, and targeted slurs.
Underpinning these racist incidents is more than a century of discrimination endured by people of Asian ancestry in Canada. In the 19th Century, Canada recruited Chinese immigrants to work on the Canada Pacific Railway. Chinese railroad workers were intentionally given the most dangerous jobs, resulting in more than 4,000 deaths among the 17,000 Chinese immigrants admitted to Canada at the time. Due to anti-Chinese immigrant sentiment around the completion of the railway, the Canadian government introduced a head tax to discourage immigration from China. Canada collected $23 million through the head tax and only repealed it in 1948. Prime Minister Stephen Harper finally apologized for the head tax in 2006. In another shameful episode that Canada would eventually apologize for, during World War II 21,000 Japanese Canadians were interned and had their homes and businesses sold-off by the government to pay for their internment.
From the subjugation of Asian migrants through temporary foreign worker programs to propagation of the “model minority” stereotype, anti-Asian racism continued to exist in Canada before the global pandemic exacerbated the situation. Unless we act, anti-Asian racism will continue to exist after the pandemic is over, too.
The Society continues to call for:
- Members who encounter racism, workplace harassment or any form of discrimination to contact their local Society representative for support;
- All employers to have procedures in place to deal with discrimination in the workplace;
- Everyone to speak out against racist, discriminatory and aggressive behaviour;
- Non-racialized people to become committed allies of racialized groups by showing solidarity with Asian and other racialized communities;
- Continuous self-education on racism, bias, how to be an ally, and the impact and history of racism from sources such as Project 1907 and org; and
- Contribute to and uplift the work of groups doing anti-racism work, including the Asian Canadian Labour Alliance and Urban Alliance on Race Relations.