Silent No More

Apr 1, 2021

Author
Prof. Fei-Fei Liu, Chair, Department of Radiation Oncology and Prof. Lisa Robinson, Vice Dean, Strategy and Operations, Temerty Faculty of Medicine

Professor Lisa RobinsonAnger. Vulnerability. Fear. The impact of racial and gender violence is a very real and pervasive part of our lives in 2021. The killing of eight people outside Atlanta, Ga., six of whom were Asian women, is the most recent and shocking example of anti-Asian violence. But we are not immune from hatred here in Canada; discrimination and suspicion of Asian immigrants – from the roots of the Chinese head tax nearly 140 years ago – has a deep colonial history in our country. Layer onto this a viral pandemic that some have used to propagate racist ideas and many in our Asian community are feeling scared, vulnerable and angry.

There have been over 1,100 self-reported incidents of anti-Asian hate in Canada over the past year, according to a recent report by the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter and a group of partner organizations. How much goes unreported? A lot. As racialized women, we live with micro-aggressions – the off-hand remarks, the public space challenges, the can’t-you-take-a-joke moments – that are more common and hurtful than our white colleagues might imagine.

For Asian men and women, this takes place against the backdrop of being stereotyped as a “model minority” community: work hard enough, stay quiet enough and you will be rewarded by joining the ranks of “successful” Canadian society.

We cannot remain quiet any longer.

Speaking up starts with having a safe way to bring forward concerns, get support and activate action plans. In recent years, the Temerty Faculty of Medicine has put in place the expectation that all academic departments appoint an Inclusion and Diversity lead; this is a trusted faculty member whom others can turn to as a confidential and knowledgeable resource for those who experience any form of harassment or micro-aggression.

Professor Fei-fei LiuIn addition, the Faculty’s Office of Inclusion and Diversity (OID)– which is actively working on several programs, policies and initiatives to ensure a more inclusive and equitable culture across Temerty Medicine – also offers a number of supports and resources, including an excellent 2020 webinar on COVID-19 and anti-East Asian discrimination.

And on Wednesday, March 31, the University of Toronto’s Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity Office (ARCDO), in collaboration with the Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Centre, is offering a series of collective healing spaces to denounce anti-Asian racism, misogyny, and all forms of racial and gender-based violence.

We urge our colleagues to step up and learn how you can support this work. To Asian and other racialized learners, staff and faculty who are part of our community, you are not alone and should never feel silenced. We will support you, help you navigate specific resources and help create the Faculty-wide accountability needed for respectful, inclusive learning environments and workspaces where we all belong.