Mapping project plots incidents of anti-Asian racism in Metro Vancouver

Jul 27 2020, 10:27 am

A new project is gathering data about anti-Asian racism in Metro Vancouver, and the designer of a map plotting some of the incidents across the Lower Mainland hopes it makes people realize how close to home the problem is.

Ellen, who Daily Hive is identifying by first name only, created the map after being inspired by a similar one plotting anti-Black racism by Vancouver activist Cicely Blain.

“We’re trying to really directly confront Canada’s angel complex, or what I’ll call Canadian exceptionalism. [The belief that] we are the good ones. That it’s happening in the US, it’s not happening here,” Ellen told Daily Hive in a phone interview.

She used data gathered through the Elimin8hate campaign, a joint effort between Project 1907 and the Vancouver Asian Film Festival. The project functions as a centralized reporting centre for people to share their experiences of anti-Asian racism.

The campaign launched in April in response to rising anti-Asian racism during the coronavirus pandemic. The women behind the campaign wanted a place where people could report incidents of racism or violence because they felt there was no existing place to share or track those experiences.

In fact, Ellen said that when she reported an incident of racism to police, officers told her it didn’t meet the threshold to be investigated as a crime.She doesn’t think that reporting to police is the appropriate avenue for addressing racism, and helped create this database as a community-based alternative to track racist incidents.

The campaign organizers are leaving submissions open indefinitely to gather data and will use it to inform calls to action and design policies.

Ellen’s map gained attention on Twitter when Project 1907 first shared it earlier this month, and she said some people were surprised to see it.

“There’s a lot of shock and surprise, while of course Black, Indigenous and people of colour are not surprised at all because this is what we’ve been experiencing,” she said, pointing to words from Chatelaine‘s executive editor, Denise Balkissoon, about how problematic surprise about racism in Canada is.

Ellen also hopes the project can help confront the model minority myth, “which places us Asians as obedient, hardworking, docile people who will toe the line and not speak up about our experiences.”

She added the model minority myth is also sometimes used to de-legitimize racism that other people of colour experience.

Submissions to the project remain open, and those who have experienced anti-Asian racism are encouraged to share anonymously.

“Racism doesn’t exist because of a few bad apples,” Ellen said. “It’s a system that we’re living in. It’s all around us and we’re all participating in it.”

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