MAKING space for community, listening and connection are key to navigating racism and discrimination toward BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of colour) groups, experts say.
An online panel hosted by local media platform Hue gathered representatives from a number of racialized communities (with an emphasis on Asian communities) to discuss xenophobia, racism and mental health through a pandemic charged with racialized anxieties, fears and uncertainties.
Overwhelmingly, experts with lived personal and community experience discussed the importance of interconnection between cultural groups to break stigmas, share experiences and cope with increasing instances of racism — particularly anti-Asian racism — through the pandemic.
"We’re dealing with the pandemic that is COVID-19, but we’re also dealing with the pandemic that is racism," said NDP MLA Uzoma Asagwara. "We’re seeing the ways in which people who have massive platforms have been able to perpetuate anti-Asian discrimination."
A lack of physical interaction and spaces to share about microaggressions, racism and more makes instances of racism feel "more pronounced," said Tina Chen, University of Manitoba professor and board director of the Winnipeg Chinese Cultural & Community Centre.
As instances of racism directed towards Asian communities rose alongside the Black Lives Matter movement, Chen said, opportunities have arisen to think about shared experiences of racism for BIPOC communities, and to interrogate differences.
"I think what we’re seeing now is a really unique and productive opportunity to have dialogue and organizing," Asagwara said.
Wanda Yamamoto, who organizes therapeutic mental health work with refugee and newcomer communities, described a situation where a family who had just moved into a Winnipeg neighbourhood near the beginning of the pandemic experienced repeated harassment from neighbours expelling anti-Asian racism connected to COVID-19 stereotypes.
Through group conversations, the family was able to share their experiences and develop strategies to cope, Yamamoto said.
Several speakers noted shame and embarrassment among Asian communities as a deterrent to openly discussing and reporting instances of racism — and to seeking help.
— Julia-Simone Rutgers
Julia-Simone Rutgers is a general-assignment reporter.