Graffiti shows anti-asian bigotry on rise, activists say
Racist graffiti repeatedly scrawled on a wall of downtown Calgary’s Chinese consulate is an ugly symbol of mounting racist attacks levelled at local Asians during the COVID-19 pandemic, say human-rights activists.
At about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, three people in dark clothing and masks left an expletive-laden message including the words “Chinese virus” and condemning “the Chinese” in black spray paint on the front red-brick wall of the diplomatic compound on 6th Avenue S.W.
City police say they’re investigating the incident that was caught on surveillance video as a possible hate crime, and say it’s the second time the building’s been tagged in the past week — the first was May 19.
That follows similar graffiti spray painted last weekend on at least three spots on a retaining wall along Crowchild Trail adjacent to the University of Calgary.
Rosalind Kang said it’s not surprising amid a climate of rising intolerance in Canada and Calgary, and after she was the victim of a man’s racist harangue in a northeast supermarket in mid-april.
“I was a bit shaken at first and then asked him, ‘What did you just say?’ ” said Kang, an ethnic Chinese Malaysian native who was wearing a surgical mask at the time. “He continued to berate me and it escalated.”
Kang said she alerted staff to the racist cursing, which the man denied before leaving the store.
Store management, she said, reacted well and offered to escort her to the parking lot for her safety.
“It’s the first time I’ve been walked by security to my car,” said Kang. “In the past, I’ve had the occasional person yelling from their car to ‘go home,’ but people now are more emboldened to be more racist.”
That confrontation pushed the social worker to join with Asian-canadians to create a new initiative to fight what they call a rising tide of racism spawned partly by the controversy over the Chinese government’s role in the spread of the novel coronavirus, which originated in that country.
Some of that hostility, she said, has bubbled up from an intensified climate of racism in the U.S.
One of the founders of the group, Act2endracism coalition, said she quickly learned most of her new colleagues have borne the brunt of racist incidents in recent weeks.
“We don’t look forward to going out anymore, young people are experiencing racism for the first time,” said former Alberta PC MLA Teresa Woo-paw, adding women are most commonly targeted.
“There’s a diminishing sense of security and when the economy starts to open up, that feeling of insecurity is increasing.”
Some of that racism can be subtle, she said, while sometimes it’s more blatant.
Vancouver police are investigating a dramatic increase in the number of racist attacks, some of them violent, that have occurred since the pandemic.
But Act2endracism’s invitation for victims of such incidents to text their stories has shown an ugly dimension of Canadian society that reaches far beyond B.C.’S Lower Mainland, said Woo-paw.
“It reveals another side of Canada and it’s very hurtful ... most Canadians are good people but people still worry,” she said.
She said that bigotry is also extended to Asian, black and Latino meat-plant workers and long-term caregivers who’ve suffered large numbers of COVID-19 infections, several of them fatal.
In the past, I’ve had the occasional person yelling from their car to ‘go home,’ but people now are more emboldened to be more racist. ROSALIND KANG
A man cleans graffiti that contained an expletive-laden message against the Chinese in Calgary on Wednesday. Police are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.