Graf­fiti shows anti-asian big­otry on rise, ac­tivists say

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - BILL KAUFMANN Bkauf­mann@post­media.com

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

AZIN GHAFFARI

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.

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