Early last month, I was quietly sipping my morning java while flipping through the newspaper when I came across an article that caught my attention. The Vancouver Asian Film Festival (VAFF) was calling for submissions from the public for a campaign they’d launched to help stop racist attacks against Asian Canadians. The “elimin8hate” program was initiated as a proactive measure to combat the rise in hate crimes since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Vancouver Police Department, many of the recently reported hate crimes had an “anti-Asian element” to them.
Ironically, the previous day I overheard my 11-year-old son (firmly planted in his gaming chair with his headset on) saying, “You’re not funny bro’… no one is laughing. Maybe you should JUST. STOP. TALKING.” Hmmm… I wondered what THAT was all about, but I had to get back upstairs to work and I was as invisible as a unicorn standing there anyways, as he intently focused on the game at hand.
Later that night at dinner, however, I asked my son who he was calling out during the day, as the one-sided gaming conversations I normally hear tend to be full of playful, boyish comradery and contain a much lighter-hearted spirit. Before answering my question, he stared into my eyes blankly for a moment while shaking his head back and forth with a disapproving sigh. Then he said, “Mom, one of the boys was making fun of my Asian friend and accusing him of bringing the coronavirus to Canada… and he said it’s all his fault. He was calling him some bad names and being a racist.” This news surprised me at first because I live in a well-educated neighbourhood that hosts an abundance of diversity, which was one of the original draw factors that appealed to me about the area. I guess I had foolishly set a bar of expectation in my mind believing that the children within the Westside bubble where I reside would KNOW better, BE better and DO better. But that was wishful thinking, indeed… racism doesn’t care about your postal code. It is EVERYWHERE.
Given this newsflash from my son, I did what any proud mother would do – I commended him for standing up for what’s right and doing it in a responsible way that didn’t induce any further negative verbal exchanges. The next order of business: taking a stand and speaking up in a proactive and positive way. I don’t believe the VAFF article found me by chance the morning following this incident. And when you get tapped on the shoulder by the universe and you’re a well-trained, sparkly unicorn who knows how to spread your light, you have a responsibility to shine that light brightly for the betterment of humanity. So, I encouraged my little “unicorn of a son in the making” to create a short video for the elimin8hate campaign – to promote a clear message of love over hate because we are ONE.
In the words of Martin Luther King, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” It’s time to lead with love. It’s time to open more conversations and talk about hard things, even if they may make us feel uncomfortable. There will be growth and discovery alongside the discomfort, and that’s how we’ll continue to evolve as a human species. Having the courage to say and do what’s right is the foundation upon which we will build the better future we hope to see. But this future depends upon everyone being brave enough to call out the things that we know are not okay, rather than turning a blind eye or saying and doing nothing… waiting for the discomfort to pass.
Injustice of any variety is painful, but it’s important not to lose our humanity no matter what situation arises. Practicing deeper levels of love, kindness, generosity, respect and empathy can foster a positive environment that seeks to understand and embraces an attitude of acceptance. We’re all human beings with great dignity and value, created with uniqueness and purpose. Everyone can choose to be a light and to be loving and kind towards each other.
Challenge old ways
Even though there are forces existing in the world that seek to divide us along lines of race, gender, class, etc, we can make a choice to live consciously and see those divisions for what they are – outdated models of a yesteryear reality that we no longer need to accept.
Challenge old ways and introduce new ideas. Ask yourself what you believe and why? What do you stand for? What are you teaching your children? No one is born hating another person because of the colour of their skin, where they come from, their background, etc. Children learn to hate from someone else, but they can just as easily be taught to love, and this comes much more naturally to the human heart.
We have a responsibility as parents, teachers and leaders to educate our children and instill values in them that recognize the beauty in our differences and see them as something to be cherished, not feared. Let the rainbow of our human diversity be celebrated by all and may we unite together as one, certain in knowing that together we stand and divided we fall. And to quote a wonderful, young man named Christian Distefano (whom I had the pleasure of meeting when he was still a little boy), “Together we can learn just how to live equality. Together we can love someone with different qualities. It’s time to take action, not take a seat”.
Love is the answer to many of our problems… may we all choose to be the light. #elimin8hate #blacklivesmatter