Dealing with Racism

The first time I encountered a direct racist comment was in England (that I can remember). A student kept pestering me and asking me “if I wanted fried rice”. He also made all these sounds that were supposed to resemble the Chinese language. I found out who he was and reported to the head of the year. I also offered to hold a racism workshop (no response about that; the only punishment that was given was a suspension – where the kid got to spend a couple of days at home). However, a colleague and I did (in conjunction with the Language Department) start a Chinese Club – educated younger students at the school about the Chinese culture.

It was one of the worse experiences in a school that I’d ever had. It was one of the most difficult part of that job – trying to open up the students minds (especially in such a “enclosed” community).

Today was the first time that I experienced a direct racist comment since England. I was walking on King (in downtown Kitchener) and in passing, some guy and his friend told me “hey, rice is over there”. I was shocked and speechless. I shot him a quick, angry look before catching my bus. Afterwards, I’d wished that I went back to them and said something. On my bus ride to volunteering + work, I’ve been thinking about what I would say if it ever happens again. Maybe question the person, or just plainly say that it’s rude and inappropriate? Or maybe nothing I say will make him and his friend think differently?

I am not perfect, sometimes during a conversation with friends some comments that are discriminatory come up and we laugh it off as jokes. Maybe we need to be more careful of what we joke about?

I wrote this on Friday. After reading a friend’s e-mail: maybe we also have to be aware that everyone is a little racist? (Not that this makes it ok to say racist comments.)



  1. When I was in New Brunswick, there were kids who set off firecrackers deliberately to scare me. They also made supposed “Chinese” sounds at me. Racism stems from ignorance and fear. I think that education really is the only answer that can make a difference. If it makes you feel better, you could join the local Chinese association and push for public education workshops. Ultimately though, it’s always going to be a slow slog when it comes to educating people who are out of the education system. We have the most control over the next generation: just the fact that you are a teacher of Chinese heritage will help educate many children.

    You bring up a good point though. I don’t want my children to be the only Chinese-looking people at school. I’ll probably do some research into neighbourhood demographics before deciding to settle down somewhere.

    • You’re right. Maybe another way to educate people is to get involved in the community.

      I think schools in KW are ok – in terms of diversity. There are certainly schools with more English language learners.

  2. i get harrassed by some passerbys too soometimes, where they say “ni hao” just because i look asian – like what if i was korean or something? Or “hey chink!!”, “ching chang chong”…..etc etc….
    People are so obnoxious – partly probably because they’re a little ignorant, but still, doesn’t make it okay for them to be jerks and single other people out based on the way they look.
    Moral of the story is: people are jerks, and the only way to make a change is by educating them young!

    • Yes, there are subtler racist comments like that – mostly because people don’t realize Chinese does not mean all Asians. I mean I can tell the difference between Koreans, Japanese and Chinese people but sometimes it’s hard.

      I hate it when they think it’s funny and know that they are just saying these things to bother you.

      I am more ok with people who are making unintentional comments, when they are not trying to insult you. Like this cab driver to the airport – he was telling me about different Mandarin phrases he’s learned (but after asking me where I was from).

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