Blatant acts of anti-Asian racism continue to rock Toronto residents as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, wrongfully emboldening hateful jerks to lash out at Chinese people — or, as it were, to lash out at anyone who they think might possibly be of Chinese heritage.
Fortunately, as news of these incidents spread, more and more people are whipping out their phones to shine a light on the dark, ugly attitudes held by far too many Canadians.
Justine Abigail Yu could think of nothing else to do after she was accosted while reading in a Toronto park and told to "go back to China."
Yu, a community leader who identifies as Filipina-Canadian, was sitting in a park near Bayview Ave. and Sheppard Ave. E. on Saturday afternoon when a woman approached her and said she needed to go.
The woman told Yu that she was on private property, as the sprawling green space was attached to a school. She then threatened to call the police and report Yu for trespassing.
When Yu questioned the woman, saying "But you're right in here with me. Aren't you doing the same thing?" the woman told Yu that she was allowed to be on the property, as she is a teacher.
"There are signs that say 'No Trespassing,'" the woman told Yu. "Can you read or maybe you don't speak English? Go back to China!"
I was reading in a park around Bayview&Sheppard in Toronto on Saturday. A white woman (claimed to be a teacher) threatened to call the police for "trespassing". She told me to go back to China and that "all Chinese people should go to jail." PLEASE SHARE: https://t.co/V1C3jESKG4— Justine Abigail Yu (@justineabigail) July 27, 2020
Horrified and a bit gobsmacked by the woman telling her to go back to China, Yu retorted with something along the lines of "Wow, thank you for that racist remark."
This inspired the woman to curse and scream at Yu, telling her to "f*ck off," calling her a bitch, and saying what Yu describes as "other things that are a blur to me now."
The Toronto District School Board is aware of the allegations and is currently investigating to determine whether or not the woman is actually a teacher at the TDSB public school in question. A clear image of her face provided by Yu can be viewed here.
"I sat there not knowing what to do with myself. Should I leave? What if she does call the police?" said Yu to blogTO of the incident.
"I didn't think I was doing anything wrong. I frequented this park and it's one where children, teenagers, children, seniors — everyone! — often frequent to sit, play, have picnics, and just hang out."
The 30-year-old communications professional, who fittingly is the founder and editor of Living Hyphen (a magazine and community that "explores the experiences of hyphenated Canadians – that is, individuals who call Canada home but who have roots elsewhere,") says she stayed in the park after being harassed.
"I decided to stay partly because I was paralyzed, partly because I really didn't think I was doing anything wrong, and partly because I didn't want her to know that she scared me."
A THREAD!! HOW I FEEL WHEN I AM THREATENED TO BE REPORTED TO THE POLICE AND TOLD TO GO BACK TO CHINA FOR QUIETLY READING IN A PARK. Full video of the harassment on my IG 👉🏽 https://t.co/YCdBUJ73oK pic.twitter.com/V130eoZHoR— Justine Abigail Yu (@justineabigail) July 26, 2020
The situation got even more messed up, however, as the woman "paced back and forth around the fence," watching Yu for about 10 minutes. Yu recorded a video testimonial and flipped the camera to get footage of the woman.
At one point, before sticking out her tongue at Yu and walking away, the woman can be heard shouting "All Chinese people should go to jail!"
"I could not contain my anger," said Yu of that particular remark. "I couldn't believe how hateful that comment was. But most importantly, I could not believe how dangerous it is if she is actually a teacher."
Again, it is not yet clear whether or not the woman is actually a teacher at the school where Yu was reading, or if she is employed as a teacher anywhere. The TDSB is investigating and Yu herself is meeting with The Ontario College of Teachers today to ask some questions of her own.
"I am mortified by the thought that this woman is holding a position of power to shape young minds and that she may be creating a toxic and unsafe learning space for Black, Indigenous, and/or children of colour," said Yu of the situation.
"But more than that, I want to bring light to the fact that this is not just an individual case, but rather that this is a systemic issue," she continued.
"Firing one person who harbours this mentality is necessary, but even further than that, I want to see the Toronto District School Board and the Toronto Catholic District School Board ensure that there is adequate anti-racism training for all of their teachers to ensure that this kind of thinking is dismantled on a higher, more societal level."
This is literally the story of so many Black men and women who have been murdered. And for doing far less than I was. Breonna Taylor was asleep in her own home. Ahmaud Arbery was jogging. Stephon Clark was standing in his grandma’s backyard. I could go on...— Justine Abigail Yu (@justineabigail) July 26, 2020
To wit: Ontario's provincial government announced just weeks ago that it would be "strengthening sanctions for teachers who engage in behaviour of a racist nature" and that it plans to propose "additional anti-racism and anti-discrimination training" for educators by the end of this year.
Yu, whose very job involves "turning up the volume on voices that often go unheard," cited her experience as proof that more work needs to be done to "dismantle this kind of thinking on a societal and systemic level."
"How many others are currently in positions of power who harbour these racist beliefs and who are actively harming our communities? This is not something we can continue to uphold," she asked.
"Despite being shaken by the experience, I knew I needed to speak up because it is exactly this fear and silence that perpetuates this kind of racist behaviour."
"I felt like I owed it to my community at Living Hyphen and beyond to speak up about this. It's precisely why I created this space to begin with — because there are people in this country and in our very own communities who continue to call into question Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour's belonging and our right to exist," continued Yu.
"I refuse to be quiet about this."
by Lauren O'Neil via blogTO