O Canada… Whose home and native land?

Canada is finally breaking the silence around anti-Asian racism

Ever since I’ve been old enough to recognize patterns of race and gender-based discrimination in society, my mother has denied being a victim of either of those things.

My Taiwanese mother immigrated here over 20 years ago. Single-handedly, after only a few years of living here, she had bought a house and started taking French classes offered by the Quebec government’s immigrant integration services — the fourth language she would be learning after Hokkien, Mandarin, and English.

I’ve witnessed her being talked down to by bureaucrats at government offices and had countless store employees turn to face me to answer a question she had asked, sometimes with a look on their face that was asking me to relate to their deliberate misunderstanding of her Chinese accent. As a teenager, I remember looking at my sister as we drove past someone who had just yelled out a racial slur and commented on our mom’s driving. I’ve never rolled up my window so fast. To this day, I’m still glad she didn’t hear it.

And yet, despite all this, my mom is probably the person I know who is the most optimistic about the social climate of Canada; she’s never let her optimism and gratitude towards the country be clouded by microaggressions and negativity.

I was on exchange in Singapore when COVID first hit, when the western world was busy making coronavirus memes instead of planning ahead for an inevitable pandemic. And one day, on a WhatsApp call with my mom, as I was telling her I was okay and was monitoring my temperature every day, she told me she didn’t want to go out too much because there were increasing reports of anti-Chinese violence in Chinatown. She told me there was a lot of racism around Montreal those days.

To say the least, that made me terrified.

East Asians are often dubbed the “model minority”: they have the benefit of a skin tone fairer than other ethnicities’. Some have even said they don’t fall into the “people of colour” category.

And the stereotypes associated with being East Asian, including academic excellence, obedience, bring really good at martial arts, and eating dogs are frankly not as harmful as being associated with inherent violence, terrorism, and drug addiction.

They also experience discrimination to a lesser degree than other visible minorities; Chinese people in Canada only earn 91 cents for every dollar a white person makes, which is far higher than for, say, Black people, for whom this number is 73 cents.

Yet, the model minority attribution becomes especially toxic when it comes as an excuse to dismiss anti-Asian racism on the belief that Asian people don’t stand up for themselves or fight back. It takes advantage of Asian stereotypes being associated with silence and endurance to double down on bullying, microaggressions, theft, and violence.

In my view, this is why we never heard about anti-Asian hate crimes until the numbers shot up by over 700 per cent in the past year, like the Vancouver Police Department has reported. In Canada alone, community-based groups have reported over 600 cases of racial aggression against Asian people since the start of the spread of COVID-19. In the first four months of 2020, 95 per cent of reported incidents happened in March and April, as the country entered lockdown.

Our generation is pretty good at recognizing and calling out discrimination when we see it, and especially taking a stand against it. But the state of anti-Asian racism in Canada has gotten so bad that even my mother, who has always had so much faith in this country, has noticed and become apprehensive because of it. For a second-generation immigrant, it’s almost worse than seeing your mom cry.


Graphic by Taylor Reddam


Black Perspectives Initiative launches at Concordia

New Concordia initiative to support Black students, faculty, staff and greater Montreal community.

“The university is a very difficult place for people of colour to navigate in general,” said Annick Maugile Flavien, founding coordinator of the Black Perspectives Initiative (BPI).

Funded by the faculty of Arts and Science, the BPI was created in November of last year and is still being finalized. The BPI actively listens to the demands and needs of the community and uses that to forward the initiative.

Maugile Flavien said that if Concordia is talking about being innovative with how they engage with the Black community, and they want to uplift the new generation, extra steps need to be taken.

“The rooting of it is really through understanding the immense relationship Black communities have with Concordia from its very inception,” said Maugile Flavien. “If we look at the Sir George Williams affair, until now, the amount of Black activism that has allowed for this university to grow, the knowledge that’s here, there are so many ways the Black community in Montreal, and across the world, really, engages with Concordia.”

Maugile Flavien described the initiative as a support net and a shield for Concordia’s Black community.

“There’s so many initiatives and projects and amazing work that’s being done across the university, but they’re often not connected, they often need space, and they need resources,” said Maugile Flavien. “So what we do is really be that support network, the web that kind of connects everything.”

The BPI also acts as a shield from administration and media. The BPI was specifically created for that, so the BPI gets to protect the Black community of Concordia from unnecessary labour of speaking to the media for topics that involve race, for example.

“Because they’re Black people they have to kind of take in all this extra emotional, physical labour,” said Maugile Flavien, even if it’s not part of their jobs.

So far, the main activities of the BPI include funding and mentorship, campus and local programming, and networking and dissemination. These services are not specific to the Concordia community, they are also open to the Black community in Montreal at large.

There are three types of funding opportunities available through the BPI; research funding, project funding and student scholarships. Concordia faculty and staff are also eligible for project and research funding. This semester, three students were awarded a scholarship, each for $1,000. For any category of funding, the BPI offers mentorship.

“We don’t just give people money, we follow them through the process, and make sure they have guidance and help to build what they want to build,” said Maugile Flavien.

For the students, BPI doesn’t only offer academic counselling. Every month, recipients meet with Maugile Flavien for an hour, are given support and are connected to opportunities that relate to their studies. “It’s really just been whatever they need to work through, we do that during that hour,” explained Maugile Flavien.

Research and project funding get more practical mentorship, in terms of logistics, or promotion.

Maugile Flavien explained alumni have been reaching out since BPI’s inception and are either wanting to participate in the activities offered through the hub or are asking to donate money directly to Black students.

Other opportunities available through the BPI include their Black mental wellness events. They had one in February, and have two others planned for March and April. Tentatively scheduled for the third week of every month, Black Mental Wellness Week connects students with Black mental health workers in the community. Maugile Flavien explained the BPI hosted a mindfulness practitioner, a psychotherapist for group therapy and a social worker who facilitated a self-love workshop in February.

“[The  BPI is] an acknowledgement of the immense role that the Black community plays at Concordia,” said Maugile Flavien. “It’s falling into a wave of the Black community rising up in so many different places in the world, and having the ability to shape what we need and not be told what we need. If this is what we’re able to do from November to March, then the sky’s the limit.”


Minorities can have racist tendencies

They say stereotypes are there for a reason. That they wouldn’t exist if someone hadn’t experienced similar behaviour in a number of people from that specific group, and that stereotypes are not akin to racism. 

Let’s sit back and ponder on that for a second. For understandable reasons, it seems that people tread around the word “racism” very carefully, and try as hard as they can to not be associated with it. Because racism led to slavery, and still to this day, leads to discrimination, and downright violence.

But in case you didn’t already know, you don’t need to beat someone with a stick, use slurs against them or look at minorities in disgust to be racist.

When you browse for the definition of the word “racism,” you won’t get just one. The main definition as given by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” Any other interpretation is a variation of that exact principle, extending it to not only racial prejudice, but an ethnic one too.

Therefore, whether we wish to admit it or not, stereotypes are racist—having an opinion about a certain ethnicity or race based solely on hearsay and social conventions is racist. Here are some examples. 

When someone says Latino men are cheaters who will toy with your emotions until they get bored, and go onto the next, that’s racist. When Latinas are equated to crazy women with attitude, that’s racist. When people “can’t tell the difference” between Far-Easterns, that’s a whole level of rude. When Russian women are always seen as prostitutes, that’s racist. When Arab women are seen as either oppressed veil-wearing women, or sensual belly-dancers with all of Daddy’s money to spend, that’s racist. When Arab men are considered terrorists, that’s racist

Now here is where I get a tad problematic and add to the generalization. When I hear such statements, I get even more enraged when it comes from a person of colour or a fellow minority. Simply because, someone who isn’t the latter wouldn’t be able to understand how it feels to be limited to negative connotations that date back to an age of discrimination. A white person wouldn’t be able to understand how it feels to stay silent when someone equates your people to terrorists because of the perpetuation of a false image.

So, when I hear a minority who has been a victim of discriminatory and crude comments regarding their race and ethnicity participate in this hateful discourse, it makes me sick—to say the least. What’s worse is when a minority uses their status to justify their racism.

“Oh, I’m Lebanese, I get to publicly insult all Arabs, because I am one, and I don’t get offended.” Honey, no. Just … no. Criticize if you must, no one is feigning perfection and claiming no culture has faults. But when your criticism further intensifies an already-racist image, that’s when you need to check yourself. Because you might not be offended, but many suffer at those unjust racist claims—and yes, it is your business.

To be clear, I am not exempting myself from this equation. I by no means am innocent of racial bias, and the tendency to equate something to someone just because of what it says on their passport. But moving to Montreal and experiencing this mosaic of culture made me realize that if I were to stay in this city, and if I just want to be a decent human being, I better get used to getting all my prejudices crushed—and I am not complaining. 

Graphic by Sasha Axenova


What the Oscars diversity issue says about Hollywood and its moviegoers

So, you’ve likely heard the news about the Oscars.

There were no female directors nominated and only one person of colour was named for an acting category. The thing is, I’m less angry about the nominations themselves, and more frustrated at what this perpetuates about films and their relation to women and people of colour (POC). There was no lack of films starring and directed by women and POC this year, but it wouldn’t seem that way based on Oscar nominations alone.

The issue in Hollywood is that white men are seen as the standard. A male director is just a director, but a female director is a female director. A movie starring a mostly-male cast is simply just a movie. A movie with a mostly-female cast is suddenly a female film. This creates a distinct separation between films helmed by women and films helmed by men. When a director or movie has the adjective “female” in front of it, it somehow loses credibility in the eyes of many male moviegoers and Academy voters. When it comes to characters on screen, white, male characters are considered to be more relatable than films about other groups of people; thus the nearly all-white acting nominees at the Oscars this year.

People want to be represented in the stories they consume, and are naturally drawn to those stories. The nominations by the Academy definitely reflects this, considering in 2018 the Academy was only 31 percent female and 16 percent non-white. Perhaps voters don’t connect to certain films, so they don’t interact with them. Moreover, according to Variety, one Academy member noted that there is “a bias even in what people choose to watch,” and later said that if nothing is done about this, then “we’re awarding awards to the best performance within films that Academy members are predisposed to watching, not the best acting performance in a given year.”

Hollywood could easily change and diversify the films it produces and the Academy could change the films in recognizes as prestigious, but they don’t.

When everything is taken into account, it seems as though there’s no real consideration for films about and by women and POCs—like movies that aren’t helmed by white men don’t matter as much. We’re taught to value the lives and struggles of white men while disregarding the lives and struggles of minorities. I’m not saying that the Academy should just give out awards to a film just as long as it is directed by a woman or POC. Artistic merit still matters. I’m saying they need to give those films a fighting chance, that they should be open to the stories of people that are different than they are.

A film doesn’t necessarily have to pass the Bechdel test to be a good movie, and most of the Best Picture nominees prove this since most of the films don’t pass but are still great films. But, I can still watch a film like 1917 or Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, connect to its characters, be emotionally invested in them and the picture regardless of the fact that the leads are white men. By that token, white men can then get themselves to the theatre to see films about women and POC and feel something for those characters. I’ve been able to find small ways to see myself in these roles all my life, so they can do it too.

We may not be Academy members, but we can choose which films to give our money to. Go and support films led by women. Go support films led and directed by people of colour. It’s not difficult, it’s just a matter of empathy. 


Collage by Laurence BD


The boy who cried ‘hate crime’

Hoax or no hoax, Jussie Smollett’s story can be a lesson to everyone

On Jan. 29, Empire actor Jussie Smollett was allegedly brutally attacked by two masked individuals in the city of Chicago. The beating went as far as Smollett finding himself on the brink of death, as a noose was put around his neck, and his ribs were fractured. Smollett later went on to say that both men were yelling, “this is MAGA country,” along with racist and homophobic slurs, ultimately branding the attack as a hate crime, according to The Washington Post. However, a spokesperson from the Chicago Police Department informed many news outlets that “there is no report of that being said,” according to Complex. And so, investigations got to the bottom of this alleged hate crime.

While the Chicago Police Department further studied the case, Smollett received an impressive amount of online support from many Hollywood stars outraged by this supposed hate crime against Smollett’s race and homosexuality.

On Feb. 20, however, Smollett was allegedly indicted for fabricating the entire story, of staging the attack, and was taken into custody, according to Esquire. Dissatisfied with the amount of money he was making on Empire, he supposedly created this entire scenario in order to gain sympathy from Hollywood producers and actors. While his involvement in the “hate crime” is still to be determined, as there are a number of news outlets with different theories pouring out everywhere, it is the reaction from the masses that I wish to discuss.

I personally remained skeptical about Jussie Smollett from beginning to end. I was particularly taken aback by his “I’m the gay Tupac” claim, at a performance on the Troubadour stage in West Hollywood, according to Complex. His insistence on advertising the event led me to question his sincerity, and ultimately, the truth behind what happened. When news broke out that he made up the whole story, I was not surprised, but rather disappointed to the core. And now, I’m just completely confused as to how to feel.

However, Jussie Smollett is not what angers me, because he is not the first, nor the last person of colour to use their minority status to gain stardom, or sympathy for that matter. Back in 2016, after Donald Trump was appointed president, a Muslim student at the University of Michigan claimed she was followed by an intoxicated man urging her to remove her hijab, lest he sets it on fire. As the investigation went on, the absence of any evidence rendered this story false, according to CNN.

Smollett is not the first one to cry wolf and diminish people in real danger. Smollett is just one of the many examples that white supremacists use to make their cases. When they see instances where hate crimes happen to be hoaxes, they use it as a way to push their own narratives about minorities and “social justice warriors” who are all just “too sensitive” and have victim mentalities.

But, if Smollett really did plan the entire attack, then I by no means blame anyone who passes judgment onto him.

What hurts the most about Smollett’s alleged actions is that he has completely shut a door already ajar to minorities’ voices. It is by no means a secret that minorities face many obstacles when it comes to confessing hate crimes and sexual abuse. I go as far as saying that white men and women have a higher chance of being believed when coming forth with sexual abuse stories than people of colour. Nations are tainted with racial biases. It is unfortunately innate, and it’s going to take more than a few marches to get rid of this bad seed.

When the Jussie Smollett hashtag was trending all over Twitter, the amount of hate speech I saw was intensespecifically coming from white supremacists. Men, and women with MAGA all over their profiles were claiming that hate crimes are nothing but another form of fake news.

While I don’t believe this was ‘fake news,’ seeing a gay African-American man like Jussie Smollett be willing to compromise his own community for personal greed makes me wary of the world we live in. For a minority to put other minorities at risk of further discrimination is not only bewildering, it is disgusting.

Hate crimes are not a joke. They are not hoaxes, and it is never okay to use them for personal gain. Hate crimes are a real issue, and if we’re not careful about how we use those words, we will forever fall prey to white supremacist discourse of ‘fake news’ that pushes the idea that leftists or people of colour are too sensitive, and that there is no racism in Americawhich is perhaps the biggest hoax out there.

Graphic by @spooky_soda


The place of privilege and diversity in feminism

Understanding the concept of intersectional feminism and its significance in today’s society

In 2017, the word “feminist” is no stranger in our society. Intersectional feminism, however, may be a term you haven’t heard before.

According to Merriam-Webster, intersectionality is defined as “the complex, cumulative manner in which the effects of different forms of discrimination combine, overlap or intersect.” This term relates back to intersectional feminism because it emphasizes that some women in society—women of colour, women from the LGBTQ+ community and disabled women, among others—experience an interplay of discrimination, not just because they’re women but because of an overlap of identities.

It’s no secret women have been and continue to be oppressed within our society, but intersectionality highlights other characteristics that affect the equal acceptance of women in society—be it their race, ethnicity or even socioeconomic status. Personally, I think the fact that we have to qualify the term intersectional feminism as a category of feminism is an indication that we have a long way to go in terms of equality.

In my opinion, feminism is equality for all people. However, I think there is a lack of attention toward intersectionality in today’s society. This refers to equality between races, socio-economic status and abilities. The feminist movement is not truly equalizing to all, and it still lives in a place of ignorance, with massive blind spots and misunderstandings.

I am a white woman, and I grew up with parents who sheltered me from oppression. It is only in my young adult life that I have learned more about gender inequality. I am an example of someone who has benefited greatly from the previous waves of feminism.

According to the organization Progressive Women’s Leadership, the first wave of feminism occurred in the 19th century and focused on political rights, like a woman’s right to vote. The second wave was in the 60s and focused on women’s reproductive rights. The third wave of feminism started in 1990 and continues to push for workplace and financial equality, along with reproductive rights. It also works towards a more intersectional outlook on feminism. I benefitted from these past waves because they were specifically geared towards achieving equality for white women.

When it comes to intersectional feminism, however, I have so much to learn. I have to continue to ask questions, think critically and question my surroundings. I have to reach out, listen to diverse voices, believe their experiences and share their message. I also have to educate myself on identities that vary from my own. This is what people like myself can do to help foster the intersectional movement. In the same way, we need men to get involved. We need men to want to understand more about this movement. Bringing more people to the table, in terms of voices and power, is what helps create change.

It’s also important to note that you can hold different degrees of privilege within feminism. For example, if a woman is black and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, she could be subject to discrimination regarding her race and sexual orientation as well as the oppression she may feel as a woman. In comparison, a straight, white woman will likely not face discrimination for her sexual orientation, but could still feel oppressed for being a woman. The straight, white woman holds a position of privilege within the movement of feminism compared to the black, LGBTQ+ woman.

Feminism can’t resolve problems until all women are heard. People of colour and the LGBTQ+ community fight everyday to be heard, seen and respected in society. As a privileged woman, I need to understand that women from other communities have platforms where they can use their own voices, and I need to be open to listen and learn more about their issues. Feminism, to me, is as simple as being able to express yourself as you want to. It’s being able to get the job you want, dress the way you want and lead the life you want.

Part of the intersectional feminist movement is telling white women they are not doing enough. It’s clear feminism has a long way to go, but the only way to get there is by working together as a society. It’s important to be on the same page and learn about what is going on in your neighbour’s life, and to learn about experiences besides your own.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


Curriculums and classes: Where diversity falls short at Concordia

Concordia University’s Campus Service website claims they support diversity on campus, and that Concordia is “a large, urban university with a multicultural population.”

Yet, a CBC News investigation in March found that many Canadian universities don’t actually keep track of how students identify racially and most promote diversity without having actual numbers to support their claims. One of these universities is Concordia.

CBC asked 76 universities across Canada to breakdown their student populations by race and found that most couldn’t provide data about their student bodies’ racial backgrounds.

Concordia told CBC News that they don’t keep such data because, “in Quebec, this is not an option and it is considered illegal to ask.” CBC countered that argument saying that it is legal to gather “race-based” data in Quebec.

This brings up a larger problem at Concordia—diversity is promoted and celebrated, but is rarely seen within the university’s curriculums.

Collecting race-based data and truly understanding who is in your student body can help a university be more aware of student needs. Not knowing how many black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) students Concordia has is problematic, and this is made obvious by the lack of representation in course curriculums and departments.

In January, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) announced the creation of the BIPOC Committee, led by Sophia Sahrane, the CSU’s academic affairs and advocacy coordinator. The Committee was created to serve black, Indigenous and people of colour and their interests at the university.

Among its projects, this committee is attempting to highlight the institutionalized racism within Concordia and its curriculum. This doesn’t mean teachers are outright calling their BIPOC students racial slurs. This means course curriculums are often Eurocentric—they focus on white stories, by white people, for white people.

Take Concordia’s English department, for example. There are less than 10 courses that cater to people of colour, among them African-American Literature to 1900, South Asian Literature, First Nations/North American Literature and Literature of Ethnic America. It’s disconcerting to realize that almost every other class in the English department focuses on literature that is catered to white people.

These courses focus on subjects that only pertain to white culture/white history. Even worse, some of these “diverse” courses are taught by white professors instead of people from the communities they discuss. This isn’t okay—BIPOC should be teaching their own histories and cultures so students have a more concrete understanding of the subject, and more importantly, so BIPOC students feel represented.

It’s startling to realize most teachers at Concordia are white, especially given the university’s preachings about diversity. Universities shouldn’t simply aim to have a diverse student body—faculty and staff should be included as well.

We at The Concordian believe Concordia should make more of an effort to implement courses that cater to BIPOC students and that are taught by BIPOC professors. Indigenous history classes should be taught by those who identify as such; African American literature lectures should be led by black professors, not white. Students need to feel represented in a school that claims to support diversity. They need to read about their own histories and cultures by people from their communities.
This is also beneficial for white students, who can learn more about other cultures and histories. They can become more educated about topics that don’t directly concern them.

We believe that all students deserve to learn more than what they are familiar with, and to have their ideas and backgrounds represented fully in school. It is only then that we can hope to strive for a future filled with tolerance, acceptance and understanding.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

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