The pandemic has brought many underlying issues to light. Civil unrest has dominated the news as inequality rooted in institutions are exposed and communicated through social media. Society has become increasingly more divided, and yet, more united than ever before. Society is increasingly more united in the fight against racially fueled injustice. Many have been made aware of the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes. Many state that although these attacks are unfortunate, “the model minority” doesn’t have it so bad under normal circumstances. This could not be further from the truth, as such racist acts were around for decades before the current wave of racism.
During WWII Japanese-Canadians living on the West Coast were ripped from their homes, their families torn apart, and they were held in cattle stalls before being incarcerated inland. Years before that, in the 1860s Chinese were sent to work on Canadian railroads. They were paid less than their Caucasian counterparts and forced to live in tents unlike the white worker who was given proper accommodation. Such a legacy is upsetting to speak of but forgetting this and sweeping it under the rug is unacceptable. These racist actions and policies were enacted out of xenophobic fear and helped to build the ugly and lengthy discriminatory history experienced by different minority communities.
It is a painful cycle to see repeated, moments frozen in time, inflicting insurmountable intergenerational trauma to those subjected to such discrimination. This fight, though it may seem limited to single racial groups, is in fact a fight that must be fought together. Each of them, ranging in depth and length, each one unique, have been perpetuated for centuries. There is this rhetoric that the media propagates, of humans coexisting whilst simultaneously living as separate entities. For this reason, conflicts that present themselves seem to be entirely disconnected from the reality of the average Canadian. This may ring true for some, however for others it is a painful reality that cannot be ignored once one’s device is put down. It is imperative to remind oneself of the cohesive nature of the world, that the plight of one person affects interactions that may at present seem unlikely or unfathomable.
The quarantine has served as a reminder of the social contract that we must all adhere to in order to continuously help cultivate a healthy and respectful environment. This social contract, though some may deem it idealistic, is the backbone of all humankind. As children it is taught in the form of “treat others the way you wish to be treated”, as adults subject to today’s stressors, it has become a matter of life or death and a renewed sense of obligation towards others. Many continue to ignore such obligations, choosing instead to book the next possible flight to a getaway destination, all while healthcare workers selflessly stand on their feet for 48 hours at a time, away from their families. Some choose to ignore the hate crimes and attribute them as “anomalies”, refusing to believe that complacency is synonymous with culpability. The great philosopher Thomas Hobbes described the social contract best as what is the giving up of some individual freedom in exchange for the security of society at large.
In truth, one must be willing to take action in order to help inspire change. Is it better to sit as a spectator, or is it better to step in the ring and fight for what’s right? One must decide that for oneself, but nothing ever comes from the unmotivated who simply watch.
By Maia Fukuyama