I am a second generation Canadian. My parents were born and raised in Canada. I am of European descent.
The colour of my skin is white. The streets of my town have been my playground since I was a toddler. I am not afraid to walk down the street alone.
My friend Naomi is a second generation Canadian. Her parents were born and raised in Canada. Naomi is of Asian descent.
The colour of her skin is brown. The streets of Vancouver have been her playground since she was a toddler. She is now afraid to walk down the street alone.
Hate, violence and xenophobia have always been around, creeping into the thinnest walls of our society, affecting communities and systems.
The last year has had a very profound effect on highlighting my ‘white privilege’. I knew it existed. I try to be aware. I try to be curious and gain understanding of what the world might be like for others who were not born with ‘white’ skin.
I try to understand how my thoughts, language and behaviour might be contributing to that ‘white privilege’. I try to understand what extreme fear looks like.
The one piece of fear I cannot begin to understand is a fear that has to do with the colour of my skin and how safe, or not, I am because of a color.
In the past few months, the anti-Asian hate crime has escalated to unprecedented numbers. People are afraid to go outside their houses or show their true identities. Some have resorted to covering their faces and color of their skin.
By attacking AAPI communities and their vulnerable, society is showing us that they are afraid.
But what is the extreme fear these people hold and where did it come from? What is the extreme fear that tells them it is okay to viciously assault a vulnerable, older Asian woman and beat her to the ground?
In Canada it has been reported that 60% of attacks have involved women, and mostly senior women.
What does this say about the mindset and extreme cowardice of these attackers, when they choose to channel their fear into these extreme acts of violence, targeting defenceless, older women, solely on the basis of their skin colour?
The anti-Asian hate influx highlights the extreme challenges some people have dealing with life’s uncertainties. When people are afraid and uncertain, some cope by finding fault with others, bullying others, assaulting others.
For some, it is easier to blame others than take responsibility for themselves and the situation in which they find themselves. Then add into the mix extremely ignorant leadership and you have a recipe for increased chaos and instability and extremely poor behaviour.
The last year has highlighted yet again how people in powerful leadership positions use their thoughts, language and behaviour to influence others.
They can choose to use this power and influence to incite collective coming together to stand side by side to support each other or they can choose to incite riots, prejudice, and hatred toward our fellow human beings.
When we coach leaders, the conversation often comes around to the fact that when you choose to step into a leadership position you choose a higher level of responsibility for the care of the people around you.
I am making an assumption that these fearful cowards and their Asian hate have in some part been fueled by so called ‘world leaders’ who have no concern or care for this higher level of responsibility when they are referring to Covid 19 as the ‘china virus’ and the ‘kung flu’.
These extremely poor descriptions put thoughts into the heads of people about ‘who is responsible’ for starting this pandemic. Perhaps helping them justify their actions that this is a good reason to hate and to physically assault another human being.
That this is a good reason to turn the Asian-American and Asian-Canadian communities into scapegoats, victims of xenophobia and racism.
I cannot profess to understand the level of hatred and fear these cowards must have rolling around in their heads.
I cannot profess to understand the level of fear that people of Asian descent must have as they step out their front door in what used to be their safe community, their home.
I can only try to be aware of how my thoughts, words and behaviours are either contributing to inciting hate and prejudice or inciting love, connectedness, celebration and the extreme importance of diversity.
Gandhi wisely shared this…
Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.
As a society and as leaders we have to confront racism whenever we see it – be it racism in our workplace or outside.
We have to listen.
We have to care.
We have to participate.
We have to be responsible.
What beliefs and thoughts do you hold to be true that are impacting your words?
What words do you use that are impacting your actions and having either a negative or positive impact others?
What actions have become habits for you? Where are your blindspots with regard to these habits?
Do these habits align with the values you want to express in the world?
What needs to change for you to step into your profound responsibility as a leader and as a fellow human being?
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