‘They’ve mistaken our silence for compliance’: Powerful PSA on anti-Asian racism released

Click to play video: 'Powerful campaign targets anti-Asian racism'
Powerful campaign targets anti-Asian racism
The powerful new 'Eyes Open" campaign is taking aim at anti-Asian racism. Kylie Stanton reports – May 12, 2021

A powerful new campaign is taking aim at anti-Asian racism.

Written and narrated by Asian-Canadian artist Christopher Tse, the PSA Eyes Open was produced for Asian Heritage Month by an all-Asian and largely female creative team.

“We’ve never been a loud people,” the announcement starts. “Our elders always taught us that actions speak louder than words, so we learned to keep our heads down, keep our grades up, keep our kin close, keep our mouths shut.

“I wonder what it does to a people when they stay quiet for so long. Do they forget their voice?”

Tse said he was contacted about a month ago and asked if he would contribute a piece for a video project around Asian Heritage Month.

“Obviously, given the climate in which we’re in, around the pandemic and how we’ve seen huge increases in racial violence across the board, against all racialized groups but specifically against folks in the Asian diaspora — I, of course, was passionate about it,” Tse told Global News.

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A report from Bloomberg last week stated Vancouver is the anti-Asian hate crime capital of North America.

In 2020 alone, 98 anti-Asian hate crimes were reported to Vancouver police — an increase of 717 per cent from 2019.

“We have gotten used to being the model minority, the quiet minority, not really talking about our issues. So … now that the news wants to cover anti-Asian violence and the like — people have been spitting on our grandmas and telling us to go home since time,” Tse added.

“I’m glad that there’s extra light being shed on it now. It’s unfortunate that it has to coincide with the rise in the racism, but it’s nothing new. And for those who have faced this kind of injustice throughout their lives, it’s nothing new.”

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Click to play video: 'Hidden Hate: The rise of anti-Asian racism in B.C.'
Hidden Hate: The rise of anti-Asian racism in B.C.

Tse added that he wanted to tackle the issue of silence and staying silent, but silence does not mean acceptance or staying hidden.

“As they burned our Chinatowns down and spit on our grandmas at bus stops, we stayed quiet. As they laughed in our faces and told us to go back where we came from,” Tse says in the video.

“But they’ve mistaken our silence for compliance. Looked on our meekness as weakness. See, we are not the submissive stereotype that’s been depicted on silence, on us.

Click to play video: 'More Asian British Columbians coming forward to tell stories of hostility and racist treatment'
More Asian British Columbians coming forward to tell stories of hostility and racist treatment
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The PSA was released on Wednesday morning and Tse said he is pleased by the response.

“The whole idea was to get people talking and I think the message [the team] tried to get across through the visuals was this idea of unity, that we are here and we won’t be pushed around any longer.”

The campaign, part of #FaceRace, is an ongoing challenge to all Canadians to confront racism amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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