On May 9 of last year, Trixie Ling went for a walk in Vancouver.
It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon and Ling was heading home along a pathway shared by pedestrians and cyclists.
The 37-year-old had her headphones on as she listened to a podcast discussing the recent rise in anti-Asian racism in the United States.
The host talked about the importance of taking a stand and speaking out against racist attacks.
As Ling listened, someone caught her attention.
“I saw this guy, this white man coming toward me on the other side,” she said. “The white man approached me and said some sexual slur and racial slur. And I ignored him. And that’s when he spat on my face.”
Ling is the founder and executive director of Flavours of Hope in Vancouver. The non-profit helps to support refugee women to cook and sell their cultural cuisine from all over the world.
Ling was born in Taiwan. When she was kid, her family moved to Singapore, then the United States, before arriving in Canada when Ling was a teenager.
“So within a short amount of time in my childhood, I really have experienced many different migration moves. And really part of what drives my work is I’ve seen where some of the challenges and also opportunities of migration when you move to a new place and what it takes to really integrate and feel that sense of belonging,” she told Global News.
“I’ve been in Canada for the majority of my life now. And there’s still that sense of sometimes, like, ‘You’re not from here.’ It goes back to ‘Where you are from?’ You’re not from here. You’re kind of ‘other.'”
But that feeling of ‘otherness’ and not belonging had never been so acute as that afternoon on the walking path.
“He turned around and he spat on my face. And so that moment was really shocking, obviously, both racism, but also during COVID time, spitting on people and that kind of really aggressive, violent act.”
Ling said at first she didn’t know how to respond.
But she thought about the podcast she’d just been listening to moments earlier, about the importance of standing up to anti-Asian racism. Ling decided to report the incident to police and then shared her experience online.
“I was encouraged because people started sharing their own stories with me. As painful as it was, it felt like this was the space for us to actually name what happened to us. So there was this sense of solidarity,” she said. “It actually happens a lot.”
During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, 98 anti-Asian hate crimes were reported in Vancouver, an increase from the previous year of 717 per cent.
On Episode 10, Racism, we’ll hear from Canadians who’ve been targeted, including prominent figures in Canada’s political and arts communities, such as former governor general Adrienne Clarkson and Korean-Canadian TV star Paul Sun-Hyung Lee.
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