Celebrating Asian Heritage Month

When I decided to write this Blog, I went through the mental gymnastics that most wise people do these days.   I’m not Asian, so does this have to be said, does this have to be said by me, does this have to be said by me right now.   Clearly as I’m writing this, the answer I reached is yes.

The incidents of Asian people being attacked by strangers blaming them for the Pandemic make it so much more important this year to stand up and support Asians and acknowledge their heritage.

Growing up in BC, I was exposed at a very young age to the story of the Last Spike on the Canadian Railway and the role that Chinese labourers played in allowing our country to have a railway.  The public school teachers always discussed it in a way that made it clear, we didn’t treat the labourers well and we owed them a great deal.

As I grew up and continued to live in BC, my social circle was always ethnically diverse.  No one asked where you were from, we were all Canadians and most of our parents had immigrated from somewhere else.  My street growing up had a wonderful mix of an indigenous family, our family from the Netherlands, a family from China and others from Scotland, England and Wales.  

My friends from Chinese families taught me the more interesting side of Chinese cuisine in my teen years and I picked up the right amount of Cantonese to be able to order food …. and apparently ask for eggs instead of the bill (it’s not an easy language to learn).    My friends who worked in the tourism industry taught me basic Japanese, which continues to serve me well to this day, as well as an appreciation for their culture.

To this day my friends include many people whose families hail from Asia.   I do not consider them my “Asian Friends” I consider them my friends and people I will defend to the end of the earth and back again.   

Some have asked why Asian Heritage Month needs to be a “big deal” this year.  I think it needs to be a big deal this year because there are way too many people who are not educated about Asian Heritage and how it has contributed to the way we live today.

Of course, when you consider the driving force behind this is essentially “stop punching random Asian people” maybe the better message is everyone: stop being racist.  Get to know other people and appreciate their Heritage !

Inga B. Andriessen