Powerful anti-racism video encourages Asian Canadians to confront prejudice head-on

·2 min read
Eyes Open: An Anti-Asian Racism  video includes the lines: But they've mistaken our silence for compliance.... Silence is golden, as are we.
Eyes Open: An Anti-Asian Racism video includes the lines: But they've mistaken our silence for compliance.... Silence is golden, as are we.

A video with a powerful message of anti-Asian racism is going viral as it encourages people to confront racism amid the COVID-19 pandemic while celebrating the contributions of Asian Canadians to society.

The public service announcement called Eyes Open was produced by an all-Asian, mostly female, creative team based in Toronto and was written and narrated by spoken poet Christopher Tse.

Tse said he was contacted about a month ago to contribute to a video project for Asian Heritage Month.

"They had a vision for spoken word poem to be the backing for this piece," Tse said on the CBC's The Early Edition, "and I was so happy and honoured to jump on it ... especially in the climate which we find ourselves in now."

According to a report released in March by the Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC) Toronto chapter, there were more than 1,000 cases of both verbal and physical attacks against Asians across the country from March 2020 to February 2021. And since the start of the pandemic, Canada had more anti-Asian racism reports per capita than the United States.

In February, Vancouver police said they saw anti-Asian hate crimes jump by more than 700 per cent in 2020 as reports of incidents rose from 12 in 2019 to 98 in 2020.

Tse said he wanted to focus on the issue of silence and staying silent as it ties back to the "model minority" myth linked to Asian immigrants and the Asian community in Canada.

The PSA titled, Eyes Open, was produced for Asian Heritage Month by an all-Asian, mostly female, creative team based in Toronto.  Above, Montrealers at an anti-Asian racism demonstration in March.
The PSA titled, Eyes Open, was produced for Asian Heritage Month by an all-Asian, mostly female, creative team based in Toronto. Above, Montrealers at an anti-Asian racism demonstration in March.(Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

"It's meant to not only keep us silent but also keep other racialized groups out," he said. "I really wanted to get this message across that ... what popular culture and mass media has said about us, it's actually not true."

He said Asian Canadians have been taught to keep their heads down, stay silent and work hard. Speaking up against oppression and activism isn't something that's appreciated.

"We don't celebrate that kind of social engagement in the same way that the Black Canadians or Indigenous Canadians or South Asian Canadians do," Tse said. "Because for us, if it doesn't impact you personally, it's best to remain insular ... and look after your family."

Christopher Tse said he has had an "overwhelmingly positive" response since the video was released earlier this week.
Christopher Tse said he has had an "overwhelmingly positive" response since the video was released earlier this week. (Nathan Smith)

Tse believes the sacrifices made by those who came before have allowed a new generation of Asian Canadians to speak up and confront racism.

"In a way their silence meant their survival," Tse said, "and that has created a space for a new generation ... to reclaim our space and reclaim our voice."

LISTEN | Christopher Tse talks about the Asian Heritage Month PSA on the CBC's The Early Edition:

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