Gurpreet Singh: Assault on Indigenous woman taken as Chinese is a symptom of racial arrogance and privilege

    1 of 3 2 of 3

      If you think that what happened to Dakota Holmes recently is because of ignorance, please reconsider your observation.

      A young Indigenous woman was assaulted without any provocation by a white male. She was walking her dog when the suspect punched in her face several times and used racial slurs targeted at the Chinese community.

      This comes at a time when people of Asian heritage are facing hate because of the outbreak of COVID-19 which has its origins in Wuhan, China.

      The man assaulted her after she sneezed when her seasonal allergies flared up. She was told by the attacker to go back to China even though Holmes tried to correct him by saying that she is Indigenous.  

      The Vancouver Police Department, whose hands are full with a growing number of complaints of anti-Asian hate-motivated incidents, is investigating. Already, 20 such crimes have been reported during last month.

      The scenario is no different from what is happening in India, where local people with East Asian facial features are being scapegoated during the pandemic.

      There has been a number of incidents of discrimination against those from northeastern states of the country, just because their facial features bear resemblances to people from China.

      A case in point is a woman from Manipur who was spat on in New Delhi—the national capital of India—by someone who called her “corona”.

      If this was not enough, Nagaland students were stopped from entering a grocery store in Mysuru in South India.

      Some people who trace their origins back to seven states in northeastern India are facing greater discrimination because of their East Asian facial features.

      Such incidents have forced the chief minister of the northeastern state of MIzoram, Zoramthanga, to ask Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene and stop racial abuse against people from his region.

      COVID-19 has created a lot of fear, and with uncertainty prevailing because of lockdowns, and economic crisis, and health emergencies in many parts of the globe, some vested interests are trying to capitalize on it.

      Extreme right-wing leaders and governments in many jurisdictions have an axe to grind against China due to trade and territorial issues. In the midst of this, the hostility is getting out of hand.

      U.S. president Donald Trump himself is inciting hatred against Chinese people by repeatedly describing COVID-19 as “China virus”. 

      Not very long ago, a Canadian Conservative MP and a leadership candidate, Derek Sloan, even questioned the patriotism of the country’s top doctor Theresa Tam because of her Chinese ancestry. Adding fuel to the fire, Canadian rock singer Bryan Adams tried to demonize China.

      The chief minister of Mizoram, Zoramthaga, wants Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take action against racial scapegoating in the COVID-19 era.

      In India, which has many longstanding issues with China, things are becoming more challenging under the right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government that wants to turn the country into a Hindu theocracy.

      Attacks on religious minorities have already grown under this government ever since it came to power in 2014.

      To further complicate the matter, BJP supporters are calling for boycotting Chinese goods.

      This kind of rhetoric has led to the backlash against East Asians all over the world.

      But what Holmes and northeastern Indians have faced is not just a case of mistaken identity. It also reflects the racial arrogance and privilege of the dominant society.

      Majoritarian racists obviously don’t care and don’t even want to know about “others” and that’s why they will pick on anyone who is different with or without any provocation. These incidents are a good reminder of the racial and cultural supremacy that continues to exist in our societies.

      To refresh your memory, let me take you back to 9/11 when some Sikhs were taken as Muslims in the U.S. and subjected to racial violence, whereas neither ordinary Muslims nor Sikhs were responsible for what happened in New York.

      The time has come to directly tell dominant societies to change their attitudes toward minorities rather than expecting them to follow rules set by their standards.

      Gurpreet Singh is a cofounder of Radical Desi and Indians Abroad for Pluralist India. The Georgia Straight publishes opinions like this from the community to encourage constructive debate on important issues.