LETTER: A message from a fifth-grader who's experienced racism in the era of COVID-19

An open letter to the citizens of North Vancouver:

My name is Victoria. I am a Grade 5 girl who lives in North Vancouver. I am writing this letter to raise awareness and to help some people reevaluate their perception of this topic.

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This is a very personal, sensitive, and scary issue to me and to so many, and I believe it needs to be brought up. I sincerely hope that this letter will have an impact.  After you read this letter, you might think differently about Asian people.

Before I came to Canada from Asia, I had heard that Canadians were very kind, and that they didn’t discriminate against people. So, I came to Canada to study. However, when the coronavirus was identified in Asia, some people started to discriminate against us, as “People who brought the Coronavirus from their country.” I was so sad and I felt miserable.

Unfortunately, this personally happened to me, too. An elderly woman walked out from the elevator in my building. She looked straight at me and said, “Don’t do anything!  Don’t come near me!” even though I was just standing in the lobby. I was so shocked and hurt. I knew what she meant. It was about the coronavirus.

Naturally, I talked about it with my mom. I still feel very upset when I think about that lady. The memory keeps bubbling to the surface.

After wondering what I could do about it, I had the idea to write a letter to the people of North Vancouver.  That’s the reason why I am writing this letter to all of you who are reading this now.

I heard about another example of discrimination here in B.C. I was surprised by the news from a few days ago. It said “a Canadian hit an Asian” because he thought that Asian people brought the coronavirus. It worries me. It might make people think that it is OK to hit people and to be rude to people. This is ridiculous. It plants seeds of discrimination and anger in their minds.

 But, really, this is what upsets me most: South Koreans like me didn’t come to Canada knowing about the coronavirus, and some people seem to assume all Asians are from one place.

 All we wanted to do was to study, to learn about Canadian life and to make Canadian friends, but when schools shut down, we couldn’t do these things.

This was upsetting. 

Why would Asians want to have schools and stores shut down? Why would they want a huge rate of infections, a huge death toll and economic crisis?  It would never be, I believe, any Asian’s, or any race’s intention to create this pandemic.

After I read the news, I thought many people hated Asians, so I talked to my mom again.

My mom said, “Victoria, there are lots of people who are very good. The bad things just get more attention than the good things, for whatever reason.”

I nodded. I understand that I was wrong. And later, I was told that the news article wasn’t true.

My neighbour has a garden, and he always says good things to us, and calls us “friend.” There are lots of people who are good and generous. Lots of people who are friends, neighbours, and teachers. They are always nice. My mom was right. Most Canadians are kind, generous, and don’t discriminate.

Canada is a good country with nice people. Viruses can’t change Canadians’ hearts.  Canada is filled with kind people.

It is the virus that we should isolate from, not the people who are from different nations. Some people may have different thoughts, but I hope I managed to at least give you a deeper perspective or even shift this rapid snowball effect of racism because of coronavirus.

Although we may think we are small and weak, if we unite together, we can be as strong as a house made of bricks. Canada’s people are going to be healthy, energetic, and happy. I hope that we will be able to go back to school soon and that no one will be sick from coronavirus. I hope that everyone in Canada gets well soon. Always have hope in your heart.

Victoria Kang
North Vancouver

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