On Aug. 28, Tanya Tran, PhD candidate in clinical psychology at Queen’s University, took to Twitter to share a personal encounter with anti-Chinese racism.
In a written statement to YGK News, Tran recounted the incident in more detail.
Details on the attack
“Last Wednesday around 6pm I was walking outside on Princess Street in downtown Kingston when I was verbally harassed by a group of males [ … ] walking in the opposing direction towards me,” she wrote. “I stopped to let the group pass me so I could keep my social distance. As they walked by me, one said, ‘Wear a mask you fucking Chinese cunt’. Another group member joined in the harassment by saying pseudo-Chinese words (i.e., ‘Ching Chong’), which I assume was their way of making a mockery of my ethnicity’s language.”
Tran said she left the situation without responding out of self-preservation.
“I felt even more alone and targeted when I realized that nobody around me appeared to notice what was going on,” she added. “The incident happened in broad daylight in the bustling downtown area. The bystander effect was strong.”
Tran took to social media in hopes of raising the community’s awareness of racism and prompting actionable responses from local institutions, including the city of Kingston and post-secondary institutions.
This decision came after much deliberation and encouragement from family and friends.
Stigma about speaking out about racism
“It is generally understood by the BIPOC community that if you speak up about racism, you have to relive the trauma and humiliation, people may question the validity of your experience as a form of racism, and many reports of racism are not addressed,” Tran wrote to YGK News. “Once a post enters the [public eye], you leave yourself vulnerable to public scrutiny and the narrative of the traumatic experience can easily get lost.”
Tran’s tweets were largely met with support and she thanks those who responded, acknowledging her “connections with many supportive community members on social media due to [her] affiliation with Queen’s University.”
She hopes that the momentum of her story will empower other BIPOC individuals to speak up about their own experiences with microaggressions, harassment, and discrimination and rely on their community for support.
More support needed for BIPOC and graduate students
In her statement, Tran pushed for schools to address racism in curriculums and post-secondary institutions to implement support programs for BIPOC students and staff.
“I still do not know who I could have reported the incident to and sought support from,” Tran wrote. “Is it the Kingston police? Queen’s Equity Office? The Society of Graduate and Professional Students at Queen’s? Mental health counselors?”
Tran said this was not the first of racist incidents she has experienced as a woman of colour in Kingston and that many of her BIPOC colleagues have been victimized as well.
“People of colour need to feel safe in their communities,” she wrote. “I believe we have a long way to go before we get to this point but the work can certainly start now.”
Ted Hsu, provincial liberal candidate and professor at Queen’s University, condemned the incident and thanked Tran for calling attention to the misogyny and racism in the Kingston community.