Former Vancouver mayor's wife speaks out against anti-Asian racism
VANCOUVER -- It was joyful news they wanted to share with the world.
After pictures from former Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson and Eileen Park's wedding appeared in Vogue Magazine, congratulations came flooding in from around the world – but so did an avalanche of hateful messages about their interracial marriage.
“For too long, Asian women all over the world, like me, have had to keep quiet,” said Park in a video response she posted to Facebook.
“Despite an unprecedented dialogue happening right now about the dire consequences of hyper sexualizing Asian women, I was bombarded by hate-filled messages – people laughing about men having yellow fever, comment after comment dismissing me as a ‘young Asian girl.'"
Sadly, comments from her wedding photos are nothing new. In her video, Park outlines some of the sexualized racism she endured when she worked as a communications professional in municipal government. For years, she’s been forced to tolerate people who label Asian women as submissive.
“Wherever I went, whoever I stood next to at an event — especially if it was a male colleague — rumours would start. I must be sleeping with that person. How could someone who looks like me not be? That assumption right there is racist. Why? Because of the long history of hyper-sexualizing Asian women,” she said.
Park speaks frankly about how painful it was for her to be subjected to relentless rumours and harassment.
“If it wasn’t for my partner, Gregor, and a few friends I confided in, I don’t know where I’d be today. There were many nights I didn’t want to live anymore,” she said.
Park is speaking out because of the shooting in Atlanta that claimed the lives of eight people, including six Asian women. It’s the most tragic example of a wave of anti-Asian violence fuelled by the pandemic. Across North America, women are sharing their stories of being sexually harassed or demeaned, drawing attention to harmful stereotypes about Asian women rooted in racism and sexism.
“Because dehumanization starts with words. And words reinforce stereotypes and hate,” said Park, adding we cannot continue to let violence be the end result of such hate.