Recommendations of Actions following Anti-Asian racist comment at Fabricland, Vaughan
February 6, 2022
On February 2nd, I was witness to racist remarks made by one of your employees while in store at the Vaughan location. While I have reported to your company what happened, I have volunteered and been welcomed to provide input into what actions might be appropriate in order to remedy this situation.
When the incident occurred, I was practically begging in the store for someone to address it in that moment, but no apology was received and no resolution was given at that time. As a result, I left the store carrying all of that anger with me. When I got to my car, I used my social media account to document how I was feeling. I recorded it live because I wanted my friends to know how I was feeling in that exact moment. Literally 3 friends saw it live. I didn’t think it would go much further than that. Those 3 friends shared the story on their social media accounts, and those 3 friends shared it on theirs. Within 24 hours, Instagram data indicated the video had reached nearly 5000 accounts. At the time of writing this letter, Instagram indicated the video has reached nearly 13,000 accounts, but I suspect it is more than that due to the matter being featured on media outlets both English and Chinese. I had no intention of getting such a wide reach – so much to the point that I didn’t pay any mind to my appearance at the time. In the span of a matter of days I’ve received hundreds of messages from people all over the world, primarily of a supportive nature with a few outliers. In trying to craft this letter, it would be an injustice to not consider the feedback and sentiments of so many others in recommending what might be a satisfactory response. While I understand the company and employee may choose to honour some or none of these recommendations, I feel it is my duty to be honest and complete to allow you to make your own informed decisions going forward.
What can the employee do?
The employee can offer a personal verbal and written apology to me. An acceptable apology would describe that the employee understands the gravity of her comments, she would indicate a desire to educate herself on the matter, and to do active work to highlight and elevate persons of colour, with an emphasis on Chinese people. To this end, I would be happy to have a calm and mature conversation with her and a member of your HR staff, of which matters discussed would remain otherwise private. In this conversation I would welcome an invitation to learn why this particular comment was especially painful for me, given my life experiences, and who I am as a person, but I can also relay the words of so many people who have responded to this incident.
It is my belief that this employee needs to educate herself on the origins of Covid-19, the multifaceted nature of Chinese culture, and the misplaced assumption that all Chinese people have and follow the same political beliefs, come from the same place, have the same religious beliefs, speak the same dialect, or currently even have the same level of human rights. It is my opinion that this employee needs to understand why her statement was offensive to so many people, and that it triggered memories of their own experiences and internal battle of whether or not to speak up – all this the day after Chinese New Year, the most important Chinese holiday.
I am not in a position to determine if this employee will continue to have a job with your company. That is your decision alone. Many people have called for her dismissal, referencing the fact that your Code of Conduct, which is annually acknowledged by employees and specifies that this behaviour is not acceptable, is grounds for dismissal. Understanding that you have internal policies and provincial laws to abide by, and given the loud voice from people responding to this incident, if this employee continues to be employed with you, it would be wise to consider the underlying message that may be received, and to offer explanation and strategy to improve the employee’s future relationship with the company and customers.
What can Fabricland do?
Highlight and elevate Asian people, Chinese people, and other marginalized groups.
- Release a public statement on the Fabricland website, e-mail newsletter, and social media outlets that specifically mentions Anti-Asian racism. Allow people to comment on that statement.
Why is this important? Many people from Asian cultures have been raised and taught to not speak up on matters such as this. Instead, people internalize that pain and indirectly encourage further speech. The overwhelming message I have received from people who have heard of this story is that they are both surprised and inspired that I “actually” said something in that moment. By naming the issue for exactly what it was, and by allowing people to voice their opinions on the matter, even if they might be hard to hear, is a way of no longer sweeping it under the rug and minimalizing or pretending it doesn’t exist. Some people have argued that it doesn’t happen very often – just because you don’t hear it doesn’t mean it’s not happening. After a statement was posted on Fabricland’s Instagram account, many people found that by not allowing people to comment, further victimization was occurring. By identifying and allowing a conversation on the matter, Fabricland is demonstrating an intentional effort to combat silencing and ignoring Anti-Asian racism.
- Make a financial donation to a charitable organization.
What is an appropriate organization? I have detailed 3 organizations that are near and dear to my heart but am happy to provide more suggestions.
Mon Sheong Foundation – a registered Canadian charitable organization dedicated to the promotion of Chinese culture, heritage, language and philosophy, by caring for the elderly, encouraging the young, and providing programs and services to meet the needs of the communities. Mon Sheong Long-Term Care Centre is also where both of my paternal grandparents lived their last years.
Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto – a vibrant multicultural hub taking pride in the promoting and preserving of Chinese culture and heritage in Canadian society.
Yee Hong – A non-profit senior care organization, delivering high-quality, culturally appropriate services to Chinese and other ethnic seniors.
Find ways to support and elevate local Asian and Chinese small businesses and creatives.
- Feature local BIPOC and LGBTQ2S+ makers in your advertisements and social media.
- Work in partnership with marginalized groups in providing resources and supplies to help encourage, start, continue, and/or grow their creative businesses, especially those businesses that have a strong cultural theme.
- Review internal governance and policies with a lens of this specific incident to determine gaps or where improvements can be made to strengthen Fabricland’s commitment to inviting and welcoming all people.
- Institute mandatory training for all new and existing employees on racialized and marginalized groups. If such training already exists, evaluate where those existing tools may have allowed the current situation to occur.
Why is this important? The creative space that Fabricland is directly tied into is increasingly being dominated by more racialized and marginalized groups. It is therefore appropriate to require this.
For many years I have been a Fabricland customer. I have sewn numerous items for my own children, with fabric from your company. Even the bibs that my daughter uses at her meals every day were made with fabric from your company. During the pandemic, I was on my second maternity leave and found that my mind was put at ease when I had a creative outlet to mentally escape, where physically we were on lockdown. I started my creative business, creating cards and gifts to help everyone everywhere celebrate and create joyous moments in life, both big and small. My purpose for visiting Fabricland that day was to purchase supplies for my business.
My parents immigrated to Canada and worked all their lives to ensure that I had the opportunities and ability to accomplish and be who I am today. Chinese culture was a strong and wonderful part of my household growing up and as a result, it is impossible for me to describe myself without including the fact that I am a Chinese Canadian. Following this incident, I asked myself, “where can I go now if I don’t feel welcome?” You may argue that I AM welcome, but perception is reality. Until I feel that I am welcome and can comfortably be myself in your store, I will not feel compelled to attend your stores. I’m certain there are others who share this opinion with me.
I look forward to seeing Fabricland’s response to my recommendations and am happy to elaborate or clarify anything I’ve detailed in this letter. It is my belief that Anti-Asian racism, and discrimination as a whole is an issue that can be fought by identifying and acknowledging it, and then by having mature conversations that provide tangible actions that are seen to completion. I hope that this situation has helped to highlight an issue that has not been provided the attention it has deserved, and that we can all work together to eliminate racism now.