Editor's column: Richmond's reply to racist flyers heartening

So, a second flyer that blames “the Chinese” for various ills hit the streets this week. Not exactly a proud time for us Richmondites.

Actually, I take that back. 

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While it’s disturbing to see blatant attacks on one ethnic group, there is much to be proud of in the response. I can’t remember when we’ve had such a thoughtful and eloquent batch of letters to the editor — in stark contrast to the negative, simple-mindedness of the flyers. 

In Wednesday’s paper, Dongping Gu, who emigrated from China 15 years ago, describes his distress at having to live next to monster homes owned by people who don’t participate in Halloween or even chat to their neighbours. 

After Gu’s letter appeared, Gary Lui, a community organizer in Burnaby asked the News if he could reprint it on his Facebook page because it so well articulates how he, and many of Chinese ethnicity, feel.

In other words, when we read flyers referring to “the Chinese,” their monster homes and unwillingness to participate in the community, let’s think about Gu and Lui. 

Granted, the majority of Richmond’s monster homes and empty condos are probably owned by Chinese investors, but that doesn’t mean the majority of Chinese own monster homes or empty condos. And clearly, many Chinese are just as frustrated by people’s unwillingness to integrate as anyone else. 

But about communication, there is a problem — not with “the Chinese” but with the folks who operate solely in their own enclave. When the Richmond News first went to this format of having a two-page feature in Friday’s paper, our first feature looked at the issue of Chinese-only signs. Until then, the debate had been between activists calling for a bylaw to ensure English on signs on one side, and the city advocating for an “educate” approach on the other. Until our feature, we hadn’t heard from business owners who chose not to include English. They had some valid reasons. I might not agree with them, but from a business perspective it made perfect sense. 

I have a feeling such would be the same if we talked to some of these non-integrating mega-home owners. I also think many of us, regardless of ethnicity, would make the same decisions if in the same financial position. 

In any case, we need to talk, we need to avoid “us” and “them” thinking and lumping people into groups based on ethnicity. We need to heed the advice of one Richmond News Facebook post: “Can everyone in Richmond go out of their way to talk to people they don’t know just to prove how idiotic this person (circulating the flyers) is? I loved hearing the conversation between an older Caucasian guy and a younger Chinese guy at a store the other day...so friendly and jovial.”

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