Choose Your Words

Among the numerous consequences of COVID-19, one ugly side effect is racism. From Trump labelling this coronavirus as the “China Virus,” to pandemic news headlines accompanied by pictures of people of East Asian descent, people are turning their fear of the virus into a phobia against people and where they come from.

These attitudes existed long before the COVID-19 pandemic, and they often emerge in our classrooms, even at BCIT. How often do you hear your business instructor at BCIT classify “Asians” as a racial demographic for a luxury product? What is wrong with that, you ask? Well, Asians are not a homogenous group; they consist of people from various countries with varied incomes. Implying that all Asians are rich is an example of stereotyping.

The beauty of our community is our diversity. Look around yourself—we are an inter-generational, ethnically diverse group. It takes all of us to create an equitable and inclusive environment at BCIT.

Here are some lessons I learnt and un-learnt over that you can consider:

1. Stereotypes do not make good examples

As mentioned before, stereotyping happens more than we think. The next time you are working on a marketing project, think about your demographics. Advertising luxury products? How about targeting people that have incomes over a certain level, rather than a particular ethnicity?

2. Use the right pronouns

Pronouns matter, and it is critical that we use the right ones. I have been reading my Real Estate Law textbook, and it often uses the “his or her” identifier instead of the gender-neutral, “they.” This is a problem, as it excludes a large portion of the world. Gender isn’t black and white; we are no longer categorizing people as just male

or female because gender is a social construct with a wide spectrum. With this in mind, it is crucial for us to communicate in the most inclusive language possible, both in writing and in speech. If you are unsure of which gender a person identifies with, ask them!

3. Not everyone is heterosexual

Let’s consider the show Modern Family. Cam and Mitch are parents to a lovely daughter, Lily. Except there is nothing conventional about the family—Cam and Mitch are a gay couple who have adopted a daughter from a family in Vietnam. They often encounter strangers who ask them about a girlfriend or a wife, and then they have the tedious (and sometimes risky) task of correcting them. An awkward exchange. So, the lesson here is to never assume. The next time you ask your friend who their boyfriend is, pause, and ask about their partner instead. Maybe they have a partner who is not a boyfriend. Here’s hoping we can inch towards a more respectful environment. Remember: “Treat others the way they want to be treated.”

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy? Said no one ever! We are humans. We make mistakes. We learn all the time. As your fellow student at BCIT, I urge you to self-examine your words and actions. Consider how they may impact others. There are many gaps in the current curriculum in terms of inclusivity, but here’s hoping we can inch towards a more respectful environment. Remember: “Treat others the way they want to be treated.”