Marvel star Simu Liu’s message to Asian Canadians facing prejudice: ‘You belong’

Marvel star Simu Liu’s message to Asian Canadians facing prejudice: ‘You belong’

TORONTO — Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu is deeply proud of his heritage and likes to champion it whenever he can.

But the discrimination, racism and xenophobia that’s been aimed at the Asian community during the COVID-19 crisis has put a damper on such spirits.

The star of CBC’s “Kim’s Convenience” and Marvel’s upcoming film “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” says he’s heard from countless people who’ve experienced such discrimination, and he’s faced it himself, during the pandemic.

He’s hoping to shift the narrative by celebrating Asian and South Asian Heritage Month this May — and spotlighting the works of notable Asian Canadians throughout the month — on social media as a new ambassador for Made / Nous, a movement recognizing creative Canadian talent.

Also taking part in the campaign is Tamil-Canadian actress Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, star of Mindy Kaling’s new Netflix series “Never Have I Ever.”

“I think it is especially important now in this day and age, at this time where anti-Asian sentiment and xenophobia is higher than it’s ever been in a very long time — and I don’t think you can argue that,” Liu said in a recent phone interview from Sydney, where he was filming “Shang-Chi” until the pandemic halted production. His role as the kung-fu master makes him Marvel’s first big-screen Asian-American superhero.

“Every day I see more instances of hate crimes and discrimination, not only in Canada but the U.S. and Australia where I’m at. There have been a lot of cases of people getting spat on in the street, verbally abused, physically abused. It’s really easy to be weighed down by all of this hate that’s brewing in the world.”

Liu, who immigrated to Canada from northern China at age five and grew up in Etobicoke and Mississauga, Ont., said he felt such discrimination first-hand when he was recently walking out of a restaurant in Sydney before the pandemic lockdown came into full force.

“I had a piece of food in my throat and I was trying to get it out and was coughing and hacking a little bit,” he said. ”And this white guy comes out of a restaurant with a woman and looks over at me and, without even thinking about it, he just says ‘Coronavirus’ and chuckles to himself and keeps walking.

“I was honestly so shocked in that moment that I didn’t even know how to react. And I did just kind of brush it off…. But it’s just a taste of what is going on in the world right now and what collectively people are thinking.”

Liu added: ”I feel like if you’re an Asian person in the world in 2020, you’re fighting a virus on two fronts: We are, like every single other person in this world, at the mercy of this COVID thing. And then we’re also at the same time fighting this virus of hate that has apparently spread and infected just as many people, if not more.”

The 31-year-old graduate of the Ivey School of Business at Western University said he stayed in Sydney once production on “Shang-Chi” was halted partly because “Australia is in very good shape compared to a lot of other countries in the world” when it comes to the novel coronavirus. And there was a risk in contracting the disease through travel.

He celebrated his birthday last month by asking his social media followers to donate to either Trillium Health Partners hospital system in Mississauga or a health network of their choice.

The initiative raised over $10,000, Liu said, noting he matched that figure himself in a donation spread amongst different hospitals and non-profits.

His advice for those facing racism at this time is “not to buy into this ‘Go-back-to-where-you-came-from, you-don’t-belong-here’ kind of mentality and rhetoric that is being propagated by some top politicians.”

“You belong exactly where you are, and you deserve to stand on your own two feet and hold your head high no matter what,” he said.

“Call it out when you see it, and then reach out if you ever feel like you need somebody to talk to, because I think the aim with a lot of these angry people is to make us feel alone and isolated.”

Liu said he’s happy to hear from those who want to reach out to him on social media. And he noted that hate crimes can also be reported to authorities.

“We’re all in this together,” he said. “We’re going through it and we’re fighting for each other’s causes. And together we’re going to get through it, as long as we keep being active in holding these individuals accountable for their actions and their words.

“A big part of why this has gotten so much media coverage is because Asian people who have been attacked are refusing to let it go and they’re filming their perpetrators. And we’re making an effort to call out these attacks and not brush them off, and to take it seriously.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 1, 2020.

Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press

racism

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Front-line hospital workers have walked off the job at the Rimbey Hospital, and across the province. Photo Submitted
Front-line health care workers on strike across the province, including Rimbey Hospital

The strike is due to cut of 11,000 health care jobs in the province, according to AUPE

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, confirmed more than 1,000 cases over the weekend Monday afternoon. File photo
COVID-19: Central zone active cases up Monday

‘We’ve now crossed the tipping point,’ says Hinshaw

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

Ma & Paws Pet Supplies. Facebook/ Ma & Paws Pet Supplies.
Rimbey residents petition for dog park

Request for approval of dog park will be brought up at Tuesday Oct. 27 Town Council meeting.

The future site of the Rimbey Travel Centre. Web photo
New Rimbey development aims to capitalize on highway traffic

Phase I of the Rimbey Travel Centre would be along Hwy. 20, if approved

The death of 19-year-old Jacob Michael Chitze of Edmonton has now been ruled a homicide following an ongoing RCMP investigation.
UPDATE: RCMP arrest youth for second degree murder of 19-year-old Jacob Chitze

Arrest made for the murder of Jacob Michael Chitze, 19.

Pumpkins for the 46th Annual WDACS Pumpkin Ball on display at Vision Credit Union Wetaskiwin. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.
46th Annual Pumpkin Ball held virtually this year

This year the pumpkins were sold over a six-day online auction.

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Leader of the Opposition Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday October 22, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
O’Toole tells Alberta UCP AGM Liberals were ‘late and confused’ on COVID response

He says Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has taken charge and not waited to make things happen

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Inquiry into oil and gas foes to deliver report next year: Kenney

A lawsuit filed by environmental law firm Ecojustice argues the inquiry is politically motivated

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

This photo provided by Air Force Reserve shows a sky view of Hurricane Epsilon taken by Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter team over the Atlantic Ocean taken Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.   Epsilon’s maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly as it prepares to sideswipe Bermuda on a path over the Atlantic Ocean.  The National Hurricane Center says it should come close enough Thursday, Oct. 22, evening to merit a tropical storm warning for the island.  (Air Force Reserve via AP)
Hurricane Epsilon expected to remain offshore but will push waves at Atlantic Canada

Epsilon is not expected to have any real impact on land

A voter places her absentee ballot in the ballot box, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Robert F. Bukaty
American voters living in Canada increasingly being counted in presidential race

The largest number of Canadian-based American voters cast their ballots in New York and California

Most Read