When I was a little girl, living in Shanghai, my grandparents would take me to Nanjing Road, which is this long, vibrant street of activity in the heart of the city. We’d walk all the way down to the water and I’d look out into the city lights wondering where my mom was, what she was doing and why she couldn’t be by my side. That was all I could think about as a child.
My mother has always been an ambitious woman. No one in our family thought about leaving China until she came along. She wanted to provide a better life for us in a new country, but it was a gargantuan task, and there was a lot of work to be done.
She went to Canada alone when I was 2 years old to lay down the groundwork. She was 32 years older and she had to start all over again. My mom was a waitress, a hair stylist, a nail technician, you name it. She did what she needed to do in order to survive.
It was hard not having her around, and I can only imagine how lonely she got living overseas on her own. My grandma always comforted me saying that we would all be together soon and I yearned for that day. She’d send me cute little pencils, erasers, and notebooks as gifts and I’d sleep next to them in order to feel close to her.
When I reunited with my mom 10 years later, we became Canadian citizens together. I was too young to understand it myself, but I could tell it meant a lot to her.
I lived in a neighbourhood full of immigrant families, which made me realize that most of the kids I met had similar backstories to mine. Many of my friends’ parents owned or worked at small restaurants, nail salons, hair salons, and we all knew each other and who owned which shop. This was how I grew up and I loved it, because it felt like we all made our way here through different means and we all added something of value to our little community. It was so clear how grateful we were to be here. All of our parents had achieved their dreams, to have a peaceful and humble life in North America. All the sacrifices, uncertainty and stress didn’t matter anymore because we had made it here.
Over this past year, I have read countless articles of Asian hate crimes against our seniors, our women, our men and even our children—no one is spared. All I can think about is their pain and confusion. We came to North America for a better life, we realize that this is not our homeland and we carry that knowledge with every step. We’re taught by our parents to never ruffle any feathers, attract attention, and to simply endure in difficult situations. But our hopes to blend in and settle into Western society made us an easy target.
A terrorist went to 3 Asian massage parlours and murdered 8 people, 6 of them being Asian women. I’ve never experienced this kind of grief and anger before. I felt like I knew these women and their families. I felt like I could’ve been friends with their children, or have been their child. Their lives were cut short on the decision of a weak, entitled, racist man. I felt a deep sorrow for their loved ones. I thought about my own mother, and all the working class women I know. I felt fear for my family, friends and myself. I felt anger for all the sacrifices Asians have made to be here and all the contributions we’ve made for this country that refuses to accept us or even see us as human. And finally, I felt hopelessness for things to ever change.
Asian Canadians and Asian Americans all experienced the same emotions that following day. We became unified but in the most tragic means. This was when I realized just how much we’ve endured and hidden away over these years.
I owe every single part of my life to working class Asian women. They work themselves to the bone and never complain because they’re doing it for their family. As a comedian, I try to see the world in a light and pleasant way so that I can do my job to entertain, but for the first time in my life, I felt a dark shadow envelope my entire being.
There was nothing light about this tragedy, I felt the weight on my chest. No one deserves to be murdered this way, and I hope you can remember the names of these women, grieve for them, empathize with their families, think of them from time to time, and donate to organizations if you can.
Andrea Jin is one of the fastest rising comedians in the country. Born in Shanghai, she immigrated to Canada at 10 years old, where she taught herself English through watching sitcoms and standup on TV. Andrea uses her subtle delivery and hard-hitting punchlines throughout stories and observations about family, friends and the world around her to establish a voice that is genuine, unique, yet still incredibly funny and relatable.
At only 24 years old, Andrea has performed at JFL42, JFL Northwest, SiriusXM’s Top Comic (National Finalist), Seattle International Comedy Competition (Semi-Finalist), The Debaters, Winnipeg Comedy Festival for CBC and is part of the JFL Best of the West Comedy Album. Her debut comedy album ‘Grandma’s Girl’ is out now and available to stream or download on all platforms. Follow Andrea on Instagram or Twitter, or head to her website.