As a registered psychologist and Program Chair of the Graduate Centre for Applied Psychology at Athabasca University, Wong specializes in maternal mental health and working with parents facing perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. In addition, Wong literally co-wrote the book on infanticide and filicide, serving as an expert witness in perinatal mortality court cases.
However, the Asian Gold Ribbon Campaign marks a turning point in Wong’s efforts to unpack her own past experiences with anti-Asian racism.
Dr. Wong was booked for an interview on the subject in March 2021, which turned out to be the day after the Atlanta Spa Shootings made headlines. While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought on a surge of anti-Asian discrimination in Canada and abroad, the shootings were a flashpoint that brought renewed focus to the issue.
“I was on CTV live the day after,” said Wong, “and asked a lot about anti-Asian racism and what happened the previous day.”
“The media requests just kept coming after that. I probably did eight or nine with national, eastern (Canada) and on the radio.”
Wong noted that “in many of those interviews, they were interested in my own experiences…some of the things I spoke about I had never before uttered.”
Wong explained that many of the experiences she shared went back to her childhood as a first-generation Chinese immigrant, while other stories were much more recent, recounting encounters with discrimination had by herself and others in association with COVID-19 over the past year.
“I had tucked a lot of that away in the back of my head…as a ‘good Chinese girl’ and a model minority is ‘supposed’ to do.”
Wong was spurred by this renewed focus on past traumas to begin processing these experiences “through a racial lens” which led to what she described as “identity redevelopment.”
“Before this campaign, I couldn’t say-and I never thought about saying-that I was a proud Chinese-Canadian woman.”
Wong explained that the Asian Gold Ribbon Campaign comes at a time of elevated discussion surrounding racial disparity, crediting the Black Lives Matter movements as well as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for paving the way for these conversations. However, Wong’s campaign follows a different path.
“There are some really great campaigns, like #FaceRace and Act 2 End Racism…but what I didn’t see in Canada or the US was a visibility campaign. In speaking to media, processing my own stories, reckoning with my own race, I didn’t want my daughters to grow up in a world where they would feel shame or self loathing for who they are.”
“This campaign is founded on making the world a better place for the next generation.”
With that in mind, the Asian Gold Ribbon Campaign is invested in telling stories that celebrate Asian stories and culture in all walks of life, and it has seen success across the board – finding support musician Martin Kerr, actor Samuel L. Jackson, celebrity Chef Trevor Lui, and Andrew Phung of Kim’s Convenience fame. Beyond the realm of entertainment, former MP Olivia Chow has joined the campaign as one of many ambassadors.
Not bad for eight weeks of work! While the campaign continues to grow, and Wong has big plans in store.
“My vision is worldwide,” said Wong, noting a growing following beyond the Canadian border, specifically in France and Australia. “This year we’re very based in North America, but as I tell my co-founder Sheila Wong, why not aim high and see what happens?”
Of course, Wong’s approach has delivered huge results. The inaugural year of the campaign is culminating in Asian Gold Ribbon Day on May 20, featuring the Let’s Talk Series and East Asian Youth Summit webinars hosted at AsianGoldRibbon.com.
Asian and non-Asian persons alike are encouraged to wear facemasks, lapel pins, and ribbons on Asian Gold Ribbon Day, and post selfies to social media with the #asiangoldribbon tag. These items are available for purchase on the campaign website with proceeds going to “mental health support programs and services for Asian wellbeing.” An online tutorial for making your own ribbon is also available, while Facebook profile frames, videocall backgrounds, and more are available for download.
Keep your eyes on landmarks across Canada too, with the CN Tower, Niagara Falls and more expected to light up gold in recognition.
Beyond blowing up social media on May 20, I asked Dr. Wong what we can do to support the campaign beyond the confines of Asian Heritage Month.
“We are focused on becoming a sustain(ed) movement, which is why our educational resources are available anytime,” Wong explained.
“We are unique in that our campaign isn’t exclusively focused on anti-hate, but celebration of Asian culture and history.”
The staying power of the stories featured on the campaign website will be expanded in coming events celebrating the Mid-Autumn festival in September of this year.
To sum up the campaign, Dr. Wong notes that her studies have continued to highlight that “positive ethnic identity buffers the negative impact of racism and discrimination.”
Wong notes that these stories and commemorations of Asian heritage would have made a major difference for her growing up, and she is proud to be able to offer that to the next generation.
“Through this campaign and the amazing people that I’ve met and shared stories…I feel a shared resonance,” Wong said of her growing circle which “didn’t previously have a lot of Asian women like myself in it.”
“Through that, through them, I can now say that I am a proud Chinese Canadian woman.”
It sounds like the results of the campaign speak for themselves.
In addition to the campaign website, find the Asian Gold Ribbon Campaign on social media: