David Suzuki says the spike in Anti-Asian attacks is due to ‘an excuse to express’ racism

He also explained how COVID-19 has given 'nature a bit of a break.'
Published May 3, 2021 4:48 p.m. EST
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David Suzuki has no shortage of wisdom when it comes to contributing to science, our entire country of Canada and, of course, the planet. 

The Canadian icon has educated so many people on the harm humans are doing to the earth and is constantly teaching us ways to take better care of it. He's also speaking out about how to treat its people better, particularly when it comes to racially motivated violence. 

With the rise in anti-Asian racism in Canada, Suzuki told Etalk’s Sonia Beeksma that the spike in anti-Asian “incidents” is “simply the expression of the racism that’s there.”

Anti-Asian racism

“I don’t think suddenly racists are being created against Asians. Racists are ignorant, frightened people. They’re all out there and what they do is they’ll get an excuse to express it so when you have a president of the United States talking about the China virus and Kung-flu, those are dog-whistle signals for the racists to come out,” The Nature of Things host said.

He said that racists are “all out there" and waiting for any excuse to express racism.

“As a third-generation Japanese Canadian, I know when my grandparents arrived and my parents were born in Canada, they lived with racism all the time. You just need an excuse. For my family, it was Pearl Harbor in 1941. All of the racism came out and even though we were born and raised in Canada, we were considered the enemy. You think about the Indigenous people who’ve lived with this ever since the arrival of Europeans in this country.”

The Canadian broadcaster suggests that all of us that believe in a different kind of Canada need to stand up to racism.

“[If you believe] in a country that is fair and just and equitable, every time a racist incident happens, whether it’s against Asians, whether it’s against Blacks or Jews or gays, Muslims or whatever it is, we have to stand up and say, 'This is intolerable. That’s not what we stand for.' Don’t think the Asian spike is ‘Oh, we’re suddenly being picked on.’ It’s just people have an excuse to jump out and do very nasty things,” Suzuki shared.

“Fight racism everywhere it happens,” he added.

Greta Thunberg and the younger generation’s work

Suzuki also told Sonia that it’s “very gratifying that more and more people are concerned” about the world.

“The part that I find, at this stage in my life, whatever happens in the next few years is going to have little consequences for me. But for the young people coming up, it’s a very, very urgent time. As you know, before the COVID lockdown, we had millions of young people marching led by Greta Thunberg from Sweden, saying, ‘Look, we listen to the scientists. We’re taught at school to take science seriously and scientists are saying I don’t have a future,’” Suzuki said of the younger generations.

He said that Thunberg had an “enormous impact” and reflected on the first time he met the Swedish activist.

“When I met her the first time, I said, ‘I am so sorry.’ People of that age shouldn’t have to worry about the environment. They should be meeting new people and finding out things that they really like to do, that they’re good at, making new relationships, getting ready to become an adult. I feel that it’s really urgent now that any parent has to be a warrior on behalf of their children or grandchildren.”

Suzuki said he told Thunberg to make the call to parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts because they have to become “outspoken fighters for the future.”

“That’s the big challenge. It’s not going to be easy,” Suzuki warned.

COVID-19 giving “nature a bit of a break"

With everything that is going on globally, Suzuki has some optimism towards the generations now working towards a better environment for the generations to come.

“We’ve already started the experiment. There’s nothing we can do to stop what we’ve already started. COVID was, in many ways, I think a gift because for one thing, it meant that we had to sit down and stop being so frantic about everything. Just by chance, we kicked off spring break here at my cabin and my daughters with their families came and then the lockdown order came on March 13, 2020. I had only packed four days of underwear for god's sake and I ended up staying for seven months.“

Suzuki said it was refreshing to not look up into the sky and see airplanes all over. “It was quiet. There wasn’t traffic on the road and guess what? I could now hear birds and insects…I can look out and see mountains that before we couldn’t see because there was always a bit of a haze. Everybody locking down gave nature a bit of a break.”

“The world is still a wonderful place…I may be close to the end of my life but I’m going to spend every minute I can fighting so that we protect whatever we can for our children and grandchildren,” the environmental activist declared.

Suzuki never thought he’d have such a strong impact on the world

Suzuki never thought that his passion for this world and this planet would have such a strong impact on everyone else.

“I’m one person. There are seven billion human beings. Who the hell would I think that I’m so important that I’m going to have this effect. I was very, very lucky to have had the opportunity in television. I did my first television series in 1962. Can you imagine? At that time, I was just starting my career as a scientist,” Suzuki said. 

The 85-year-old activist said he never expected to become a celebrity. “I thought I was just passing information on. It’s completely unexpected and I feel just grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to do that.”

Suzuki said that his journey to educate everyone hasn’t always been easy.

“During the ‘60s and ‘70s, we were battling over forestry in British Columbia. Forest companies said 50 cents of every tax dollar comes from the forest industry and here was Suzuki saying, ‘We got to shut down this and we got to stop logging this way.’ They sure as hell wanted me out of there and it’s the same with the oil industry,” he explained. 

BEFORE YOU GO: BTS speak out against anti-Asian racism in powerful statement

[video_embed id='2170889']BEFORE YOU GO: BTS speak out against anti-Asian racism in powerful statement[/video_embed]