Robert's column

Robert Barron column: Anti-Asian hate must stop

By the time I arrived in Baie Verte, the Jim family was one of the oldest in the area

I remember when I first arrived in Baie Verte, a small mining town in northern Newfoundland, to work at my first job as a reporter many years ago.

I was sent there to run a satellite office in that community for the newspaper I was to work for, and, since I arrived on a Sunday, there was no company representative waiting to show me around and introduce me to some of the local people.

I drove around for awhile and then I spotted Jim’s Restaurant, which was adjacent to Jim’s General Store, and went into the eatery to get my bearings and talk to some people.

It was about 3 p.m. so there weren’t a lot of customers around at that time, but the family that owned the business took an immediate interest in who I was and what I was doing there.

The owners, Tong and Wong Kim Sue Jim, made me feel very welcome in their restaurant and in their community, and treated me as if I was a long-lost friend.

They served me up a feast of Chinese food and when I told them I was looking for an apartment to live in, they got on the phone and found me a great place a short distance from my office in less than a half hour.

I began spending a lot of time at the restaurant and general store, not only because I liked the owners, but also because I quickly discovered that the location was one of the gathering points for everyone in the community to meet and share the gossip and news in the area, and I could always get some background information and some thoughts on any story I was working from the many people who spent time there.

I also discovered that the Jim family were revered members of the community, and had a long history there spanning generations that dated back to when the mines first opened in the area almost 50 years before.

The first Jims came to work in the mines, but as soon as they had some money set aside, the family set up a much-needed general store, and later the restaurant, and both had been thriving ever since.

By the time I arrived in Baie Verte, the Jim family was one of the oldest in the area.

The fact that they were Chinese and physically looked different from their neighbours, who were 99.9 per cent Caucasian, meant nothing to members of the community.

They were kind and good people who wouldn’t think twice about giving away food to local families who were down on their luck until they managed to get back on financial track. People’s memories are long, especially in remote places like that, and the Jims’ generosity and graciousness was remembered through the years.

That’s why I find the rise of anti-Asian attacks in North America, particularly in the U.S., so disturbing. I remember feeling the hairs on the back of my neck go straight out when I saw the video of a very big man attacking an elderly Chinese woman, who reminded me so much of Mrs. Jim, in New York City a few months ago.

The little old lady was just making her way up the sidewalk with a cane when the man pushed her to the ground and then began to viciously kick her in the head.

He was eventually caught by the police and is being prosecuted for the assault, which sent the poor woman to the hospital with a concussion and other injuries, but the fact that nobody in the large group of people passing by did anything to help her made my blood boil.

I could only imagine if this guy tried to do that to Mrs. Jim in the middle of Baie Verte.

I expect he would have been lucky to get out of there alive.

It’s true that the COVID-19 pandemic has a lot of people on edge, but to blame every Asian in the world for it even though it may have started in China is preposterous.

The woman who was assaulted in New York had about as much to do with the pandemic as Mrs. Jim, and those who are attacking Asians as some sort of retaliation for it should face the full extent of the law.

We need more Jims in the world.

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