The United States is not the only country to see its Asian population impacted by COVID-19. The irrational hatred and fear we have seen here has also dug its roots into Canada, as Calgary based rapper KIEN can attest. While concealed with a thin veneer of civility in the past, this pandemic has given crude people the excuse they needed to spread their hatred more openly than ever before.
This month, I sat down with KIEN to discuss this situation with him and to get his opinion on this problem. Take a look at our interview:
J: First off, I want to say congratulations on your latest releases, ‘I Got Me’ and ‘Good Omen’. I love how real your lyrics are and am excited to see your new releases! With the restrictions from COVID-19, how have you had to adapt your project?
K: Thank you so much Jordan! Our locations have all been limited, but since I’m a videographer by trade, I am able to use graphic effects, backdrops and green screens to make things more interesting. It is also a great learning process.
J: Did you have anything in the works that you’re now unable to do?
K: YES haha. The releases in May had dancers and other people involved, but we gotta postpone those ideas for other songs after quarantine.
J: I’ve been really impressed with your determination to continue despite the pandemic. Did you ever have any doubts about moving forward with the project?
K: Yes many times, I was discussing with Taicue that an option is to stop the whole thing and just work on a whole visual album, BUT giving up has never been a trait of mine, it is also the reason why I’m still making music after all these years. Maybe it’s just stubbornness.
J: Tell me a bit about your experiences. What experiences with racism and discrimination have you had?
K: All throughout my life actually, but you gotta keep in mind that I grew up in a time where a lot of things were more acceptable in society so it was easy to overlook the less severe incidents such as racial name calling. When I first pursued music, it was before the rise of social media, so the only way you can be a part of the culture was to go to bars, clubs or any organized events. During those times, being a rapper of Asian descent was rare and as a result I encountered many moments where people of all colors would come up to my face and tell me that “I don’t care if you can rap, this isn’t your place”
J: Have you ever been physically attacked or threatened with physical violence?
K: Yes. There were many moments where confrontation happened and they would use racial slurs to provoke my friends and I, but I always hung out in groups so nobody was ever seriously hurt from it.
J: What was your response to racist remarks or attacks?
K: Up until I was 23 years of age, it was always an angry response, but in hindsight, that was exactly what they wanted. I say 23 because after that, my family and I opened a restaurant where I worked 12 hours per day everyday for 6 years straight. I never went out to places where those things could potentially happen to me.
J: How have your experiences changed since the start of the pandemic?
K: I’m more worried about my family members going out for essential shopping, especially my parents and grandma. The ignorant are more likely to pick on the ones they think are weaker than them. Even when my brother walks the dog by himself, you just never know.
J: Has your response to these types of situations changed?
K: YES! something that I’m proud of. I am 31 years old and I’ve grown to understand that I cannot come from a place of emotions or ego. I’ve also grown to understand that reciprocating violence or negativity will only fuel the racist with more resentment. Understanding the human psyche has really helped.
J: You’ve mentioned in a post before that you asked your parents not to go out on their own. Have they been threatened or was this more of a precaution to prevent a threat?
K: My parents have been in Calgary since they were 18 and have experienced oppression in a serious sense for a majority of their lives. Knowing the stories they’ve told me, it is definitely more of a precautionary thing. Just because people don’t talk about it in public, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
J: Has there been a time where you’ve been afraid to leave your house because you’ve felt you would be attacked?
K: When I was young, yes, but now no. I usually go to familiar places where I know people. Maybe that comes with getting older and being comfortable in the areas I frequent, but with that being said, there’s a sense of confidence when I go to places.
J: You released your song “Chinese Virus” at the end of March; it’s a beautifully written piece. What was going through your mind when you were writing the lyrics?
K: Since I started seeing more racism against Asians broadcasted on social media, I realized that I haven’t used my voice enough for a greater cause. I knew that I couldn’t always just keep to myself even though I’ve told myself I wouldn’t share negative things considering everyone else is doing it already. I wanted to share perspective rather than trying to solve something because to me, discrimination, prejudice and racism have always existed and it’s going to take a longer and bigger dialogue to resolve such issues.
J: What went into your decision to write three different perspectives?
K: So the song’s intention is to highlight each perspective and my dad’s perspective being the core message (3rd verse) where I want people to understand why our perceived “timidness” or “passiveness” is coming from a place of love and not weakness.
J: What was the reaction here in the U.S. after you posted the song?
K: I think people were more surprised and shocked that I was able to write something like that considering a lot of my releases have been about chasing a dream and braggadocio raps. But since the song is simply just highlighting different perspectives and it’s not trying to attack anyone, it was received very well.
J: You also posted the song on the Chinese version of YouTube, right? Was the reaction over there different?
K: Yes, the video is over half a million views over there! When they heard the song, they couldn’t relate to it the same way as we can living over here in North America. But what I found out was that there is a deep hatred for Trump over there haha.
J: In your opinion, what is the root of the racism/discrimination?
K: I think it’s just fearing what you don’t know and that fear is expressed in different ways by different people. Some more extreme than others.
J: What actions do you think need to happen in order to curb these actions?
K: We need positivity to be louder. There are definitely more people who love and embrace each other as human beings than the ones who are destructive and hurt, but the thing about negativity is that it tends to lash out and be loud. This is also a reason why the news will always have negative stories. It is easier to draw misunderstood crowds.
J: What can I, as an individual, do to combat this rise in racism?
K: Broadcast love a lot louder. I think in order to normalize the idea of having only one race on planet earth (the human race), we have to drown out all the negativity with all the good things that humans bring each other.
J: Every day there is a new update on COVID-19 but no one is talking about the hate crimes that are occurring. Why do you think these instances are not viewed as newsworthy?
K: We have to see the news as a business as opposed to an information center. If you think about the whole Asian population who might watch the news and the percentage who don’t speak much English and would rather watch a different broadcast of the same news. the viewership isn’t there. So as a business, it is not a good investment to tell stories that only a small percentage of the population can relate to or care for.
J: And finally, do you have a message that you want to give to anyone out there who is currently facing discrimination?
K: Become love unconditionally. It’s the hardest thing to do but throughout history, (war, gangs, segregation) combating hate with hate is a temporary fix.
“Broadcast love a lot louder.” This really struck a chord with me. Racial discrimination has always seemed like an insurmountable problem; one that could never be impacted by the actions of just one small individual. But if we all bandied together and resolved to spread understanding and love, we could drown out the negativity and the hatred. Each individual person can have an impact and every instance of kindness and hope, no matter how small, will show that we will not stand for this intolerance and bigotry any longer.
Thank you so much KIEN for having this discussion with me and all of us here at Weibuzz wish you happiness and love in the future! Follow KIEN on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube and you can check out his song ‘Chinese Virus’ here!