Brock researcher explores racism faced by Chinese Canadian youth

Students reported being excluded from group work, bullied about food at lunch hour and targeted for rough treatment during phys-ed.

By Brock University


From slurs to stereotypes, Brock University expert Dan Cui has found that today’s young Chinese Canadians report forms of racial discrimination in every aspect of their lives.

“The racism experienced by Chinese Canadian youth is maintained and reproduced at school, within family, in media and other social institutions,” says the Associate Professor in the Department of Child and Youth Studies.

Cui, who has done extensive research on racial discrimination against Asian Canadians, hopes to shed light on the findings as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination nears on Thursday, March 21. She is the author of Identity and Belonging Among Chinese Canadian Youth, an in-depth look at how racial discrimination affects young people in the Chinese community.

Cui says the research participants she worked with — who lived in Alberta and ranged in age from 15 to 24 — reported being excluded from group work, bullied about food at lunch hour and deliberately targeted for rough treatment during physical education classes by fellow students at school.

“For Chinese students, academic excellence did not bring them respect from their peers, but marginalization and bullying because they’re treated as unfair competitors,” she says.

Participants also shared with Cui that students were not the only perpetrators of negative stereotypes — outdated textbooks and teacher attitudes can play a major role in reinforcing negative perceptions of Chinese people and culture in Canadian schools.

“Although Chinese is one of the largest ethnic groups in Canada and early Chinese immigrants made a significant contribution to Canada’s nation-building, participants indicated that they learned little history about Chinese immigrants in Canada and that textbooks had negative, out-of-date and biased descriptions of China,” says Cui. “Participants also reported the silencing of Chinese student voices trying to share their real experiences of China.”

Cui found that the concept of racialized habitus, which refers to the way racist ideas are internalized and shape behaviour, helps explain the experiences that were shared by the young participants who took part in her research.

“If there is racism deeply embedded in social structures, it affects everyone’s ways of thinking and being, including Chinese youth, and creates a whole package of biased assumptions,” says Cui. “Chinese youth may then reinforce a belief in their racial inferiority and reproduce racial inequality by looking down upon their immigrant parents or newcomer peers.”

Cui says it is important to remember that “discrimination does not only happen as inter-group oppression but also functions as intra-group exclusion within the Chinese community.”

To address these concerns, Cui calls for awareness and allyship.

“Chinese Canadian youth are not simply victims — they show agency and resistance when they bravely voice their opinions in fighting against racism,” she says. “I hope for critical reflection, building allyship and solidarity and collaboratively fighting social injustice so that we can build bridges rather than walls.”



  • The article was first published by Brock University
  • Dr. Dan Cui is an Associate Professor in the Department of Child and Youth Studies.




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