I recently read an article on a woman who was 2nd generation Chinese Kiwi (New Zealand), who felt that although she was born there she was often still treated as a foreigner. This is not too different from where I come from in Vancouver.
I think back on the Chinese railroad builders that helped build Canada.
Who, were given a head tax of $500 (a lot of money then and now) if they wanted to stay. And many found a way to make that money. Played by the rules.
They were then, not wanted in the white neighbourhoods, so they created Chinatowns.
Just wanting to coexist.
The heathen Chinese in British Columbia
Fast forward 100+ years. I came here at 6months, I was raised here. I’m a citizen, my first language is English. And as far as nationality goes, I am Canadian. And. I am also Chinese.
Why this deeply resonates with me is because I share many of the same sentiments of those that fear us. Yes, I know us Chinese can be hard to understand and many do a poor job of representing our ancient and amazing culture.
Many have come and bought up homes, pushing the locals out of affordability. Many do not become Canadian or value the local ways. I too can become deeply frustrated by this.
Real flyers being handed out in Richmond, BC.
But. As a Chinese woman, to some of you a Chinese friend, I ask that you exercise the same compassion you post about. For the misunderstood others you see in posts and videos. I ask that you take some effort in understanding why.
Let me paint you a common picture of empathy. Many of the Chinese people who became quickly rich had been much poorer than you and I. They had minimal education but had a strong will to survive. Their family being their motivation. One day, their economy boomed and those that were in the right place at the right time, their factories made them rich overnight. They now could afford a lifestyle they could’ve only dreamt of.
With little education, knowledge and experience of the world coupled with hardy business skills rooted in survival - they applied these life experiences to the outside world.
They gave their children the best schooling they could afford, a dream they never had the privilege of hoping for. They bought homes in countries where they felt safe in. They brought business to new lands wanting to make a life here for their family. Some trained their hardened mother tongue to speak a language of the new world. Many embraced their western son or daughter in-laws as family. Many adhere to the laws and regulations of their new home, paying their taxes, voting for their democracy.
Some since the railroad days.
Yet in light on this. They are still considered as foreigners, something especially challenging for those who felt they were as Canadian as their white skinned counterparts. Their identity marred by strangers and even those closest to them, often right in front of them. Their co-workers mocking how Chinese people are this and that, because “you’re not really Chinese.” Friends cursing the Chinks driving on the road with you as a passenger. It was very awkward and uncomfortable for us. Sometimes you just didn’t realize the energy behind what you had said.
Who do we side with? Which one was the side that I identified with? Often, I joined the the joke (that was my ethnic identity) or I just stayed silent. Sometimes I inform, educate and build a bridge, like this.
I learned something in my time here in Bali that really helps locals and foreigners connect. It’s a healthy dose of curiosity, invitation and patience. The Balinese, proud of their culture, share its beauty with us. Teaching us their language, customs, and inviting us into their lives like family. In turn, I feel more inclined to want to learn and be part of their world, as much as they have opened it to us.
This can be adopted in the West. First. Know your own cultural history, get educated on the history of the First Nations and immigrants that built the modern expression of Canada. Learn about the people and cultures that are entering your home. Invite them to learn Canadian customs. Be patient with their ability to adapt. Use kindness, humour and compassion. And most importantly, a smile.
Yes, I know it is hard. We do seem so different from you. And not all Chinese people are willing to meet you there. But, somewhere in that billion of us, I’m willing to bet many of them will appreciate the bridge to connect.
And on that journey to build a human connection, I’m positive you will be surprised by how similar we are and how our differences are quite beautiful. I have found so many similarities with my Russian, Jewish, and Middle Eastern brothers and sisters. Our human culture is connected.
The beauty of a young 150 years of Canadian multiculturalism is that we get to build a culture where we can to let go of the aspects that cause us to hate, judge and separate. And instead, embrace, build upon and celebrate that parts that bring us together in love, joy and prosperity.
So please, take the compassion you share on social media, and redirect it into your immediate social community. And spread love.