Author: Kathleen Chen

Negotiated Spaces

Negotiated Spaces Words and photos by kathleen chen Navigating privilege and identity in the diaspora I’m looking through postcards in a souvenir shop in Qingdao when the shopkeeper comes over and asks me, “Where are you from?” This is a question that I’m used to hearing. Sometimes it comes from a place of ignorance, and sometimes it comes from a place of genuine interest, but it’s always loaded and complicated. I reply vaguely that my family is from the South. The uncle then asks me if I’m from Fujian. It was probably just a lucky guess on his part, but I entertain the idea that my heritage has left a legible mark. Could it be possible that some things persist? That, though my family left China generations ago, I still carry some trace of our province, of this country, with me? Being Han Chinese in China carries a great deal of privilege. Being the ethnic majority means that the system is built with you in mind. Your belonging in the system is not up for debate and you have the privilege of not having to think about it at all. When I visited China this summer, looking Chinese gave me the privilege of blending in. In contrast, my white friends always complained that people would stare at them and take pictures, sometimes without asking. While being photographed without your...

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Toronto Nationalist Rally shows that intolerance is not un-Canadian

Toronto Nationalist Rally shows that intolerance is not un-Canadian How should we define ourselves against a message we don’t condone? Kathleen Chen Canadians tend to be pretty smug about our reputation of having a welcoming and inclusive culture. We buy into the myth that, because a large percentage of us are immigrants or the children of immigrants, we are better at accepting cultures that are not our own. When acts of bigotry and racial violence occur on the other side of the border, we are quick to assume that those kinds of events and attitudes would not happen here. The Facebook event calling for a Nationalist Rally on the UofT campus shows that we are facing the same issues of bigotry and intolerance here and now, in Canada. The rally was created by an organization that calls itself the Canadian National Party, and the event’s stated purpose is to “discuss the nationalist movement in Canada and the future of our country.” After the violence in Charlottesville, it seems naïve and imprudent to give organizations that describe themselves as “nationalist” and “traditionalist” the benefit of the doubt. Seeing the Facebook event pop up was alarming, but it should not have been surprising. This past year, UofT has been the site of heated debates on the issue of “free speech,” even bearing witness to physical altercations between protestors during the “Rally...

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