P.O.V.'s Borders visitors sent CAAAV these
questions in response to their work and their
answers to P.O.V.'s initial 6 Questions. Read on!
Question: Are there any specific challenges faced by the Chinese-American
community, which are not necessarily faced by other immigrant groups
like Latino, European, African?
CAAAV: Because we are not too familiar with the specific challenges
other communities face, we don't feel we can answer this question
sufficiently. However, from working with our allies in other communities
of color, we know that we share a lot of similar struggles, gentrification
being a prime example.
Question: In the group photo of CAAAV who's the guy in
the lower left-hand corner? (Just kidding) But my real question...
is why did CAAAV decide to answer their questions as a group?
CAAAV: The guy on the lower left hand corner is Jin Ren. To answer
the second part of your question, we decided to answer these questions
as a group because we want to make sure everyone has a say in the
discussion and everyone's opinions are accounted for. If we are
to represent CAAAV sufficiently, we must take into account the participation
of all those who make CAAAV the wonderful organization it is. Answering
the P.O.V. questions was also a good group-building activity
it gave us an opportunity to have honest dialogue and
share different opinions.
Question: Do you think that immigrants who settle in a neighborhood
like Chinatown look at it as their entry-point in this country,
their home, or as a place they want to work hard in order to get
out of? Do you see culturally homogenous neighborhoods like a Chinatown
as a liability in some ways to the immigrant community that settles
there it seems to attract immigrants to neighborhoods with
over-saturated labor-markets and keep them from assimilating even
CAAAV: We will attempt to answer this question by unpacking some
of the assumptions embedded in what is being asked. First of all,
the question assumes that all immigrants share similar experiences.
As in any community, people share a variety of histories and experiences.
Certainly, the experiences of a Cantonese speaking restaurant owner
will not necessarily be comparable to those of the Mandarin speaking
cook working in that restaurant. As such, it is very likely that
some immigrants see Chinatown as an entry-point, some as home, some
as a place they work hard to get out of. And it is also very likely
that some immigrants share one or more of these experiences; they
are not mutually exclusive.
For example, immigrants who leave Chinatown may
still visit often and consider the community as their home. Speaking
of liabilities, racism, labor exploitation, poverty, gentrification,
poor housing conditions, pollution, inadequate health care delivery
systems and violence are the real liabilities to this community,
not cultural homogeneity, which doesn't describe our community anyway.
Contrary to your belief, Chinatown is not a homogenous community.
We not only share different histories and cultures, we also speak
different languages, share different class backgrounds, have different
life experiences, worldviews and opinions. It's also not a matter
of attracting immigrants to these neighborhoods.
Many immigrants have no choice but to live in
Chinatown. Many are fighting tooth and nail to keep their homes.
Therefore, we challenge the idea that assimilation is something
positive that all immigrants strive for because we also understand
assimilation to be a process that can be forced, that erases historical
and cultural memory. We do not believe that resisting is an indicator
that there is something pathological about us. We feel it is important
to bring up these concerns about the value and meaning of assimilation
but we also want to acknowledge that interactions with other cultures
and peoples can be very positive experiences. For instance, these
interactions can help some limited English proficiency folks practice
Question: Who are your allies in other racial groups white,
Arab, Latino, African-American?
CAAAV: Our allies are people who share our struggles, namely people
of color such as the Latino and African American communities in
Harlem and the South Bronx who face gentrification and racism.
Question: I'm a young, white, college-educated, musician by night;
office-worker by day who moved into the Lower East Side ten years
ago. It was the only place I could afford in NYC. The longer I've
been in the neighborhood, the more people like me I see, and the
less Hispanics, Asians, and Hassids I see. So I know I'm part of
"gentrification" but what's the solution?
CAAAV: There are many things you can do as a benefactor of gentrification.
You can bring your friends and neighbors to a screening of our video
Chinatown Is Not For Sale, on Friday, December 13th at 7PM
at the University Settlement, which is located at 184 Eldridge Street
in Manhattan, to learn more about the issue and how you can support
the work of low income tenants fighting displacement. You can talk
to other white people in the neighborhood about gentrification.
As tenants who may be paying exorbitant rents, they can challenge
rent increases in previously rent-stabilized buildings. Landlords
evict tenants knowing they can charge more but we may be able to
stall that process by challenging those rent increases. Landlords
and the real estate market have really poured a lot of resources
into creating and marketing the Lower East Side as one of the most
desirable neighborhoods in NYC. What they forget is that what's
hip, fun and convenient about the LES for the middle class is also
what many low income tenants have long claimed as their homes and
communities. What's a solution? Please spread the message.