Diaspora Tales Part 124341

I thought I lowkeyed American all weekend in French Canada and avoided anything awkward until I got in the Uber to go to Trudeau Airport.

Guy is chatty and asks, “Why are you leaving town with the good weather?” Apparently it’s been a miserable chilly Canadian summer. I reply, “Well, I was just here for the weekend and am going back to New York.”

Game immediately recognizes game, and we get into one of those overly personal and political conversations that only two strangers from a diaspora would suddenly have without hesitation. He immediately brings up how he and his buddies use to like to go to NYC for the weekend, but Canadians don’t travel down as much anymore, especially him because he has North African heritage. He doesn’t want to deal with being harassed at the airport. He talks about how even his White Canadian friend got harassed by Customs Border Patrol for three hours. They made her give her Snapchat and Facebook passwords because she wouldn’t give her opinion about Trump.

He talked about how in Canada you can’t get away with saying all the racist things that people say in America. That after the mosque shooting months ago, Canadians didn’t let people get away with being so hateful. There’s a pride in it, but I can tell it doesn’t salve everything. He’s sharing this undertone of distress with me because in a weird way we’re all in this together. He explicitly says he won’t let people say bad things about “people from China, Japan, and Black people, etc.”

This turns into a conversation about his cousins in France, one of course who is married to a White French woman who said “All these Arabs are savages” despite being married into a family of them who have extended extreme generosity to her.

He explains, “All the news on TV poisoned her mind. She’s out of touch with reality.”

We all know what it’s like to have one of those in our close circles. We agree that minorities have it worst in France out of the Western countries, and how laughable France attributes so many problems to immigrants given how few of them there are when you compare it to Canada and the United States. We talk about how France calls them “2nd generation immigrants.” Neither of us would tolerate such a laughable label, we’re both native borns, not immigrants. 2nd generation Canadians and Americans, yes, but we’re not immigrants. And regardless, you should treat immigrants like people and let them contribute. He says, “Yes, there are bad people who want to cheat the system,”  but counters the net contribution to countries far exceeds that and are not the roots of the social ills in the places we live.

We talk about how people were brought over because all these countries needed immigrant labor, and now they don’t want us anymore now that they’re not doing so well. He told me a story of how he drove a “racist American type” who was proud Tesla was Made-In-America (fuck yeah?). He totally destroyed that guy’s day by showing him Google search and informing him that Elon Musk holds Canadian citizenship and came from South Africa to Canada before going to America. He talked about how America’s toxic nationalism reminded him of France sometimes, he doesn’t like to travel to France and America and I suspect outside of Canada much these days.

At some point his phone rings, I see an image of lady in a headscarf with that sensible not-over-the-top-like-Americans smile I notice Canadians do and a cute kid. It occurs to me he totally reminds me of the Cantonese and Filipino guys in another life in SF. Culturally rooted and responsible, a Morrocan-Canadian Daly City dude. Aspirational and hardworking, but with that slight unease of figuring out how to be man in between two cultures probably telling him very different things. The kind of guy who will talk about his feelings to woman like me because he knows I don’t judge and get it. If I wasn’t so obsessed with airplanes and moving around, I’d have ended up with someone like him in another Cali life and be the picture that flashes on the phone in another anxiety filled diaspora conversation in another life.

I talk about who I am, and how I hang onto a Taiwanese identity, though we both have that vague unspoken anxiety knowing he doesn’t speak Berber that well, and I don’t speak Chinese as much anymore these days either, but feel our place and that of people similar to us are in a precarious position, where we’re at, and in places like the UK, France, Australia, and beyond. We’re mutually stewing in our unease about our relative and conditional privilege. Way early into this conversation, we’ve dropped our “proper North American English” speaking voices, him speaking in what I can only call Drake-music-video-Canadian-English with a touch of French accent, and me with dripping with a non-White Cali enunciation.

We end up in a conversation about crab mentalities, bad homies, and good homies. The fucked up things that happen when you try to stay loyal to people in your crew and your small community. It’s overly personal, platonic, and calm at the same time, the only conversation two diaspora folks living in this time could have. He talks about how he wants to get into real estate, but his friend was trying to sabotage his success, and how Canadians don’t travel that much because taxes are so high. I talk about how Americans don’t travel because a lot of them are too poor to do it at all because it costs so much to do out outside the coasts. He mentions even though Canadians don’t travel, they don’t share our insularity because they aren’t so nationalistic. I talk about how much I hate everything happening, that two countries exist in mine, but he knows all that already.

It occurs to me in this short window of time, I’ve probably had a more personal conversation with him than White people I’ve known for years. You only talk like this with the ‘special White friends’ (google Special White Friend Americanah) and Facebook posts to spare yourself the emotions of possibly having someone discount the convo or reveal to you they basically think your culture is backwards.

When I get out of the car, he says, “You’re welcome back anytime to Canada.” It breaks my fucking heart, because I know I can’t say the same, even though we’re weirdly all in this together. Fuck the fucking Le Pens and Farages of the world. I tell him we’re trying to get of Trump, but I know that isn’t happening in the near future. This is what it is now.

At least in some moments, we have each other.

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Understanding Timothy Caughman’s Murder

I think there’s an instinct to turn off the news in “Trump’s America” and hide from it now that the initial shock seems to have worn off, but it’s worth reminding that for a lot of people, that is not an option. There are people who want to be like they’re suddenly woke now, but remember Erykah Badu said to stay woke. Stay being the operative word.

The fact we are living in “Trump’s America” is an everyday reminder that some less than 26% of Americans voted to put in enforcers of racial caste, people who are ready to sell our country – quite literally to Russia and pawn off our national lands to companies who would cause environmental disasters, and make the lives of the vulnerable even more miserable.

As I climb up my career ladder, the more I see into the lives of people who literally have said to me “I’m just going to turn off the TV for four years.” I also won’t forget the absolute hypocrisy of so-called progressives giving these voters undeserved empathy and understanding. I have become even more sympathetic to disruptive protests and actions because people “on our side” (whatever that really means) but aren’t facing the consequences directly would prefer to hide in comfort instead, people who are actually able to actually change the outcome but would rather see incidents like Timothy Caughman’s murder as an unfortunate anomaly rather than for what it really is. Racial violence. Violence against trans people. Trumplandia. It’s more than simple hate.

Trump and Daily Living: Can Americans Take It?

Charles M. Blow ‘First They Came For…

“This has come as a great shock and demoralizer to many Americans, not necessarily because they didn’t think Trump was capable of such depravity, but because they simply were unprepared for the daily reality of living a nightmare. There is an enduring expectation, particularly among American liberals, that progress in this society should move inexorably toward more openness, honesty and equality. But even the historical record doesn’t support that expectation.”

This is my fear about America, most people do not having a living or even a collective memory of what it’s like to live under a daily assault to your senses, dignity, and even for those that do, this is a different animal. There’s a belief things will turn out okay, and that’s just not true. I generally like being positive, but experience teaches me otherwise.

100 Days of Resistance Art Day Five: What to Tell The Children

What to Tell the Children

tell them that this is the great awakening
tell them that we humans have made some huge mistakes
and that's how we now find ourselves in this tenuous place
teach them that hate is the poison
teach them that love is the remedy
that is it better to be readied for what comes next
even if the revelation is painful
tell them that this is the paradigm shift, that the old is collapsing in on itself
that this death rattle is simply a temper tantrum, the last gasp of a dying Goliath
remind them of how they get wild when they are most tired and then pass out
that this is what it's about
that this is what is happening to a decrepit and ineffective empire
tell them that everything is not OK
and knowing that, is OK
tell them that pretending that what is unacceptable is fine
is what got us to this sick and dysfunctional spot on the time line
apologize for any prior attempts to teach them denial
tell them you were blinded by desire for comfortable numbness
express that you had the best of intentions
that you were working within a broken system
where few benefited at the expense of many
that you laid low, kept to the status quo, obediently played your role
but those days are over because now you know better
tell them that they have no responsibility to follow someone blindly
based solely on a title
teach them to practice discernment
tell them authority and respect must be earned, and are not inherently deserved
teach them that there are good people and bad people
from every background, ethnicity and belief system
that they must align themselves with kindness
that there is no more room for divisiveness
you tell them that just because something is legal that doesn't mean it's right
you tell them to stand up, and fight
remind them of all the lawful atrocities
committed in the sick and twisted history of this violent country
that Rosa Parks righteously broke a law, and the world took notice
that Harriet Tubman is our modern day Moses
that women would not be allowed to vote,
and no one would have proposed another notion,
if the blessed rebels hadn't taken a stand
tell them love will win this war
but only if we remember that love is not just one unending cuddle puddle
but fierce, as a mother bear protecting her cubs
tell them that although this existence is damaged beyond repair,
they must not despair. there is possibility.
and we will willingly and willfully open ourselves to new ways of being
because the old way is not working, has never worked
and the world deserves better, and we're worth it
tell them they are not free while another suffers under enslavement
teach them that we are all limbs on one body
and we cannot chop off our own arm without deep suffering
teach them humility, but also to relearn to trust their intuition
and beg their forgiveness for unintentionally misleading them previously
tell them their gifts are useful
tell them they are beautiful
tell them THEY ARE THE TRUTH

100 Days of Resistance Art Day Four: Autopsy

Poetry for reflecting today. I’m traveling to Taiwan tonight, my motherland, to see family and friends. I am fortunate for now for relatively unencumbered freedom of movement, something my Brown friends don’t have the privilege of doing. Something to ponder on and think of how you can weaponize your privilege in the struggle.

Autopsy

Last night, I dreamed that my passport bled.
I dreamed that my passport was a tombstone
For our United States, recently dead.
I dreamed that my passport was made of bone—

That it was a canoe carved out of stone.
“But I can’t swim,” I said. “I will drown
If I can’t make the shore. I’ll die alone
In the salt. No, my body will be found

With millions of bodies, all of them brown.”
I dreamed that my passport was a book of prayers,
Unanswered by the gods, but written down
By fact checkers in suits. “There are some errors

In your papers,” they said. Then took me downstairs
To a room with fingernails on the floor.
I dreamed that my passport was my keyware,
But soldiers had set fire to the doors,

To all doors—a conflagration of doors.
I dreamed that my passport was my priest:
“Sherman, will you battle the carnivores
Or will you turn and abandon the weak?

Will you be shelter? Or will you concede?”
Last night, I dreamed that my passport was alive
When it entered the ICU. It breathed, it breathed,
Then it sighed and closed its eyes. It did not survive.

©2017, Sherman Alexie

100 Days of Resistance Art Day Three: Loyalty by Blue Scholars

There are moments where some people begin to have where their politics and beliefs diverge vastly from those given to them from the environment they grew up in, the institutions around them, what have you.

People are rarely convinced by facts and figures, but rather by the expressions of stories, art, and culture.

A lot of where my consciousness and moral clarity came from when I was a undergrad at UC Davis during the pessimism of the post-9/11 Bush years (remember when we thought that was the worst?), and it was through a lot of music scene there are the time.

Blue Scholars, a hip hop duo out of Seattle whose music explores immigration, racism, challenging authority, socioeconomic displacement, and global conflict helped develop my consciousness. It feels timely again given MC Sabzi’s Iranian and MC Geologic’s Filipino ancestries.

I’ve never stopped loving this hook:

Because I, got your back even if you don't got mine
Grind in the dark when the clock strikes hard times
We ain't nothing if this bond ain't solidified

100 Days of Resistance Art Day Two: Musa Okwonga’s Poem – The Nazis are back in town

Day Two of 100 Days of Resistance Art. This is Musa Okwonga‘s poem he posted on Twitter a few days ago:

He has a great interview in this segment on Monocle and reads from his piece in the The Good Immigrant anthology.