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Tony Lu

Your Questions   1 | 2 6 Questions

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 activityit 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 a little?

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 their English.

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.

Your Questions 1 | 2 >

Next > "We lead structured discussions where we challenge each other to question our perceptions and how we think about the world."

about CAAAV and the Chinatown Justice Project


CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities is a community organization in New York City. Our mission is to build the power of Asian immigrants in New York City to combat racist violence, which includes economic exploitation, environmental racism, poverty, and state violence.


Learn more about gentrification and struggle in Chinatown, in this article from The Village Voice:
Chinatown Factory Faces Eviction