By Nigel Chuah
A friend shared this video (see the bottom of this page) on Facebook a week ago. It was an on-air reaction by Van Jones, a CNN political commentator, on Joe Biden’s declared win in the US elections. After watching it, I was going to share it with the addition of a short paragraph of my thoughts. Pretty easy. I’ve done it many times with other posts I have shared. I started typing out the first sentence. But as I did, a wave of emotion just hit me. And quite unexpectedly, I started bawling. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t share my thoughts. For the same reason it is hard to speak when one is crying, I could not type my thoughts there and then. Even when I had finished crying, I couldn’t do it. I knew I needed time. And I knew I needed to breathe - the kind of breath one takes when nearly falling off an edge of a cliff or narrowly missing being hit by a bus.
It seems overly dramatic writing about it now. It was just an election result - an election result of a foreign neighbouring country at that. And within the history of my lifetime anyway, I haven’t noticed a significant distinction between Democratic and Republican presidents on political or economic policy.
Pretty quickly after crying though, the thought came to me, “I didn’t realize I had been holding my breath for the last 4 years”. And it wasn’t because of my belief in one political or economic system over another. I have experienced the change in parties from Bush, to Clinton, to Bush, to Obama. And it had never brought me to tears before. Of course I had my opinions on US politics, as many of us do. But they were differences of beliefs in policy and economics - the kind of differences we can have a civil debate about over thanksgiving dinner.
No. My tears were because for the last 4 years I have held fear of a movement that seemed to be reawakening society towards violent oppression and bullying of my race, my marriage, and my child. My race is Chinese. My marriage is interracial. And my child is queer. And in 2017, I watched white supremacist so empowered by their president, that for the 1st time in my life, they boldly took off their white hoods and showed their faces in public during a display of white power. I watched a president that continually refused to condemn the actions of these defiant and proud racist groups, sometimes heavily armed in public. I watched a presidency that removed human rights from peoples within the queer community. And I watched a president who unapologetically said blatant racist things in public, continually empowering racist ideology.
You see, for me these last 4 years weren’t about being Democrat or Republican, or about debating capitalism and socialism. It was being afraid of racism, sexism, and the oppression of queer people. It was being afraid of a society that looked to be on the path of repeating the oppression in our history; and of my family and I being a direct recipient of that oppression. It was watching this ideology make its way to Canada. It was watching the news and seeing a very strong white man in Vancouver, yelling at a 92-year-old Asian man with dementia, then physically throwing that man out of a store and watching him fall onto the pavement. It was hearing of Asian people being targeted by fellow Canadians. It seemed reflective of our neighboring president, who stubbornly insisted on racially stereotyping the covid virus and faulting it to Chinese people by calling it the “China virus”.
How do I end this blog? I am not trying to sell you on a political party. I suspect both the US and Canada will continue it’s pattern of flipping between one party and another as it has for a while now. What I’m trying to share is my story, and how oppressive it has been for my family to live through the empowerment of hate by a racist, sexist, and queer discriminating president - how foreboding it felt, to watch this empowerment blossom to the threat of history repeating. My tears were no embellishment for this story. They were very real and very felt - more than I can convey through these words.
I ask that in all your actions, in all your words, in who you support financially and politically, please consider my family and I. If society ever oppresses me, as it did to my ancestors multiple times in our collective history; if it ever oppresses my partner, as it has and continues to in this male dominated world; if it ever oppresses queer people, as it currently is doing, in debates of the legitimacy of their identities, and in debates of whether they deserve human rights; I hope you would defend me. I hope you would defend my family. I hope you will defend our rights to share this world. I hope you will be anti-racist. I hope you will be anti-sexist. I hope you will be anti-queer-oppresive. I hope you will choose love. The greatest stories and the greatest narratives have come from the bravery of love. Jesus. Mother Theresa. Mahatma Gandhi. Chiune Sugihara. Nelson Mandela. Irena Sendler. Martin Luther King Jr. I pray that this bravery and love also actively grows in you and in me.
I would like to acknowledge that I am on the traditional and unceded territories of the Kwantlen, sq̓əc̓iy̓aɁɬ təməxʷ (Katzie), Matsqui, and Semiahmoo peoples.