Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Props to the sister on Telegraph and Bancroft

Standing on Telegraph and Bancroft was the old Chinese man who comes out now and then with his placards espousing his views of the U.S., China, Michael Jackson, and the Olympics. He stands on an upside down plastic drum on top of a folding chair. He knows little English but is often heard saying phrases like, "George Bush no good" or "U.S. no good" or "shame shame shame" and "happy happy happy."

Sometimes people argue with him. Most let him be.

Today a Caucasian guy tells him, "hey, why don't you go back to China if you don't like it here?!"

At that an Asian woman who would have simply walked by and let them talk replied to the heckler, "You may not agree to what he has to say, but he has a right to stand here and say what he wants."

The Heckler replies, "But I have a right to say something back to him."

Asian woman: "I'm not going to let you say racist things to him. And YES, it WAS RACIST!"


So the Heckler didn't think telling someone to go back to China was racist. Why not? Because he feels that immigrants have a choice, non-immigrants don't have a choice.

That seems to be a really weak argument. It's not really about whether there is a choice to stay or leave (that choice is available for both immigrants and non-immigrants).

It's about who has rights in this country. Don't immigrants have a right to speak their mind and criticize the U.S. government like non-immigrants? Would the heckler have told a black man to go back to Africa? Would he have told a white guy to go back to Europe? Probably not.

As Asians, as part of this immigrant community, we are often told to go back to where we came from when people don't like what we have to say. As if we, whether native born or immigrant, do not have a right to choose to stay here.

Everyone wants free speech, but not everyone wants the responsibility for having to listen to it.

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