Tag Archives: activism


posted by missmsian

I made up a word while watching news coverage of the G20 rioting yesterday. Let me explain.

glib: having only superficial plausibility; marked by lack of intellectual depth

liberal: having political and social views favouring reform and progress; tolerant of change

gliberal: a self-righteous, theoretical liberal with a big mouth and little purpose. Generally middle- to upper-middle class. Almost always vegan. Frequently spotted at protests yelling uncreative slogans like “F*ck the police!” and “Corporations kill!” (Yes, they do. But so could you with that brick.)

And, yesterday, Toronto had an onslaught of them.

“Dear Protesters, now that you have destroyed an Urban Outfitters where will you get your Che Guevara T-shirts? #g20.” — @TDotOpenLetter, 4:42 p.m., June 26, 10

Thanks to gliberals, the TTC was virtually shut south of Bloor for more than 12 hours. City workers started cleanup at 2 a.m. and continued into Sunday.

Who do you think is most likely to take public transit? Who would be hired to do city garbage and cleanup? Not the bigwigs of the corporations and banks they tried to dismantle. That’s glibs for you: removed from real life while claiming to be anti-corporate and anti-colonial. Please.

I’m not talking about those who were out there with a message. Taking it to the streets is legitimate and important and necessary. Sometimes, covering up to prevent recognition is, too.

And I’m not saying non-violence and police-approved protest is the only way. But there’s a way to use purposeful violence and then there’s gliberals.

As if throwing a rock through Starbucks is going to solve anything. Yeah, their coffee’s expensive, but no more than your organic beans and soy. We’re all in the same game, player.

“Trashing American Apparel? Urban Outfitters? Starbucks? Are you protesting the world leaders or hipsters? What’s next, the Apple store? #G20.” — @tspreen, 6:45 p.m., June 26, 10

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dispatches from san fran: why azns should care about what’s happening in arizona

posted by kltw

So I’ve been sitting here for the past two hours thinking of a clever way to introduce myself to readers, as this is the first time I’ve ever written for a blog.  Instead of something dramatic or witty or anything extraordinary, I’m just going to give the basics to save myself another late night.  I’m a Chinese-Canadian hanging out in California this summer, doing work with working class, low-income Chinese immigrants in the San Francisco Chinatown.

When missmsian approached me to write for the invazn, I thought about the plethora of topics that I had accumulated over the years, including pop culture, politics, race/racism, sexuality…etc.  However two recent events helped me narrow down my topic to one of great importance right now; the topic being the bullshit that’s happening in Arizona.

For those of you who aren’t yet aware, Arizona has had a long history of being one of the most bigoted, hateful, and racist states in the union.  With an impressive history highlighted by notable events such as the 1912 enactment of legislation that denied the vote to any persons unable to “read the Constitution of the U.S. in the English language”** , or the opposition to the recognition of Martin Luther King Day, or HB2281, passed just few weeks ago, that bans ethnic studies in schools.  These are just a sample of Arizona efforts to single-handedly deny rights to people of colour.

The one piece of legislation that I will focus on is SB1070, which gives Arizona police the authority to question anyone they feel to be “reasonably suspicious” of entering the country illegally.  Furthermore, if said person is unable to produce the proper documentation proving their status, they will be detained or deported.  Needless to say, this is a terrible time to be in Arizona as a person of colour.  This law is designed specifically to fight the so-called blight of “illegal immigration”; what it actually does is criminalize people for being brown.

So why should Chinese people care about this? After all, all of us exist in the racial hierarchy as the “model minority”, where we don’t make trouble and assimilate perfectly into mainstream society. Right?

WRONG…The fact that a model minority exists hurts both our own community as well as other communities of colour (perhaps the topic for a future post?).  A lot of the opinions coming out of the Chinese community here have mostly painted a bleak picture about our understanding of the plight of undocumented peoples, and in this case, people in the Latino community.

Not only has the reaction to SB1070 been indifferent at best, supportive at worst, Chinese folks have actually talked about going to Arizona to take over the jobs that are being vacated by deported workers!  This type of mentality has demonstrated the utter inability (and sometimes refusal) to connect the dots between the treatment of different communities of colour by the state throughout history.  Chinese people need to look no further than this past century to see the denial of our right to opportunity and existence through the Chinese Exclusion Acts.

I had the opportunity to see the result of this kind of legislation first hand on my visit to Angel Island; at the time, it was the immigration centre (read: immigration detention facility) on the West coast and the “Guardian of the Western Gate”. Carvings of Chinese poems can be seen on every wall, decrying the conditions of imprisonment and expressing the pain of isolation and emotional suffering.

The spirit of the Chinese Exclusion Act lives on to this day, in the form of SB1070.

The same rhetoric could heard then and now: talking about immigrants taking American (read: white people) jobs, about corrupting American values, about taking over.

The same kind of work was done by immigrants then and now: working in the underground economy, for less than minimum wage, in sweatshop conditions.

The same kind of consequences borne by the immigrant communities then are the same ones that are experienced today: broken families, living in fear, continually oppressed.

This is why we need to stand up against this bullshit, because in this cycle, who knows when our own communities will become the targets once again.  I hope everyone takes some time to get to know the history of injustice done to each of our own communities in order to better appreciate the experiences of immigrants in Arizona right now.  For more information about SB1070 and the struggles in Arizona, you can check out Alto Arizona.

They first came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me —
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Pastor Martin Niemoller

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refugee camp 101

posted my missmsian

“Imagine you’ve just been told a rebel group has invaded Toronto. They’ve taken over your home on Eglinton and you’re out here hearing the news. They’re heading south. You have three minutes to get ready to escape. What are you going to bring?”

That’s how a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) doctor started our guided tour of MSF’s refugee camp exhibit in Christie Pits Park on May 30.

The exhibit was part of an MSF awareness effort worldwide. Multiple cities have played host to the touring camp creation–four in Canada, including Toronto last week. The exhibit wraps up its Canadian tour in Waterloo today.

For a weekend, Christie Pits was transformed into a refugee camp, complete with model shelters, latrines and “checkpoints” staffed by actor-volunteers.

Different types of shelter at refugee camps

I’ve never attended a natural disaster or conflict zone firsthand so I’m not qualified to comment on what MSF does there, but, from what I’ve read, the volunteers provide important medical care in the areas they serve.

However, although the exhibit was well intentioned, I’m left wondering how effective it is to provide groups of privileged Westerners with a cleaned-up, hour-long experience of camp life.

A few in my tour group were snapping photos right and left, exclaiming over how cute the homemade soccer balls were or how tasty the rice rations looked. Errrr … the boat left and you missed it.

The inside of a (model) refugee shelter

That’s not to say I was much better than them. I took the photos that accompany this post–on my BlackBerry, no less. It was a hot day and some in the group were sipping Starbucks as we toured.

At one point, when the tour guide was talking about land mines, I commented that the mines used in non-Western countries are largely supplied by Western companies. She caught on right away, answering that countries like the U.S. are effectively supplying rebel groups with weaponry to harm civilians.

“Canada, too, probably,” I said.

“No, no, I’m sure Canada has signed a UN treaty against that,” a sweet but deluded old white lady interjected.

Yes, ma’am, if you’re looking at the world through Rosedale-covered glasses.

Although it was implicit throughout the tour that Western countries play a large role in cultivating and/or sustaining conflicts in non-Western areas, it was frustrating not to hear that aspect brought out more.

I learned new things about medical advances being used in natural disaster zones and a brief overview of the major groups in conflict in the Congo (our guide spent eight months there). But I left frustrated by my complicity towards the West’s role in non-Western conflicts and the realization that there is so little I can do about it. There were moments where Africa and Asia were portrayed as perpetual conflict zones in need of Western rescue.

What do you think of awareness events aimed at educating Westerners (that includes non-white people raised in the West!) about non-Western situations?

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dropping rhymes, not bombs

posted my missmsian

I feared it would come to this. The latest cause for panic regarding security for the upcoming G20 summit in Toronto isn’t the discovery of bombs strategically planted under office buildings (“hey, boss, we found the WMDs, but they weren’t in Iraq”). It’s a music video.

And since “G G20 CRASH THE MEETING TORONTO 2010” was posted on YouTube, Canadian media have been demonizing AK and Illogik, the two dudes who produced it, calling the rap a rallying cry for anarchists to firebomb T.O. Stephen Harper looks about ready to lose his toupee–errr, his cool.

Have you even listened to the lyrics?

Okay, maybe a few protestors will choose property damage as a way to spread their message. I can even imagine rich, white, suburban kids heading downtown to flip some cars for jokes.

But, from their catchy lyrics, these guys seem like they’re trying to organize a more diverse collective than that. They encourage people to raise their fists in solidarity with accessibility, gender equity, environmental justice, indigenous sovereignty and migrant justice. They are “against the war [in Iraq], against empire and colonization.”

Hmmm …  a group of engaged citizens with real ideas about timely, significant issues, calling for “power to the people”? Sounds like a democracy to me. I thought that’s what we like to pretend we’re all about.

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