it’s not that i have a problem with white people in chinatown, despite my sarcasm
because they’re tourists who buy things and pump money into hua ren jie’s economy, so the more tourists there are, the better the general quality of life there is among the small business owners that fill chinatown, be they the cheap claptrap jewelry vendors or the produce vendors (including the people who i saw selling longans and dragonfruit on the street) or restaurant owners, or that one man who made animals out of bamboo strips (i bought a bunch, but i think i lost it on the taxi back to penn station D:)
i’m fine with that
my problem begins when they decide to move into chinatown because the flats are relatively inexpensive and it’s ~alternative and ~hipster and whatever, and the problem runs way deeper than the fact that chinatown was created as a safe space for chinese people.
because i was talking to an older man, a first gen immigrant, today, while he was pointing me in the direction of the confucius plaza and the confucius statue (which i’ve never seen before today, can you believe it?), and he said, “oh, i’m happy to point you in the right direction. if a laowai (which, um, despite butthurt whites complaining about it when they go to china, is not an actual slur, because it’s a phrase that LITERALLY means “old foreigner/outsider” and it’s applicable to ANYONE who’s not a hua ren btw) came up to me and asked, then i’d have to say sorry, i don’t know, because i don’t know any english.”
AND THAT’S JUST THE THING. immigrants have a hard enough time learning english (i remember being FIVE and being humiliated because i’d pronounce an easy word wrong or make a grammatical slipup, and my mom’s been in the country for 13 years, since she was 36, and she still speaks chinglish with an accent) without them being elderly on top of that, and chinatown has a support system in place where these people can make a living and survive in a country that does not cater to them. (this is the point where i will be VERY quick to point out that china, which has a smaller chinese to white ratio than the united states, has most to all of the metropolis area signs translated into engrish, if not english, despite our actually HAVING an official language — that would be mandarin — and a set of characters applicable to most of the population and thus having no actual need to translate anything.)
i get the appeal, i really do. chinatown’s always been, by necessity, a separate world, an ~alternative ~edgy world unto itself, and everything is cheap and the people are ~alien~ (god, i hate that word, esp in relation to asiams, because apparently during the late 1800s and early 1900s we were LITERALLY characterised as aliens (like, actual aliens) to explain why we were kept out of the country) and they are thrifty and nifty and not wasteful and whatever and it appeals to your boho sense of ~alternative living~ (despite the fact that we were pretty much forced to live like that because of the rejection we faced at the hands of general society).
but EVERY TIME you move into one of those cheap apartments you are potentially displacing an immigrant — typically poorer than you are, and definitely less equipped that you are to survive in the world beyond chinatown — who NEEDS CHINATOWN TO SURVIVE.
and you think i mean destruction in a figurative way but let me assure you i’m not.