We continue with Part 2 of our interview with Lily Kwok. Here she discusses why she chose to speak out. What her Chinese identity means to her and how she sees us moving forward. Enjoy.
5. How are you marrying your identity as a person born in the Caribbean with those that are new migrants from China?
I struggled with my identity a lot growing up; finding the right balance between appreciating my “heritage” while assimilating into Trinbagonian society. However, by the time I was about 17 years old, I was pretty firm in my identity as a Chinese-Trinidadian or just simply, Trinidadian. I see myself as Trinidadian first, with “Chinese” being an integral, vital and important extension of myself. It’s a matter of finding the right equilibrium. I view Trinidadian English Creole (TrinEC) as my native tongue. My Cantonese is awful, but I tried to make an effort to learn Mandarin at the Centre for Language Learning, at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, for instance. If I ever decided to live in China (or as some people would put it, “go back to China”) I’m not quite sure how I would survive – the language barrier is already evidently a problem. I appreciate all the Chinese customs I have inherited; they hold a special place in my heart. But Trinidad and Tobago continues to be my home, the land I feel most connected to. I love pan music; I love doing the North Coast drive and coming out in Arima on a sunny day; I love seeing 3Canal live; and I love kuchela.
6. If I were you, I'd be really pissed and cussing like a mad woman. How have you coped with this? Have your feelings evolved and how would you like to see us treat with stereotypes like these?
My feelings have surely evolved since the release of the CNC3 video. I was quite enraged at first. I took many screenshots of a lot of the negative comments online, making out people for their ignorance, posting very “strong” statuses about the issue, and I cussed quite a bit. Although I felt somewhat empowered by my initial reactions to the whole thing, I also felt full of negative and doubtful feelings about what I was doing. Making fun of people for being racist online was not solving anything. After taking a yoga class in which the instructor gave a talk on forgiveness, I felt like it was important to try to “forgive” these people. Forgiveness is an act of letting go of attachment and negativity. I refused to allow myself to be eaten up by random people on the Internet. I still wanted to make a statement – I just didn’t want to do it in an angry way anymore. I decided to do it as positively and constructively as I could.
It is important to note, however, that although I choose not to be an “angry” person now, it does not mean that the anger I initially felt should be invalidated. I think that I was in every right to be angry. I am a human being after all. Chinese-Trinidadians and Chinese persons in Trinidad and Tobago all have the right to feel angry about this whole situation. What matters most is that we move past anger and channel our feelings into something constructive and effective.
With regards to the treatment of stereotypes, we must continue to educate as previously mentioned above.
7. If I was a dog in Trinidad I would want...?
If I was a dog in Trinidad, I would want to be loved. I would want to be spayed / neutered. I would want to be fed. I would want to not be treated as merely a product to be sold due to the purity of my breed. I would want to go on many drives with the windows down. I would want to not be abandoned. I would want to not be treated differently based on any preconceived stereotype of my breed being “more aggressive” than others.
8. As a member of the Chinese community here - descended or newly migrant - I would like....?
As a member of the Chinese community here – descended or newly migrant – I would like to be treated like a sistren or brethren. I would like to be generally respected. I would like my humanity to be recognized. I would like to be represented. I would like to be visible. I would like to be heard. I would like to live in harmony with people of varying ethnic backgrounds. I would like to feel like I belong. I would like to sit down with you and have a drink, and chat about this upcoming election on a Sunday evening, laughing scandalously at the “commess” that unites us. I would like if we could love each other – as one human being to another. I would like to see “every creed and race find an equal place.”