John Barton, the author of many books, was Victoria’s poet laureate from 2019 to 2022.
Related Letters and Responses
My book Race and the City: Chinese Canadian and Chinese American Political Mobilization is a story that emerges out of a framework created by history and scholarly studies and theories about racialization in Canada and the United States. The story is collective because it is born of many conversations with leading members of the Chinese American and Chinese Canadian communities who wanted to share their community and personal histories. These were not accounts of despair, but they did frequently call for a better, more equal future. Interviewees were generous in sharing with me the pride in gains and accomplishments as well as the frustration with barriers they continue to face. The goal of many of these groups was to “get into the conversation” of politics and make others aware of the common interests they have with all other groups, and perhaps this is the common ground that my reviewer refers to. The commonality of interests is something that I hope we can celebrate while still acknowledging histories and differences. I think that my book calls on all of us to be vigilant in remembering the common ground and protecting equality gains within that common ground. One way to gain understanding is to put yourself in someone else’s position. I, like Denise Chong, feel very Canadian and I feel I have roots in this country. It is this very Canadianness that makes me anxious to push my country forward to fulfil its potential for equality and truly recognize that diversity is the ultimate and most precious resource.
Denise Chong’s recent dinner conversation is reminiscent of my own recent discussion with a gentleman who asked me, “Why are people offended when I ask them where they are from?” I told him of struggles many of us had had with that question and that when we are asked that question constantly we are made to feel that we do not belong. That a Canadian could not look like us. I knew he was just a curious person who had travelled far and wide and his motivation for such a question was one of interest, but there were reasons for the frustration that he saw as a result. He seemed relieved to be given information to help him put this in context and I felt that this conversation brought what all good conversations should bring: understanding.