Monday, January 12, 2009
Beginning Today, I am Gazan.
Hi. My name is Vanissa Chan. I am an artist/photographer living in Brooklyn, New York. My story of radicalization can be found in my profile. I will explain in more detail what I am doing and why I am doing this.
I take pictures. It is what I have done for many years and what I will continue to do. I also illustrate, but a photo is something that is undeniable. It is an uncovering of truth. It is bringing peoples' eyes to places they cannot see.
I am not Arabic. I do not speak Arabic, and I do not know many Arabs. This is all the reason why it is more important that I speak out about the atrocities that are happening right this moment in Gaza. I have only tasted a glimpse of the racism Arabs face in America. It is an institutionalized racism, much like the racism that our African and Latin populations face on a regular basis. I am fortunate to be a light-skinned Asian. My worst stereotypes include owning a laundromat and buying groceries at stinky fish markets. The typical stereotype of an Asian has positive connotations. We're smart, good at math, and eat a lot of rice. We're not known to be terrorists, crack-addicts, remedial, bestial, violent, impoverished, or uneducated with a child on the way. A poll was taken recently that captured the average Israeli's view of a Palestinian. 75% believe Palestinians are dirty, poor, and illiterate. Basically, they are worthless enough that they should exist within an apartheid wall which closes more and more inwards, and should be slaughtered without any kind of regard, including their young. 45% of the Gazan population is under the age of 15. So, who are the Israeli Defense Force soldiers fighting? Kids. Kids with slingshots. You've seen the photos. IDF tanks roaming towards children who bravely stand in front of them, screaming and hurling rocks. What, you think they've been photo shopped? Or maybe they did something to deserve it? If that's what you think, you need to question your humanity. I hate to sound moralistic, but these crimes that Israel is committing are the worst kind of war crimes: the killing of the innocent and the strangulation of an entire people. This massacre is genocide, and to call it otherwise would be injustice.
As a person of color, I got off easy. When I hear stories of what others have gone through, I'm deeply saddened but also moved. There needs to be a non-Arab movement to support the Palestinian people. Palestinians support each other. The people of Arabic nations support each other (even if their governments do not). Now, if people of other nations extend their compassion towards the Palestinian people, perhaps the people of Gaza stand a chance against the genocide that is happening as I type this. Every two days, at least another 150 Gazans are murdered. I am sure that is a conservative estimate. They are murdered by the IDF's deadly and often illegal weaponry (http://www.btselem.org/english/Firearms/Flechette.asp). Their tactics are chillingly inhumane; for example, civilians will receive a text message asking them to evacuate their homes, or otherwise be attacked. As families gather their belongings and their children, IDF soldiers await them from the outside and shoot them one by one as they come out of their homes, believing they are following orders. Doesn't sound much different than fooling people into a building to take showers and gassing them instead.
Another reason why I am doing this is because I am an American. I work for the government as well as pay my taxes. It is my duty as a responsible citizen to educate myself on where my money goes, and understand how my country operates. $5.5 billion dollars of our tax money goes to fund Israel's military PER YEAR, while only 7% of our taxes go towards our education system. I have seen our public education system. It is atrocious. It is one thing if you are an impoverished country and you don't have much to sustain your schools. It is another thing when you live in the most affluent nation in the whole world and yet still children are not learning, classes are overcrowded, teachers are overworked and underpaid, guidance counselors and social workers are given an unmanageable caseloads, segregation by race and class remain to be a serious issue...etc., etc. I could go on for hours about this, but I don't think I have to say much more to make my point: Our country is eating itself alive. We are unconsciously going through the motions in a push-button society without being aware of how our behavior effects the rest of the world. While we are consumed by our everyday tasks and demands, some that are so condescendingly remedial, buying our groceries, watching television programs, going to the next major sale at the mall, our preoccupation with our everyday lives is distracting us from the bigger picture: that our unconscious, mindless, habitual acts somehow contribute to the ethnic cleansing of a people who we feel absolutely no connection with.
Thus, my reason for putting up this blog, posting my stories, posting my pictures, is an attempt to create some kind of connection with the Palestinian people, so that we may relate, come to know, and come to realize that people of all cultures, not just our own, are actually a whole lot more like us then we would comfortably like to admit. I hope, that in humanizing the Palestinian people through a non-Arab lens, we can stand in solidarity with them through this most difficult time where everything seems to be against them and hope seems to be completely lost.
The people of Gaza are dying. Palestinians everywhere are crying. People everywhere are standing in indifference, in silence, in sorrow....People are sympathetic but feel helpless. You may think, "Okay, it's awful what's happening, but what can I do?" I'm here to tell you that you can do A LOT. It is only silence that will allow such atrocities to continue to happen. But, if we stand up as a collective against these crimes of war, our governments will have no choice but to listen to us.
Today, I announce, that I am no longer Chinese. I am no longer Canadian or American. Today I am Gazan. To identify myself as Palestinian, I will wear a keffiyeh, the traditional scarf for Arab men, which is also worn to display Palestinian solidarity (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keffiyeh#Symbol_of_Palestinian_solidarity). I will wear it until Palestine is free.