The Dichotomy of identity: Jim Wong-Chu

Asian-Canadian literature pioneer talks about the ongoing struggle of identity in this short-doc

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      For minorities in North America, the divide between racial identity and cultural identity has always been an issue. What makes someone Canadian (or American)? What does it mean for someone to feel out of place in a country that he or she should consider home? 

      Directed and filmed by Nikki Celis
      Filmed in Vancouver, 2016

      In this Straight short-doc, Vancouver poet, author, and editor Jim Wong-Chu explains how the experience of alienation is much stronger for those who were born into a Canadian minority community than for those who have immigrated here.

      "[For immigrants], you happen to be in Canada, you grow up in here and you're making it the best you can," he says in the documentary, while not discounting the challenges of his own experience of growing up as an immigrant in Canada during the 1960s. "Or you're born here, and you've never been to China, Asia, or your homeland, and you're forced to accept the fact that you're Chinese in the context of being in Canada."

      In regards to reconciling one's racial identity and one's cultural identity, Wong-Chu says, "For those people, it's always been a struggle." The hyphen in the term Asian-Canadian connotes a link, but also a sense of limbo. Of "otherness".

      According to an article in the Calgary Herald, otherness is an issue that still lingers among many people of colour. While Canada is considered a cultural mosaic, and its current policies value multiculturalism, the idea of who is and isn't a true Canadian still exist, according to Amal Madibbo, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Calgary.

      For Asian-Canadians, which represent 15.3 per cent (2011) of Canada's population, that sense of displacement is shared by many people who are first-, second-, and third-generation citizens.

      Follow Nikki Celis on Twitter @CelisNikki.