Conversations with Aunty Amy: On discrimination

I had decided to become a true Chinatown blogger and so that means I started going to meetings like the AACA Clean up Chinatown Committee. I was introduced to a very old Chinese woman who spoke English extremely well, the kind of English that meant she had to have been born in the States.

"I'm from Chinatown. I'm third generation. There's not a lot of my kind left." She laughed. As she talked her face looked very familiar though I knew I had never met her before.
"My Grandfather came here in 1888 from the West Coast. He was an herbalist and he set up his shop where Eldo's Cake house is now. He had been working as an herbalist in the railroad camp peddling herbs to the railroad workers. But he decided to come out East where there was less competition and where he could get a fresh start."

The meeting started and I had to continue my questions later over the phone. But from this basic information I could guess why her face looked so familiar.

"Are you Uncle Frank's sister?" I asked her before she left the meeting.

"Yes." She said, "I'm the oldest!" she continued proudly.

"I went to the Josiah Quincy school which was where the CCBA building is now" 90 tyler street, "most of the neighborhood was actually Syrian. The Haddaya's lived next door I remember. And one of the things some of us Chinese would say to him is that we were ashamed that are parents couldn't speak English. And he would say, 'How do you think I felt!' he told me that his mother would always yell at him to come home out the window in their language, and that he would just cover his head with the hood and run home because he was embarrassed too. But we all got along. And all the teachers were Irish and unmarried, because if you were married they figured you had to much too handle and so you couldn't do get the job."

"You know," she continued, "It's a funny story, but I never really felt or had the word discrimination come up until my adulthood. I mean for me I never felt different at all until I became a social worker and they didn't think that was a job for me. But would you believe it, as a social worker, old, rich, Chinese, White... they all have the same problems."

"You know what you should write about?' She changed subjects, " I mean I don't have that much information to give you, but on  April 29th Kwong Kow will be having a Centenial Celebration. You know Kwong Kow? In the same building as the AACA? Now I'm not sure if you should do this for the blog or maybe write something for the Sampan since they have a wider readership. But you could interview different Alumni."

She went on to name a few. I mentioned that I had actually attended Kwong Kow as well.

"Oh that's good. Hahaha.. I went until the third grave. I found it very useful for me, especially when I went back to China because then there was no gap. And you know I was very lucky that I never faced any discrimination but I did here about it when I was in China. I went to High school and there were a lot of students there that were half Chinese and half German. And the girls were very beautiful and tall and the men were handsome. And me being from America I thought that was great. But a lot of the other students who were Chinese would you know, say, 'Oh don't they look strange.' and 'aren't they strange.' but I guess I did have a problem with it because I had grown up here in America. And then coming back I had talked to some Chinese men who had wanted to join the Armed Service in America and they said they had had problems. But I mean other than that.... And you know when I went to college those girls I went to school with"
I asked and they were all Irish French or Italian, all Catholic because Aunty Amy had gone to BC, "we went to school together and later when we had children we stayed in touch and all grew old together. They were like sisters to me you know? Most of them are gone now. A few are still around. We all get old."