I Am An Immigrant | Jason Chen

I am an immigrant.

My family never involved themselves in politics (not publicly, at least). I was raised to believe in self-preservation, and told to keep my opinions private. The more invisible I became, I was told, the less trouble would come to me.

From the very first time I stepped foot into this foreign country, I believed I was different. I believed I was a second-class citizen compared to white Americans, and I believed my voice did not matter. Of course, all of these beliefs were not true, but TV, magazines, and movies  continually fed these ideas to my subconscious. I was made to believe the message, “As long as you look different, you should feel grateful just to be here. To feel any negative feelings towards our country would be ungrateful.”

I have lived in the U.S. for almost two decades. I can’t say I’ve never encountered racism. However, I am lucky enough to say that the racism I have experienced has never made me fear for my life or my safety. It’s funny and sad how low we’ve set the bar after all of these unjust police brutalities, all of these senseless shootings, and all of these short-sighted, selfish, political power grabs. Our standard of living has now been reduced to a constant battle with the officials we “elected” to protect us.

I am an artist and a gallery owner. Although this political climate has not changed my work, it is urging me to become more aware of the voice I could have, and that my opinions matter. It has made me realize we are stronger together. I am seeing a new movement in the art world that contributes to the political discourse in this country, and I fully support the sentiment behind it. I salute the artists who are using their work to bring social issues into the spotlight.

Art has always been an expression of its time. No matter what political climate we are in, art is a reflection of the well-being of the world. The art world has spoken; now it’s up to us if we want to listen.

For many years I chose to not engage in politics, mainly because I didn’t believe my voice mattered. But then I realized we have to engage in order to make changes. If the recent election in Alabama has proven anything, it’s that people of color can bring about the change we desire if we work together. Our voices do matter, and we have the power to fix this broken system.

Zoe Rayn Evans