Why Some in This Neighborhood Oppose a Museum Dedicated to Their Culture – The New York Times

Why Some in This Neighborhood Oppose a Museum Dedicated to Their Culture – The New York Times

The Museum of Chinese in America, its backers believe, is vital to the community even though it caters largely to visitors. Its mission is to promote the history of the Chinese American experience and bring darker aspects of it, like the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, to a wider audience beyond the confines of Chinatown.

Lucy Kan, 60, a museum patron and a second-generation Chinese American, said she had not been aware of the Chinese Exclusion Act until she first visited the museum. “I thought, ‘Oh, gosh a lot of this was out there without us knowing about it,” she said. “The Asian American experience is not widely taught, so I want my grandkids and their children to know about it.”

Her husband, Victor, who is originally from Shanghai and is also 60, said the couple, like many other immigrants, “were working so hard, and trying to assimilate that we didn’t know our collective history and experience.”

But for many locals, the museum doesn’t feel like it belongs to Chinatown.

“It’s been in Chinatown for many, many years, but it really hasn’t played a huge role in the day-to-day lives of people in the community, and has done really very little in terms of drawing visitors and businesses to Chinatown,” said Nelson Mar, who is the president of a union representing Jing Fong workers, including Ms. Tan.

The debate over the museum funding goes to the heart of the question of Chinatown’s identity, said Setha Low, director of the Public Space Research Group at the Graduate Center at CUNY.

“This Chinatown is for whom? Does it become Chinatown for the Jonathan Chus?” she asked. “Bringing in too much aesthetic of a certain class means it will lose the authenticity, that feeling you get when you go there that you’re in someone’s community that is meaningful, and you’re being allowed to share that experience.”

This content was originally published here.

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