It was a performance of a work for a string quartet by the Chinese-American composer Huang Ruo. And it was Cristina, my friend from Lugo, who invited me to go with her to this concert at the Museum of Chinese in America (or MOCA), in the heart of New York’s Chinatown.
The Del Sol Quartet began by playing Huang Ruo’s Angel Island Project. Angel Island was the place where immigrants who entered the United States via the Pacific arrived, similar to Ellis Island in New York. But the big difference was the fact that due to the fearsome Chinese Exclusion Law, the stay of these possible Chinese immigrants at Angel Island could last months, and the place–though it was not a prison, met all conditions to be one.
The fact is that in the seventies, thirty years after it closed, more than two hundred poems written in Chinese were found carved in the wood of the walls in the waiting halls. Poems that told of the feelings of those who arrived with the hope of a better life and ended locked up. Poems in which Huang Ruo poured his music to serve the historic memory of the invisible and that helped me think about the way we have of replicating the same mistakes.
MOCA’s permanent exhibit is designed so that one, little by little, can learn in reality what racism is and how it manifests itself. In every part of the world, we accumulate hate, blaming others for our problems. And in the case of the Chinese in the United States, it was actually federal law that dictated racist behaviors. But even though such laws no longer exist, neither here nor there, our behaviors leave much to be desired because we are not always capable of embracing the beauty in difference and learning from it…