Raw

The Conversations That Make Me Cry Every Tuesday

I’ve just attended another session of ‘Reclaiming My Time’, a 6-week facilitated dialogue with the goal of building community to dismantle oppressive systems.

I feel unsettled, vulnerable, rattled… like my foundation has shifted slightly. I feel inaccessible to people close to me, and I think I know why. Some of the people closest to me are white, or look white. They do not look like me, they do not walk in the world like I do, and therefore, don’t understand my experience. And that is very alienating. It feels lonely. I feel lonely.

It makes me question where my alignment lies. My experience has been white-washed. And I’m starting to discover the healing power of being around people whose experiences are similar to mine. It is healing for me to see faces like mine, and to talk about concepts like being the perpetual foreigner; being an immigrant; being constantly viewed as the “other”; internalized racism; internalized oppression; what colonialism has done to us, and how it has shaped our narrative and what we tell future generations.

But the question remains: why do I align with whiteness? It’s a question I ask now, and will keep asking. If you are reading this, and are white, and feel uncomfortable, please don’t take it personally. Please take the time to educate yourself and understand it’s not about you.

The deeper I get into this, the more alienated I feel, like there are less and less people who get it.

I feel this sense of urgency because I want children. But I feel like I’m not learning enough, like I’m not learning fast enough, like I’m not prepared enough to teach them the beauty and complication of what they are inheriting. I want my children to feel whole. I don’t ever want them to feel like they’re missing something.

I feel the hole left behind in me where my roots used to lie. I feel it in the clumsy way I speak my native language. I feel it in the contradiction of being with a white man (historically, “the oppressor”) and loving him. I feel it in the way that I often feel like an imposter; someone who doesn’t deserve to be here, and who shouldn’t be here.

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This Is What I Want To Tell You, My Children

You are Filipino.

Your mother is Filipino, but at times, has not felt Filipino. Your mother has been dragged from country to country, each time, leaving little pieces of herself, and trying to glue randomly-found pieces to herself, in an attempt to fill the holes. Your mother is a puzzle put together by pieces that don’t quite fit.

I want you to feel the full weight of your combined identities, and to not take them for granted. I want you to feel all dimensions of yourself and feel the healing pride that comes with that. I want you to feel the weight of your ethnicity, your culture, your appearance — and how people treat you as a result of your appearance. I want you to know that there is a difference between gender identity and sexual preference. I want you to recognize that in this instance, you are able-bodied and mobile.

I want you to be self-aware and to constantly think about how you think. I want you to know the patterns of your mental and behavioral habits. I want you to be a more empowered thinker.

I want you to have options—real options—in who you are, and what you do. I want you to not be constrained by expectations often pushed so early and so often on children.

If you are born a biological female, I don’t want you limited by the color pink or white Barbie’s or the phrases “you look so pretty today” or “boys pull your hair because they like you” or “don’t ask questions”.

I want you to hear the phrases “you can be anything you want to be” or “you are so curious and smart; I love it” or “you know you can say no”.

I want you to have full range of motion, to not wear constricting and form-fitting clothing, so that your perfect arms and legs can reach for the sky and plant themselves firmly on the ground, and in general, take up as much space as possible — so that when you are grown into your body, you are not held back by the very clothing you wear, or the voices inside your head telling you that you are not worth the space nor the time. You are free, you are worth the space, and you are worth the time. Don’t let anybody tell you any different. You’re my baby, and for as long as you live, I want you to feel empowered to pursue happiness in whatever form appeals to you.

If you are born a biological male, I don’t want you constrained by the color blue or plastic toy trucks or the phrase “don’t cry; it means you’re weak”. Right now, that is all I have for you, my unborn male child. It doesn’t mean that I love you any less, because you are also my baby — and I acknowledge that I just have less to say to you at this point in my life. And that is all I can do right now.

There are only three things I want you to be. I want you to be kind, I want you to be honest, and again, I want you to be self-aware. Be kind, honest, and self-aware.


Daily Post prompt: Focused

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The Miseducation of Meta-Theresa

I am a small, young, Asian, female immigrant. My exterior is expected to match my interior. I am expected to take up as little space as possible, while I bow my head in submission to your maturity and masculinity.

I learned these things and am burdened with the hyper-awareness that comes with constantly feeling subjugated. I learned.

When you are diminutive, you learn.
When prejudices against your generation affect how people perceive you, you learn.
When stereotypes of your race affect how people treat you, you learn.
When you have strengths, and it is “despite” your gender, you learn.
When you have weaknesses, and it is “because” of your gender, you learn.
When your life path did not start in the country you now live in, you learn.

When that is your reality, you learn.

This is not the education I wanted to partake in, as a child and now as an adult.

I have a full-blown world inside me; do they know this?

Fortunately, I have also learned how necessary it is to take up space;

to take dominion over conference tables and conference calls alike; to let my hand gestures and words consume physical and mental space —

to pull my audience into the world inside me.

This is me, eliminating doubt. I have learned to pick up a paintbrush and start painting something beautiful and badass over it.

ღ, ts

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Daily post prompt: Doubt

Carry me home

Carry me home, sweet salty tide
I never knew your strength after all
And in this anguish, I release it to you
So you may enter my pores 
And make me one with you 

Bring me back to the minute sands
Upon which I lay my innocence 
Like a trusting fool, a jester of the seas
I forgive you in my weariness
Oh, lover of the breathless seas

So carry me home, driftwood docking
Upon your frills of froth
And make me a jester once more
In your court of longing and love
Bring me home once more

________________

Daily Post prompt: Carry

A raisin drowning in milk

“I feel like a raisin drowning in milk,” the black woman said. “White, white, white all around me. I’m drowning in a sea of white.” Thus was the statement that captured the essence of the People’s Institute Undoing Racism workshop.

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There were about 50 of us in a circle in that room, the room that laid our souls bare and dissected our biases for two and a half days. White people, black people, and every shade in between — hearing each other’s stories. Listening to the words, I got a sense of each person having left something behind; their soul fragmenting piece by piece for every year they have assimilated into our white-dominated world. It may have been a family. It may have been their values. It may simply have been that elusive, once-in-a-lifetime feeling of home.

I struggle to write this because I straddle the line between those who have privilege and those who do not. As a young Asian woman who grew up with a North American mainframe, I have the ability to be ‘diverse’ enough to be edgy and different, yet Caucasian enough in culture and language to navigate this Pacific Northwestern sea of white. I am a crossover, a music album accessible to many audiences.

The most tangible indicator of this was when it came time in the workshop to compare the everyday experiences of white people to those of people of color. My immigrant background made me nod my head at stories of hardship and loss; my lifelong privilege made me bow my head in shame as I related to my white counterparts.

I teared up in horror as I heard a half white, half black woman repeat what her transgressor said on a bus to her one day: “You’re a nigger, but you’re worse than a regular nigger, you’re an UPPITY NIGGER!!!” I heard her humanity shatter in half as she told us in a cracked, raw voice that nobody, nobody said anything to her—not even after the fact—to offer words of comfort. And I thought to myself at that moment, would I have stood up and said something? Would I have, at the very least, stopped at her seat afterwards to see if she was okay?

The workshop has opened my eyes to the madness and blindness of our society. We may not think we are racists. We may think that just because we work painfully hard not to offend anybody, we are not racists. We may think that because we even try to be diligent about reserving judgment on people, we are not racists. But the fact is, we all harbor biases and prejudices formed from childhood, from the minute we could think in structured thoughts.

This is why we go around hurting people without even realizing it. This is why, when encountering a person different from ourselves, we shy away and stay at the shallowest level of interaction, because we don’t know them, and we’re afraid of what we don’t know. And in the meantime, while we’re over here freaking out about this “different” person, (God forbid) experiencing some discomfort over someone new, that individual is suffocating in a place that shuts them out and makes them feel unwanted and unwelcome. That person is then forced to shed their skin and don a new one, a more palatable one, just so they can survive and make it through the day. And then, day by day, year by year, they lose themselves in this quest of assimilation.

This is why it is not enough to make sure you say the right thing, or don’t say the wrong thing. We have to engage each other in painstaking, but meaningful conversation about our experiences in a safe environment. In these conversations, we may stumble across each other’s ignorance and accidentally offend somebody, but because we’re coming from a place of love, we apologize, ask to be corrected, and move on. We move on and embrace our differences in the hopes of reaching common understanding.

I’ve changed. I can never be the same again. But at least my sense for empathy is sharper, and I am one step closer to helping enable the change that we all so desperately need in a world as needlessly cruel as ours.