On being angry and Asian. Also theory. Also Family.

By Lily Luo ’16

Inspired by Ozawa vs. United States

When he went up against the Supreme Court they told him in no uncertain terms, you are not one of us/ You do not belong and there is nothing you can do to change that/ It’s something in your blood/ You are an infection that our laws try to inoculate against/ You are an alien that our judicial system has codified.

1991 (read: 48 years after the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act) My mother carrying in her belly a child who would grow up dreaming of becoming the head of a nation that not so long ago told her they did not want any of her kind/ She does not yet realize that to be the first also means to be the only one.

My friend told me over lunch, lately she’s been thinking about the effect of history on her body/ What she means is/ What’s the difference between the way the words fall on their souls/ Do they carry it in their hearts long after the bell has rung?

A lady told me over the phone, the Chinese are buying up all the land/ I sat there trying not to let that fire consume me/ Fantasizing about responding to her in Chinese/ 这片地从来都不是你的。

I wonder what it means to reject the American Dream/ When that was the price of my education/ Then again, worth can not be measured as such, and ideas have power because it can not be spent.

I was not always a person of color/ The hue of my skin and the shape of my eyes never meant more than the type of foundation I should buy/ I want to remember that freedom but shed the privilege.
And what is the deal with a good stereotype/ As if anything that made me less human could possibly benefit the complexity of my soul.

I refuse to be your plaything, your submissive reverential wife, cook, maid, and blowup exotic fantasy all rolled up into one/ Fuck that/ I roll my own j’s and there isn’t a man needed to light me up.

Their greatest fear is that we don’t need them/ Their greatest fear is that one day we will collectively awaken from our black and white dreams and realize that to be unrecognizable in their language is not a thing we contest.

Let them study their conceptions of universal humanism/ Let them continue to worship at the altar of philosophers who/ In the same breath extol the sanctity of man and then reduce whole continents to pre-history.

I do not exist in a language you may understand, but do not mistake my foreign tongues with unfamiliarity of your culture/ I, like the rest of the world, am well versed in the limitations of your imagination.

I used to worry that I did not fit into the boundaries of this world/ I sought to translate the terms of my existence in philosophies they would understand/ Just as I had done so many times for my mother/ When she told me to answer the phone/ Knowing her accent would make the person on the other line/ Assume things about her worth/ I worry now that I was not patient enough/ Did not acknowledge the precious weight of my/ Perfect/ (Un) Accented English.

These days, to be intelligible means less to me/ Than being my own center of gravity/ And if they wish to enter into my orbit, it will be on my terms/ They will have to learn to speak my language- one part concocted from the hidden pasts of my people, one part distilled from the crucible of my experience.

— My Education

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