for the Hà Tinh victims.

10.27.19

on trucks,
in boats;
across deserts,
unruly waves;
hidden between spaces,
trunks
locked away.

they had dreams
too.

as i type this,
from the safety of my home,
a land i was born to,
in a city i could fly to,
passing security checks,
my screen
is as glaring
as her phone’s
must have been—
light in a dark
lorry.
salvation in a space
for the damned,
the ones deemed
replaceable
invisible,
a portal to
a life left behind.

now, as i sit here,
the air is crisp,
cold.
a rain followed by unending sunlight
i wonder how many hours passed
for them in darkness,
stale air,
whimpering, cracking fingers.
how many texts did they send?
how many prayers were sent up to the sky only to
crash against tin walls around them?

they say,
“in death,
we are free.”

maybe their souls are able to wander freely over
the roads they once travelled.

their bodies are shipped back to loved ones.
free passage for the dead.
border patrol doesn’t care when the life has left,
when the blood is dry.
a debt is repaid.
£25,000 pounds for a dead daughter,
for broken families,
for eternal grief.

what is the price for
a gentler death?

for those who get to
keep breathing,
we are left
to wonder
what if
we
let
people
live.

i am not Chanel Miller, but we have a lot of things in common.

As much as we try and distance ourselves from trauma, it often rears its ugly head in moments we least expect (or we do expect, but we hope so much that enough time has passed to where it won’t matter so much). It has been over six years since my assault, and i’m reminded that healing is not linear, is not on a trajectory that makes any sort of chronological sense.

i just finished watching Chanel Miller’s exclusive interview on 60 Minutes. i have wiped my tears and gained enough composure to type words in some sort of coherent manner. For those of you who don’t know who she is, you’ll learn her name soon enough. She gained notoriety as Emily Doe in the court case against rapist and former Stanford University swimmer, Brock Turner. Her memoir, Know My Name is due for release tomorrow.

When i first read Chanel’s victim impact statement in 2016, i was beside myself. We didn’t know her identity yet. To me, she was still Emily Doe, an anonymously brave womxn who i felt a special sort of sadistic kinship with.

i know how innately problematic & harmful of me it was, but i assumed her to be a young white womxn who had stumbled upon a Stanford fraternity party. While i pictured her like any of my friends who had recently graduated from school, my assumption of her whiteness is indicative of how we imagine rape and rape victims. Even me, knowing so many womxn of color survivors of assault (and also being one of them), the legibility of white womxn as victims engulfed my imagination surrounding Emily Doe. (Can we also perhaps suggest that the powers at be chose the name Emily Doe for it’s racial ambiguity that would allow people to envision her as white?) Regardless, her victim impact statement encapsulated so much of how i felt betrayed by society, by my need to protect myself in the aftermath.

Though so many of the details of our assaults differ, watching her interview, i recognized how intimately aware i am of the kind of bodily harm she had to endure at the hands of a white man/men both in her assault and in the court room. It is impossible for me to understand her assault and the aftermath without also seeing, quite vividly, how the bodies of Asian womxn in the United States are exotified and disposed at will.

In particular, the portion of Chanel’s interview that takes place in her home felt to me as if it could finally be understood that Asian womxn can too be victims of sexual violence inflicted by men deemed “All-American”. Despite films depicting Asian womxn as exotified sexual objects for American men, our bodies are not built for their pleasure. Chanel’s red calendar emblazoned with gold Chinese calligraphy and blue porcelain figurines of Chinese children are markers of a shared cultural identity that makes me feel seen, both as a Chinese American, but a Chinese American victim of sexual assault.

i do not claim to know Chanel or her feelings on the matter of being a racialized and gendered body, but there are so many things about her and her story that resonate with me as a descendent of Chinese immigrants and a native Californian. Her home in San Francisco echoes the home that i grew up in. In one of the many articles i have read about her, she articulates not knowing how to tell her parents about her assault,  (something i have yet to do), her mother crying with her when she found out (which is what i imagine my mother would do), how her name “Chanel” is pronounced “Xiao Niao” or “Little Bird” in Mandarin Chinese by her grandfather (my maternal grandmother couldn’t fully pronounce “Christina” either). More importantly though, I envision Chanel’s life, and I am struck by how severely she reminds me of my little cousins who grew up in the same and neighboring towns as Chanel, whose youth and vibrancy as strong Asian American womxn i pray (and i don’t ever pray) will never be extinguished by such acts of violence and brutality against their bodies.

Watching Chanel speak so clearly and thoughtfully, i cried. i could see how the rape and trial changed her. i imagined what it would be like if i had pressed charges, if i had to stand in front of a jury of supposed peers, but in reality, actual strangers. i thought long and hard about how her rapist’s future was considered, but her trauma was not. i do not think i would have been so strong, so willing to put myself through what she had. Perhaps she does not know the racial significance of claiming her identity as Chanel Miller and not continuing to let Emily Doe take all the credit. i have yet to unpack all of my feelings and thoughts surrounding her assault, mine, and the role that telling our own stories has to play in the landscape of sexual violence. But, i hope that her coming forward will allow us all to expand our understanding of who can be a victim and what we lose if we let victims live in the shadows as amorphous, race-free bodies.

 

neither savior nor survivor

6.19.19

for the womxn
who does not want
[to be] a hero.

you do not need [to be] one.

for the womxn
who will not
fight in public,
will not make
statements for the court,
will not let the burden of proof
bruise her more
than the battle over her body.

i see you.

for the womxn
who will never know
justice
because justice
is complicated,
is not clear-cut,
is not ex-boyfriends
behind bars,
is not strangers
on trial,
is not what
the law says.

i hear you.

for the womxn
who says she is okay
when she is most definitely not
okay,
i will feign ignorance,
if that is what you need.

i will never force you to admit
something you don’t want to,
never coerce you into
opening up your heart.

trust does not come
that easily.

for the womxn
who know all too well
what this poem
is about,
i will not pretend to know anything
except to know that
i will always believe you
because i know that you
believe me too.

– sister

a poem for my mom – 5.12.19

媽媽, 沒有你我該怎麼辦。我愛你啊 。

when other moms
took their children
to the zoo
or the museum,
my mother took me to
Macy’s.

i would play hide and seek
in between the circular
metal racks,
slide my tiny arms between
blouses,
dance my way
between high heels
that i was sure
i would never grow into.

sometimes,
when mommy would pile
clothes onto her arms
and bring them into the
fitting room,
i would shuffle in behind her,
sit on the tiny bench meant for
putting down your purse and
plastic card with black bolded numbers
that never fit
on the door handle.
i learned how to be patient
on those trips.

when other moms
took their children
to the park
or watched them
run in the yard,
my mother took me to the
pharmacy.

i would sit on tall
wooden stools
meant for grown people with
grown legs
and fast-typing fingers.
i would watch the technicians
pull bottles from shelves
and place them in bubble packs.
i learned how to send a fax
in that pharmacy.

sometimes,
when mommy was really busy,
i would pace back and forth in the
hallway, to the kitchen,
and back to mommy’s office.
i learned how to
black out confidential information,
savored the moments when i was
considered
responsible enough
to put stickers on packages and line them up in
bags for delivery to
carehomes around the city.

when other moms
could be home,
and talk to their children
about their days,
my mother
was at the pharmacy,
or the hospital.

i would wonder,
why were these people
who were not me
more important?
i never asked,
and she never brought it up.
i learned how unspoken things
can hurt too.

sometimes,
when mommy was working late,
and could not come home
in time for dinner,
dad cooked.
he did that a lot.
when this happened,
sometimes, but not all the time,
i would be
angry with her.
i would call her cell phone,
the pharmacy, her cell again,
leave a voicemail.

i just wanted her
home.

i remember nights
sitting in the dining room,
waiting for the sounds of
the garage squeaking open.
i played this game by myself,
ran to unlock the door before
i could hear the jingle of her keys.

when other moms
told their children to
go to bed,
my mother let me
stay awake with her as she
ate what was leftover.

i would sit across the
table
and put things on my plate,
so she wouldn’t
eat alone.
maybe that’s why i am
always hungry
late into the night.

sometimes,
when mommy told me
to get ready for bed after eating
a second time,
i would drag my feet,
lay on the couch and tell her
i needed to digest because i didn’t
want to leave yet.
i learned how to love someone
without saying it on those nights.

mommy and i only started
saying we loved each other
in the last couple years,
when our armor was down,
after we let ourselves
laugh about things that hurt us before.
we are close in a way
only a daughter can be with her mother.
i am not angry
or hurt
or sad
anymore—
just grateful that i have a mother
who loved me enough
to bring me wherever she
needed to be
and still thought of me
when she couldn’t.

APAHM Tributes: Day 7

I’m two days behind! I know…I know.

This is so typical of me. But, I’m trying to get back on track with #APAHM tributes for the month.

Today, I’m spotlighting an #AAPI podcast partially because I like listening to podcasts in general, but mostly because I feel ultra-guilty that I haven’t updated Seats at the Table in M-O-N-T-H-S even though I’m sitting on a couple of episodes that I have partially edited. Not to make excuses, but this last semester totally skewered all my creativity.

The podcast I’m highlighting is aptly titled Asian Americana, created and hosted by Quincy Surasmith. As a full-time lover of boba, the episode on “bubble tea” (which btw, if you call it that, YOU ARE WRONG) gave me an interesting history that I didn’t know about before. His most recent episode is all about Claudia Kishi from the Baby-Sitters Club. It was SUCH a throwback. As an aside, these photoshopped covers of the Baby-Sitters Club books from Angry Asian Man’s blog always crack me up.

Anyway, I know there are so many other great #AAPI created, written, hosted, and produced podcasts out there. Give me some recommendations to add to my list because my ears are ready!

APAHM Tributes: Day 6

Y’all. I didn’t realize how hard it would be to keep up with these tribute posts when traveling!

Today, I wanted to give space to highlight the work of 18 Million Rising who are also posting some kickass stuff on their social media for #APAHM. Honestly, if traveling prevents me from updating as frequently as I’d like this month, you should just go to their instagram for #AAPI knowledge goodness.

Some activists I really admire, like Jenn Fang from Reappropriate and Mark Tseng Putterman, are part of their team (and I didn’t even know it)!

What makes me so impressed and captivated about 18MR’s work is their inclusive approach to Asian American identity. They don’t just focus on South Asian or East Asian Southeast Asian. The Asian American community has expanded tenfold since the 1965 Hart-Celler Act (though of course there have been Asians of all ethnic and national identity backgrounds in the US since like the 1800s — just go read Erika Lee’s The Making of Asian America) and it’s so exciting to see AAPIs working together to collaborate and talk about what being Asian American actually means in this day & age. Expanding our understanding of AAPI identity allows for an expansion of our activism, and it’s really uplifting to know that there are people working on this together.

PLUS, they talk about the role of colonialism, slavery, and the genocide of indigenous people as core components to how we should understand our role as a minoritized community, both oppressed and oppressor in different circumstances. It’s damn refreshing to not have to tiptoe around Asian Americans’ anti-Blackness and ignorance of settler colonialism’s impact on Native peoples.

Honestly, just go follow them on twitter already. They host Twitter Town Halls regularly and activate some really stimulating online dialogues. If you’re not AAPI yourself, you can still learn some interesting things from their feed!

And this closes Day 6 of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month! My posts might end up not being a daily thing because of my spotty wi-fi and hectic schedule, but I will do my best to try and update things regularly.

Until next time…GO FOLLOW 18MR ON SOCIAL MEDIA ALREADY.

xoxo.

APAHM Tributes: Day 5

Today is the fifth day of #APAHM and the first day of Ramadan.

Although I am not Muslim, I’ve always really enjoyed seeing my friends celebrate Ramadan with their loved ones.

So, I’m taking the day to celebrate and uplift the many Asian Muslims in the US and across the world. Islamophobia has done a lot to racialize Islam as a faith of only those from the Middle East. But, Asians are the largest group practicing Islam in the world.

Asian Americans who don’t practice Islam or identify as Muslim still should acknowledge the many ways that Islamophobia negatively impacts our communities. Just several weeks ago, a white supremacist intentionally ran into a group of South Asian pedestrians in Sunnyvale because he suspected them of being Muslim. Dhriti, a 13 year old middle school student was critically injured in the attack. Her family is currently seeking donations for her hospital care.

Luckily, there are groups already forging interethnic & interreligious solidarities around the U.S.

The first group I’m highlighting is #VigilantLove based in Los Angeles, California.  The group formed between Japanese American and Muslim American communities in Southern California. They’re hosting their 4th Annual Bridging Communities Iftar (for those who don’t know, an iftar is the meal that those who are fasting consume in order to break their fast). While I haven’t been able to attend one of their iftars, I have always wanted to.

The next group which I only learned about through the work of Deepa Iyer, is South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT). What I love about SAALT is how despite being a national organization, they really work to support community-based organizations. They work on a lot of progressive issues that I’m passionate about and discuss the importance of intersectionality in their programming.

If you are at all interested in supporting these groups during Ramadan or just want to learn more about them, click some of the links above!

And Ramadan Mubarak to all my friends celebrating. Inshallah, I can celebrate with some of you in person!