Sunday, May 29, 2011

Identity is More

A few months ago we got grades back for some assignment that wasn’t actually important.
My score was good, as it often is, but
That of the girl sitting next to me wasn’t.
“It’s just because you’re Asian,” she said,
Mocking me,
As if all credit went to my heritage
Instead of my brain.
As if I didn’t do that assignment, but rather
My ancestors did.  
As if effort wasn’t put into this project, and
I drew the A-grade idea out of my bloodline.
And it wasn’t worth my time to combat it, so
I laughed it off. Just once.

A few weeks ago I got invited to a party by people I didn’t actually care about.
The host said I should carpool some people to his place, but
I told him that I couldn’t drive.
“It’s just because you’re Asian,” he said,
Mocking me,
As if the DMV wouldn’t let me operate a car because of my almond eyes
Instead of my heart condition.
As if the reason why I couldn’t drive was not that I was unable to reach the office, but rather
That I was unable to reach the pedals.
As if my inability to drive came from my race, and
I was bound to fail since my conception.
And it wasn’t worth my time to combat it, so
I laughed it off. Just once.

But once turned into a hundred times and
I couldn’t stand it anymore, so
I contested it. Just once.
But then once turned into a thousand times and
I grew weary of fighting, so
I ignored it. Forever.

A few days ago I was talking to people about something I don’t actually remember.
I may have giggled in a high-pitched voice, or put up a peace sign in a picture, or nothing at all, but
One of them just had to pick out a characteristic and use it.
“It’s just because you’re Asian,” they said,
Mocking me,
As if I grew up as the little Japanese girl with bangs cut straight that studied all day,
Instead of as a half-Filipino and half-Caucasian girl with my hair looking as crazy as I acted.
As if I’m not an emerging woman trying to establish her identity as an adult, but rather
That I am only entering my second decade and am already trying to seem five years younger.
As if I would become a “porcelain doll” submissive wife who marries a man for his money, and
I would never be confident and successful and marry for love.
And I realized that it was worth all the time in the world to combat it, so
I spoke up. For the first time, but not the last.

Because once turns into a hundred times and
Even though you can’t stand it anymore,
You can’t stop fighting.
Because one race doesn’t constitute a thousand stereotypes and
Even though you may fit one or two,
Your identity is more than your ethnicity.

Lauren A. Peña, George Fox University

Monday, May 23, 2011

Life of an Immigrant

- Submitted by Kamal Kaur, UC Davis


There’s an empty space in my history
Where the textbooks seem to turn away
From a vacant place where the truth should be

From eastern countries, immigrants would flee
To escape their governments’ false ways
And find hope in a land that was said to be free
(There’s an empty space in my history)

Here, farmers fought an unfair hierarchy
And laborers struggled for better pay
And should-be citizens stood before juries
Whose hum of bias drowned out every plea
(In the vacant place where the truth should be)

Still, fairness would win out, and finally
Our laws could let those slighted have their say
Then bombs fell from the air and suddenly
They shattered feelings of security
And fell upon countless families’ dreams
To express their pride in being Japanese
(There’s an empty space in my history)

But our students often fail to see
Their classrooms brush past these events each day
Claiming that, simply
They’re just too busy
(To fill the place where the truth should be)
And I wonder, how could we
Try to fit so many
Into one single story?

There’s an empty space in my history
It’s a family album cast away
It’s a people who won’t ever be
Invisible or lost to me

Let words cover this place where the truth will be.

- Ellen Labitzke