Asian – a poem and some thoughts on racism

My experiences in middle school are something that I will never forget and something that I have dealt with for a long time.

In 2010, I was attending Film School for acting and one of our big projects in class was called “LOVE/HATE”. We were given some time to think of one thing we truly hated or loved and then, in front of our group we spoke about these things.

I remember vividly talking about my experiences and saying I hated bullying. I remember pounding my fists into a couch cushion and screaming, my vocal chords reverberating as I screamed about my experience. I remember the shock I had when these emotions poured out of me, my anger, my shame, so unabashed and spilling out for everyone to see.

Back then, I thought what I hated was bullying but now, as a more aware adult with much time to reflect on these things, I now see that my rawness and burning hate was for racism. Of course, I hate bullying too but the source of the pain, the weight of the unfairness was from my racist experiences.

My middle school was a Catholic school with a majority of Italian students. I don’t remember one teacher being a person of colour and I don’t remember a teacher ever speaking up, or stopping students from saying racist things. Actually, a clear memory I have is one religion class where students told racist jokes and the teacher laughed along, and she was the kindest teacher there. I would like to believe that things have progressed since 2005 and that my brother and sister will not experience this as they enter the older grades.

I believe that I have finally healed from these experiences but sometimes I still look back and remember the way people would hurl “Chink” into my face, or how they would ask me if I ate dog every day. As an adult this hasn’t happened in a long time but with Trump gaining power and racist stories I’ve seen online it makes me scared. The thirteen year olds that were racist to me back then are now young adults, and what are they teaching their children? Have they realised how wrong they were? How hateful and how ignorant they were? Or does the cycle continue and their children will be taught that someone different from them does not deserve kindness or understanding but hate and nastiness?

It upsets me that children can so easily learn to be unkind, and it is frightening that, as far as we’ve come, a man can stand on a podium spewing racist rhetoric and be elected president. How is that image, filtering all over televisions helping the youth of today welcome diversity? 

As a Canadian I am proud and happy that my Prime Minister has the most diverse cabinet Canada’s ever seen but we are still heavily influenced by America and Trump’s hate makes me scared when I get off the plane in Edmonton, or when I go somewhere predominantly whitr. It makes me wary of ever crossing the border again.
All in all, I think about race more than ever now because it is such an important time in history to have the conversation. Many (white) people get uncomfortable when the topic is broached but I believe we need to speak about it, we need to point out micro-aggressions like asking where you’re from; if that’s your real hair; asking why my eyelids are different; these things need to be called out and dissected. If you are not actively participating in racism, are you a bystander? Or do you speak up?

We all need to stop the naive belief that racism is over, that because biracial couples are not illegal and that we have Black History Month or Chinese CEOs, that this means racism is over. A lot of people think racism is being apart of the KKK, slinging verbal abuse, or active acts of racism but that is but the darkest shade in a spectrum that needs to be called out on, and it is the further exploitation of people of colour through a capitalist system that systemically opresses people of colour, in ways that can be hard to wrap your head around until you see it! 

Racism is not over, and we need to all work together to discuss the power systems and how we can dismantle it, one person at a time.

When you feel ‘uncomfortable’ talking about race just remember that Donald Trump is the president-elect. It is (the least to say) an uncomfortable time, which means it is time for everyone to get uncomfortable and talk about race.

 

I never understood what it was to be ASIAN
I never understood why I had to be called ASIAN

 Or told that I was ASIAN.

I thought I was like everyone else,
I have two eyes, two arms and two legs
I have a brain – I have a heart

And yet
I am always told I am ASIAN.

I remember middle school,
I remember CHINK.

I remember being asked if I ate dog.
I remember everyone laughed.
I remember the teachers heard
and only once did a substitute stop it.

I forgot his name, I wish I knew who he was because
I will always remember him saying

“That’s not OK.”

I thought I was like everyone else,
human – female – Canadian

I remember feeling ugly because he wasn’t into ASIANS
I remember feeling pretty because

I was pretty FOR an ASIAN.

I thought I belonged because I was born here,
I thought I was Canadian.
I thought I was ME.

What is ASIAN?

Leave a Reply