hidden so deep

about 24 years ago, i was adopted. it's taken me this long to realize that it's a little confusing. it's also taken me this long to realize that i am not white.

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As our blogosphere has been flooded with stories of the brutal mistreatment of young Black people by the police, I’ve heard many white friends talk about another friend’s or colleague’s egregious remarks and how angry they were, but that they bit their tongue. I’ve heard friends say they are not posting about Ferguson or Eric Garner or Tamir Rice or Baltimore or McKinney or Kalief Browder or [fill in the person of color] because they don’t want to upset people or get into “a whole political discussion”. I’ve seen still others post “can’t we just all be friends?” comments that point to the goodness in all people, which I too believe in, but in these instances I can see it is being used to shut down a conversation that is making them uncomfortable. I see people trying to change the conversation from #BlackLivesMatter to #AllLivesMatter so that we white people are no longer held accountable for our own racism. I see this all happening and can tell that, as a group, white liberals have made a semi-conscious choice: we are not rocking the boat; we won’t upset or confront other white people; we refuse to take in any information about our own racism. When we do this, we may not feel as though we’re making a choice, but what we’re actually doing, little by little, is prioritizing our own social comfort over equality, justice and the lives of People of Color.

You see, along with all the wonderful things our Good White Parents taught us, they also taught us that it was important to be nice and polite and non-confrontational when dealing with the white racists we know. We learned to just ignore grandpa. We were reprimanded when we challenged Aunt Evelyn. We were coached before going into parties that people might be racist, but that was just their “point of view”. We were taught again and again that it was more important to keep the peace with family and friends than it was to stand up to racial injustice. This made sense to us because we understood that arguing with family or friends would likely cause us more immediate discomfort in the short term than racial injustice would.

Observing the adults who told us that racism was wrong sit quietly while other adults said racist things taught us to tolerate racism. Seeing them get angry at or shush or tell us we were being impolite when we called grownups on their racism, taught us to tolerate racism. Watching as children while our parents who spoke to us about standing up to racial injustice, disassociated and acted as though someone farted in the room when their friend from work told a racist joke, taught us to tolerate racism. It is our generation’s task to undo this teaching so that we do not teach the same thing to our white children.

Not only did we learn to tolerate racism from these interactions, it was also this small opening, this little space where our racist uncle got to say terrible things, which led him to believe he had a valid point of view–equally as valid as ours. He didn’t. Everyone else in the room knew that, but we allowed him think he did.

Lily White Mama, “Please Stop Being a Good White PersonTM

interlude: note to self, in the dark

Spend your late nights sewing these words inside of your veins.  Don’t let a single red or white cell pass by without reading it.  Don’t open your mouth unless the scent of them flows out with your breath.  Don’t look down at your skin without remembering what you grafted inside, both the vainest (and VEINIST, GET IT) and most naively sincere attempt to erase the structures planted in your gut, old bricks and bones stubbornly seeping into your coccyx each time you look at them.  Don’t look to them for comfort.  Don’t forget the feel of that needle dragging across your insides.  Don’t forget the dust of the ones who died for your pathetic comfort; don’t let that dust settle in your self-loathing–your self-loathing, in this context, does fucking nothing to help.

“The model minority stereotype has always been less about praising Asian people than it has been about shaming Black people.” “The model minority stereotype has always been less about praising Asian people than it has been about shaming Black people.” “The model minority stereotype has always been less about praising Asian people than it has been about shaming Black people.” “The model minority stereotype has always been less about praising Asian people than it has been about shaming Black people.” “The model minority stereotype has always been less about praising Asian people than it has been about shaming Black people.” “The model minority stereotype has always been less about praising Asian people than it has been about shaming Black people.” “The model minority stereotype has always been less about praising Asian people than it has been about shaming Black people.” “The model minority stereotype has always been less about praising Asian people than it has been about shaming Black people.” “The model minority stereotype has always been less about praising Asian people than it has been about shaming Black people.” “The model minority stereotype has always been less about praising Asian people than it has been about shaming Black people.”

Quote from David Shih, “You’re the Model Minority Until You’re Not.”

xvi.

I have had an awful lot of feelings and an awful time trying to make any sense of them over the past few months. I fester inside of myself, gangrene of the soul eating away at my edges. I write sentences in my head and then unwrite them, erase words that barely even had a chance to form. Sometimes I get a glimpse of myself– slowly realize that I am both terrified of having a voice and terrified of not having one. I hungrily devour others’ words and thoughts and burn them into my brain so that I have no room for my own. So that I cannot have any feelings or ideas of my own.

But it is not all necessarily so bad; there are tiny gentle sprouts poking their heads through the manure in my heart. They clumsily repeat the words that I have read, faking the sentiment in the desperate hope that they can grow larger: I am a treasure and I deserve to take up space. I am cooler than my haters. It is hard to believe the latter statement when most of your haters are inside of you. I get distracted by the logistics. The most difficult by far to even comprehend is that I deserve to make mistakes and still be loved, because I am tiny but growing.

I have been reading some history of Korean/American adoption lately–it’s a topic I have wanted to research but I had forgotten. Sometimes I fall down a rabbit hole of foreign policy or university spending or something and I don’t come back for months. I read an article by Steve Haruch that traces some of the history of Korean/American Adoptee organizing and storytelling. And of course stories of falsified adoption records, corrupt and/or ignorant agencies, and the muddling of pre- and post-adoptive life.

I remember telling you that I once googled the name my biological parents gave me. I returned home last week only to be confronted again by the photo of my bald, oddly-shaped, newborn head, and my name written phonetically in English. I remember telling you that I once googled my first-assigned name but didn’t find it very interesting.

I am here now to tell you that I was afraid, and I am afraid, to research my first-assigned name. I am frankly terrified to know either way– whether the narrative in my adoption records are true or not. I do not want to know right now. Probably I would find nothing, or my records would be vaguely corroborated enough to satisfy me.

But.

The uncertainty, the possibility that parts of those records may be falsified, whether for “better” or “worse,” is right now so terrifying that I am not sure what I would do if it were true. While many parts of my self-identity and self-esteem have shifted in my life, viewing my adoption as a positive part of my life has not. I need to buy into this for myself, even if it is not true for everyone, perhaps not even a majority of adoptees. Adoption is complicated, man, and I know various cultural, racial, and imperial forces have likely caused me to become orphaned when it perhaps was not absolutely “necessary.”

I’m still trying to understand on an academic and distant level why adoption happened to me. I am purposely–and perhaps both selfishly and stupidly– choosing ignorance about the individual truths behind it.

The problem is that I am actually like a child who has been told not to touch a hot stove. I am curious and dumb. To be clear, I haven’t even typed the name in a long time, let alone into a search box. But my fingers feel itchy just thinking about it. It’s like looking over the edge of a cliff– terrifyingly dizzying but also breathtaking. I never thought I would be so grateful for my prohibitive fear of everything, but here we are.

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I have been tempted to walk away from everything. Occasionally I travel internationally, and more than once I’ve thought about just losing my passport and all identifying information, and just walking away. I think people would be sad for a little while, but everyone gets over the loss of someone else in some way. I think I have a basic belief that I’m not intrinsically valuable, that I’m interchangeable and replaceable. I don’t think this intellectually, but maybe I believe it emotionally anyways. I’ve dreamed of being free of all the expectations and burdens of this perfectly successful and normal life. I’ve dreamed of being as cold and crazy and true to myself on the outside as I sometimes feel on the inside. I have dreamed of disappearing, of forcing all my family and friends to move on without me

There are times when I wish I didn’t exist. I don’t mean that I wish to die, but to simply not exist. I think because I don’t feel love, I experience a self-imposed isolation and unbearable loneliness. I’m old enough to know that I’m past the age that I can learn to love, and that I’m just made badly. I also believe that most of the people who love me have experienced more pain because of my existence. Sometimes I imagine driving off bridges or into trees, and it is a very thin glue that holds me from it.

Anonymous, “Secrets,” Lost Daughters.

Currently thinking about the intersections of adoption, genetics, pre-verbal trauma, and mental illness–particularly my own.

xv.

Over the past few weeks, I have felt outraged, defeated, challenged, panicked, foolish, lost, saddened, numbed, frustrated, and confused. I have been a dickbag hijacker/derailer; I have thrown fits; I have tried to write; I have tried to talk; I have tried to listen. I have attended a rally; I have donated money; I have questioned myself; and, naturally, I have been reading so much that my eyeballs are falling out.

I thought maybe I would write something about the deaths of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Teaira Whitehead, and the countless black women and trans-identified folks who are so ignored and marginalized by society (read: me as a part of that society) that we do not even speak their names.  I will continue to examine and question my own internalized and externalized anti-Blackness; my own actions/inactions; and the crux of being a whitewashed, cishet, able-bodied Asian American who foolishly keeps loving her unaware, racist, homophobic, transphobic white family, against all reason.  But, at least right now, I don’t think the world needs words from me about this. Instead, I want you to read and hear the voices that most of white America wants to ignore, punish, erase, and murder.

Here are a few writings that have helped me to examine, question, resent, and reformulate my own thoughts and actions regarding racial privilege and intersectionality.   Sometimes I am horrified by myself, but that is not enough– and I am thinking about that.  I may come back and add more. And I promise to return soon with some words of my own, but it won’t be about this–not directly. In this second, I would just like to listen, absorb, and most importantly, believe wholly the words that I am reading.  And if you are white or a non-black person of color, I suggest you do the same.

Stacia L. Brown, “For Tamir, Who Was Stolen”
Ezekiel Kweku, “The Parable of the Unjust Judge or: Fear of a N*gger Nation”
amazing-how-you-love, “I’m Tired of Asian Bloggers Extolling Moderation”
Trudy/Gradient Lair, “Anti-Blackness And The Myths Of ‘Monoracial Privilege’ & The ‘White/Black Binary'”
Trudy/Gradient Lair, “Privilege and Using Individual Compliments/Insults To Derail Conversations About Oppression”
Rawiya Kameir and Judnick Mayard, “The Unbearable Whiteness of Protesting”
Anonymous/Unnamed Submitter, “To my Asian community and family-“
Center for Story-Based Strategy, “Storify: #Asians4BlackLives”