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.

Month: August, 2013

vi.

I’m still silent, still reading, still (if you couldn’t tell already) confused about race. My mind tends to be fairly reductive, fairly, for lack of better phrasing, black and white. But this huge, confusing, difficult, charged, systemic conversation around race is not at all black and white– not even for people who are black or white. I want there to be answers when there are none. I want to just know what is right and wrong, which perspectives or people to vilify and which to put on posters in an elementary school.

Life is incredibly unlike that, and I cannot stand it.

When I am living my everyday life, I don’t really think about being Asian. Never, not once, until someone or something reminds me that I am. Sometimes I think that means that I’m “pretending I’m white inside”–i.e., because I was raised in white culture with white family and peers–and sometimes I think that means that I am ultra-privileged to not always have to think about race. Sometimes I think it’s shameful to not recognize my roots. Sometimes I think it’s the only way to survive from all of the thoughts assaulting my brain.

I’m reading a book that explains to me that race is entirely a social construct. Biologically, race doesn’t exist. I don’t think the book is saying, “Race isn’t scientifically real, so why are we talking about it?” Whether race exists biologically or not, the fact of the matter is that it exists in everyday life, woven in to the fabric of all life experience, so we can’t just pretend it’s not there. But still, the fact that the “mongoloid, negroid, etc.” concepts are totally discredited in many anthropological and biological circles completely blew my mind. And I really did think, “whoa, so why … do we even care?” Again, reductionism at its finest. Or maybe just trying to ignore everything so that I can finally quiet this nonstop chatter that runs across the back of my skull.

I think in a lot of ways it is a testament to my privilege that I don’t much think about being not white unless prompted. You know, if I had darker skin or an accent or whatever whatever, would I be able to ignore it just as much? And when does “I’m just trying to live my life and think about things that are important to me as a person and as a soul” shift into “I’m trying to completely ignore race and its implications because it’s too much or I have privilege?” As a person who easily obsesses, I try to tiptoe on this line between being aware and sensitive and constantly trying to break down barriers and prejudices within myself and that of regaining my sanity and not becoming oversensitive and not tormenting myself every day with the issue of race.

Thank god for wine, I guess?

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Personal preferences in dating or sex are not the same thing as fetishes. We can’t help who we’re attracted to, and a lot of us “have a type,” but no one should project the kind of personality, behavior, and values they like in a romantic partner onto someone else, let alone an entire ethnic group. For instance, it is true that I tend to be drawn to well-dressed men who are taller than me, but I don’t assume anything about them besides the fact that they are well-dressed and taller. But just because I’m Asian and female, why do some men make the automatic assumptions that I am quiet, docile, great at domestic tasks, eager to please men, and my vagina is more magical than average? And, I am supposed to feel complimented when those people are attracted to me?

Chin Lu, “Why Yellow Fever Is Different than ‘Having a Type,'” The Bold Italic.

v.

I have been pushing everything away lately, tired of thinking and of examining those thoughts. Instead I read and read and read and let it all digest in my gut. I let the bile chew away at others’ words and wonder: should I keep going? Is this line of investigation still worth the consequence?

By consequence, I mean the ability to notice and critique instances of racial and social injustice around me. It feels so wearying. I feel as though the more I read and devour and think, the more frustrating the world becomes. The more likely I am to feel angry or sad or frustrated or annoyed at an off-the-cuff remark or a racially-infused catcall. The internet makes it feel impossible to ignore the instances of racism I see and sometimes experience. Which is great, because I can recognize areas where I still falter and where the world still falters. It’s also kind of terrible, because in instances where I wouldn’t even hear someone’s upsetting words flying by me as I think about other things, I now become increasingly frustrated every time I notice it.

I feel exhausted but naive, never surprised at how shitty people can be but constantly surprised when it happens to me.

And so I wonder, is it worth it? To sometimes feel overly sensitive and to be upset more often than I was before? Of course, these things would happen whether I get upset or not.  And none of us has a choice of when racism will be sprung upon us–others WILL experience it and WILL notice it and WILL be hurt by it no matter how hard I pretend they won’t.  Maybe the only way to start changing things is to get upset about them. On the other hand, I’m concerned that it will destroy me.