“Dear White People…” On Fighting Microaggressions

I clearly remember my first day of college. I looked forward to the lectures ahead, where my brain would be stretched and molded into all sorts of lengths and shapes.  It was going to be painted in different streaks and hues of paints-I was sure of it.

I walk into class and find that I am the only not only one of five women in the class but also the only person of color.  I remember some of my fellow classmates looking at me like I was some new exotic creature.  Notice the almond eyes that disappear when this creature smiles. Quite a phenomenon. But what really topped the icing on that cake was this:

My professor was reading aloud the names on her attendance list.
“Susie.”
“Here.”
Pause. Another look up and down.
“Susie…what a cute English name you picked out for yourself!”
“………..”

Ah, microaggression at its finest.  I remember years ago sitting alone with these odd feelings and writing in my journal, scribbling away about my disappointment and anger of this professor’s ignorance.

Recently though, there’s been a surge in minorities being able to share the racial microaggression face on their own campuses.  For example, the “I, Too, Am Harvard,” campaign and the Fordham student who also did her own project on campus.  I could laugh at each one in agreement saying, “Girl, I feel ya.”

It’s awesome. FINALLY.  My colored brothers, sisters, and I can finally voice all that has been suppressed since God knows when.  I love that we do.  Social media has become such a huge platform for all of us to speak freely and express our anger about how we are ostracized in little yet stinging ways.

At the same time, it has made us all “stuck.”  We, the social media generation, have hundreds of new hashtags and articles trending everyday, expressing how angry we are at this world.  Yet, I’m pretty sure that a large percentage of us are just tweeting these things rather than doing something about it.  We’re stuck.  We’re angry and don’t know what to do with it. So then we think about how we can fix the problem. Then get angry that we can’t. Stuck again. And the cycle goes on…

I am apprehensive though that people are now going to be afraid to ever say anything about culture or race out of fear that they will be called ignorant or a racist.  There needs to be a safe way though for not just white people but anyone to be able to express their curiosity about cultures, without them being labeled as ignorant or racist.  That shouldn’t be the case.  We have the power to educate them.

To be fair, it’s not their fault they really don’t know. I mean that’s why they are ignorant.  If I lived in a remote island all my life with 500 clones of myself and then met a white person, I would have tons of questions too.  The only way to fight ignorance is by educating.  Yes, we get annoyed and angry because for the 500th time, someone just asked me if Chinese and Korean are pretty much the same.  But I’ve learned not to get annoyed and give a sharp, “No.” Use it as a time for learning.

We have the power to educate.  “No, for me trying to read Chinese would be like you trying to read Arabic.  Our foods are completely different and our cultures are surprisingly pretty different.”

Being angry is not necessarily a bad thing. It can be fueled to work at something. Instead of destroying relationships, it can build them.  We can use that anger to fight racism by being angry at ignorance and not necessarily the person.  We’re better than our anger and frustrations.

We complain about how the world has gone to crap.  And it’s not just politicians and economists who can do something.  We can too with little fights like these. Do you remember a time, when you might have blown off somebody over an ignorant comment? What could have been done better?

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Bruh, I don’t know if it’s kids these days. We were all stupid and dumb. We just didn’t have a smartphone or social media to capture, share, and make things go viral.

2014

A beautiful lady who I grew up passed away this month of last year.  She took her own life.  As her anniversary date approaches, I think more and more-“I wish there was something I could’ve done.” I want to tell her, “It gets better.” The words want to come out like word vomit.

 

I’ve been depressed for as long as I could remember.  Since I was 12.  I wasn’t diagnosed then. Throughout my pre-teen and teen years, I knew something was wrong, but I don’t think I truly understood what depression was and what it meant.  I thought waking up every morning with a heavy weight in your heart was normal. I thought emptying a bank of tears everyday for hours was normal; and living two dualities of a so-called “normal” human being and the truly depressed person I really was.  I mastered how to pass as a functioning human being, while still shutting down times that I was alone.  I had no idea what life could actually be like.

 

I thought feeling depressed was so normal
It became weirdly comfortable for me.
If I didn’t cry that day, it put me on edge-
I’m waiting for the tears to flood out.

 

Before 2014, I was struggling with a lot of past issues that I never resolved.  So when 2014 rolled around it was just one thing after another.  I was in a toxic environment with a lot of presumptuous judgment from people that resulted in bricks of guilt weighing down on me.

 

Then, I found out I was pregnant and that really threw me over the edge.  “I can’t even take care of myself.  How am I going to take care of a friggin baby?” All sorts of disparaging thoughts and denial swirled around in my head.

 

And then Jayden was born. How ironic that giving life to some one can also be life giving to me…

 

 But then you look at your baby. The one who made you feel the best/worst pain for 9 months.  The one who just sublet some space in your belly. The one who just looked like some bad 80s black and white graphic on the ultrasound screen.  It’s like this part of you deep inside that has been dormant for your entire life suddenly becomes alive.  Mind-blowing…this little being, who hasn’t done a single thing in his life, except take his first breath, becomes the reason to live again.

 

I think as a mom you’re present and also always looking ahead-two things you can’t quite do when depressed.  Always excited for the next little thing he’s going to do, like sit up on his own. First word. What his personality will be like. When he’s going to start telling me about the first girl (or boy!) he likes. When I will trash talk him while playing videogames together.  When he will tell me how I’m ruining his teenage life. When am I going to sob at his wedding. There’s no room for depression.  It’s just completely squeezed out with so much forward thinking, love, and hope.

 

And then I was thought to myself: Is Jayden just a mask over the wounds? Truly in my heart of hearts, I don’t think so.  I’ve forgiven past trespassers and I am at peace with who I am.
After questioning over and over, “How the hell am I going to be a mom to somebody?” I found a solid footing of who I am. I learned through supportive friends and acquaintances the things I can contribute to people, the qualities that make me “me,” the annoying shit I pull, the endless strings of hobbies I have.  This work I could not have completed had it not been for shutting the door on judgmental, toxic people and resolving past hurts.

 

2015 started and I’m reflecting on how everything in my life has finally come full circle. Around this time of last year, I was in a psych hospital, in deep shit, hating myself and looking for a way to breathe and be freed from the prisons of hopelessness and depression.  It took 12 years.  12 motherfriggin long years to finally be at peace, not cry once a day, laugh without feeling empty, to feel…normal.

 

All of it was so worth it to finally live.  I wish I could tell you, Esther, to just hold on for a little longer. When hope runs out to have strength; and when you have no strength to have hope.
I mean, of course, my story is different from yours.  But I know in your walk of life, there could’ve been a longer path, where you would have frolicked among flowers and sunlight.

 

I once heard that the strongest people get handed the biggest shit in their lives, and it’s true.  You were a selfless, beautiful, empathetic light in this world who got dealt an undeserved bad hand.  It’s unfair as hell.  But even with the bad hand, you were a light to this world.  You were nothing short of that.  One day I’ll get to tell you that face to face…

I see your eyes…

I see your eyes flitting to the corners of your world. Even while you sleep. You search. Your mind pulses ceaselessly like the tic. tic. tic. of some intense metronome. You reign over your body. Sleep. Discipline. Exercise. Exercise. Sleep. And your body reigns over you.

I’d like very much for my tears to fall together like some healing balm. I’d like to learn the art of war and use it to slay this monster. I’d like my whispers in the dark to lift this spell.

For years my friend, my close friend, my precious friend, has walked taut underneath her tormenters: anxiety, depression, heaviness. Like a thick-stroked question mark carved out beside all her reasons to live. She walks this line, taking her world in 10-calorie sections, and counting her days like the ‘stride stride stride’ of her morning run.

Once, she told me not to worry, that she still weighed more than she did at her worst. Dark silence. Worst. Pronounced like a euphemism for best. This is a construction that seems to hold the world together. Barely. Like glue made from flour and water.

She loves Jesus. And. Still this darkness. She’s raked the corner of him begging for release. And still this. Sadness.

But. There are true things. For my friend, the presence and love of Jesus are palpable. I see her returning. Rubbing grace into her skin like lotion in the wintertime. Jesus knows about our suffering. “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do…” (Hebrews 4:15) and he loves us like nobody else ever has loved us.

Lots of times in our lives, we are asked to wake. And walk beside hurt. We might excuse ourselves because we are helpless. We might accuse God because he is not.

And then. And again. We call up to remembering. We rub grace into our skin. And let true things fall on us. Like heavy kisses on our ceaseless, flitting eyes.

Em

from Gotandem

I love the imagery. This is so beautifully written.

Ish Patients Say

Patient: What are you?
Me: You mean my ethnicity?
Patient: Yeah, are you Chinese, Japanese, or Vietnamese?
Me: Try another guess.
Patient: . . .
Me: There are so many other countries in Asia man
Patient: . . .
Me: Okay, it starts with a “K.”
Patient: . . .
Patient: Kansas?!?!?

 

My Daily Creative Dose

My Daily Creative Dose

A lot of people ask how I do it…
how I put outfits and fashion together.

I don’t really have an answer. Though I know that it comes from a deeper place than mere vanity and a desire to say, “Look at me.”

There’s a deeply rooted nerve in my body that tingles that bursts for creating. I need to express that creativity in one small dose or another. Sometimes it’s just by singing aloud, writing in my journal, people watching, or taking a walk of reflections.

Some people fulfill this desire by sketching.
Some by painting.
Others by writing poetry.
But since I can’t do any of those things, fashion is another means of channeling some of that creative energy.

I see fashion in lines, colors, shapes, outlines, silhouettes. I see moods, personalities, and tones. And just like the artist who can pick up their brush to paint whatever stroke comes, I pick layer by layer what will all come together.

Fashion is my form of art and just how anyone likes to be complimented on the piece they created, I appreciate it when someone can say they like an outfit.

So if anyone needs a shopping buddy, you KNOW I’m down to create some magic 🙂

Ish Patients Say

I was leading a group, where the patients go around and talk anout their goals for their day and other community issues…

Me: So what is your goal for the day?
Patient: To marry a fine ass Korean woman.
Me: okay lets try a goal we can actually achieve.
Patient: dam…

Try again.

Ish Patients Say

I work in an inpatient psychiatric unit.
And you got it, it’s not an easy line of work.  
My heart bleeds for them sometimes.
Other times, I just have to take a deep breath, take everything with a grain of salt.
and just smile because of reasons like this:

Patient: I just think about how God put us all on this earth.  We all have God watching over us. I know I have to fix my life. I want to and God wants me to.  The people who loved me the most beat me…what kind of life is that?  And I get angry sometimes. I get angry a lot. And it’s because of my parents. But I know that it doesn’t define me.
Me: I love that. Just remember that you’ll have times when you fall, but that doesn’t mean that you’ve failed. 
Patient: Yeah……you’re right….

*Stares off into space looking in deep thought*
Patient: I just picked my butt.

Day 19 – Disrespecting your parents.

This 30 day thang has been extended to a long year..
Whoops.

I take a deep sigh, sit up straight in my chair, crack my knuckles, and chuckle a little to myself as I think about this topic.
Oh mom…oh dad.
How I hated you so.
“Omg! How could you say that!!??”
Uh yeah well I did. And when I say hate, I don’t just say it out of a state of spite. I actually mean hate.

I don’t want to be that angsty everybody-hates-me teenager but it was true..my parents did wrong me in many ways. I’m going to be utterly honest: they were not the best parents.  When my friends would say, “My  mom is my best friend! I tell her everything!” I would think in my head, “WTF is wrong witchu girl?!”
Really, I would stand scratching my head at this.

I have to say though. I was a really good compliant child even when in retrospect, my mother was not the best mother. I did everything that was asked of me. I liked being an obedient child. I liked pleasing my parents.
You know, it takes one person to change your mind. One person to squeeze one droplet of black ink to taint an entire beaker of clear water. That black ink was “Melinda.”

I remember waiting outside of school after orchestra rehearsal with my new best friend Melinda (how funny the levity of how we define a mere play pal as a “best friend” when we are young). I’m being picked up to go to tennis practice, which was to be followed by after school SAT class, which was again to be followed by rehearsal at the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra later in the evening. I really didn’t mind doing any of this…or did I? Well, Melinda asked me “So let’s hang out and do homework together.”
“No, I have to go to tennis.”
“Okay. How about after?”
And I proceed to tell her the post-tennis activities.
With scrutiny she asks, “Do you even like doing this stuff?”
Aloof. “Um..not really?”
“Then why do you do it?”

The black ink had began to dissipate through the bonds of H2O. Why do I do it?! Wait…how come I do this stuff? How come my mom never asks me for my opinion…She never talks to me about how I feel….Poisoned.

And that was the beginning of a terrible and effed up relationship with my parents. A Pandora’s box was opened. I finally polished the brain and mind to speak up for myself, which really just led to complete disrespect of my parents.

There’s been a lot of hurt and disrespect…but thankfully, there’s also been a lot of healing and reparation. When God came into both my life and my mom’s life, He really showed us a little face of grace (check out that rhyme). My mom was able to heal a bit of her own struggles and depression through God, which enabled her to love me.  Pre-God, she was hurting a lot and taking it out on my brother and I. She did not know how to express any emotion that was nurturing, loving, or sensitive. And God truly broke down those walls, softened her heart, and she expressed all this to me two years ago.  It was one of the biggest breakthroughs of our relationship. My mom? Actually being humble and vulnerable?! She learned what real love was through the unconditional and perfect love of God.

And I can say for myself that I learned the same. I still struggle with so many insecurities and emotional difficulties mostly because of my mother and I never thought I could forgive her; because God extended grace to me in so many situations, I know what that looks like and know that I must love her because God loves her despite anything.

We are all sinners no matter what good we try to do. We can only find salvation and hope in God.  He is the one who saves.