“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.

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 🙂

“I was giving up a person who was really a very viable, powerful, self-reliant human being.  there were a lot of positive things about those negative aspects of my personality.  And I didn’t want to give them up.  Maybe it wasn’t the best way of coping, but at least I was used to it.  I felt incredibly vulnerable having to let go in order to make the room to create a new person.  Into what void would I be thrown if I let go of this stuff? I felt like a raw muscle walking around for a long time.”

Red Lights

Red Lights

Ever since we were little, our parents told us we would grow up. One day we would be in school, like all the other big kids. And we would get our own letters in the mail box and get to have bedtime past nine. They said we’d graduate from high school, meet a nice man or woman and get married—and maybe even have little kids of our own.

But what our parents never told us is the letters in our adult mailbox would be lame coupons and scamming bankers. They never said we might move far away from them and only visit every other Christmas. They never said we’d probably work a job we don’t care about, at least for a while.  Or that starting our family comes with paperwork and chores. What our parents never told us is that real grown-up life is sometimes boring and kind of lonely.

So we let ourselves believe in Garden State or Sleepless in Seattle. That one day an incredible person would come into our lives and save us from our self-loathing and boredom. And so we waited.  Once we finally got out of school…or got married…or started a family…or settled down…then we would have a fulfilling life. Then we’d stop crying.

“We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing…So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body” (2 Corinthians 5).

I have a choice. I can let this knowledge burden me—pressure me to run after some mythical cathartic experience before I die. Or I can let it still my heart. Let it remind me of the reconciliation my last breath will usher into my soul. Because there is calm and rest waiting around the corner.

But on Earth—this is it. Much of life is spent vacuuming or waiting at red lights. This is the exciting life that comes with drinking privileges and college degrees. So during this time—sometimes lonely, sometimes boring—I wait. I hope and believe. Not in tomorrow…but in the perfection that comes after tomorrow.

June

Peace and Seeds

Yesterday, on Saturday, I helped out with some cleaning around the house.  I think we cleaned every inch of our house to the point where I was even sweeping leaves off my deck (we’ve never once done that..ever) From the corner of my eye, I watched my dad tend to his gardens fervently.  He takes care of his plants like they are his third child–making sure the flowers are all arranged the way just perfectly pleasing to his eyes and the lettuce is ripe to be picked.  With the sun at the right temperature warming my skin, I thought to myself, “This is sublime.”
I bet my dad is truly happy right now.  I bet this is where he founds the greatest peace…with nature.  I remember my grandfather telling me years ago, that my dad would go hiking and walk around nature all the time when he was young.  He loved studying acupuncture.  He just loves nature.

And even when I was a child, I remember our trips camping, fishing, and my dad just spitting out short random facts about how to tug at your fishing rod to wrangle in the fishies and such.

My dad is a successful business man now.  I am so proud of him.  I always have been. But when I see him antsy and anxious all the time, yelling Korean profanities at the air…my pride quickly sinks to sadness.
I think to myself that his true happiness and peace is from his roots and the simple life in the country side that was his livelihood.  I wish sometimes he could live in the mountains or in a valley of endless greenery.

I realized I was in my imagination land so I snapped myself out of it to look up to see my dad across the lawn again.

He loves tending to his plants so much-feeding, nurturing them-because he knows exactly how they’ll turn out by step a, b, and c.  He knows what he will reap when he plants the seeds.  When he planted a tree in our backyard a few years ago, he came into my room telling me excitedly about his tree and how it’ll be growing while I’m in college (oh the analogy!)

He knows exactly what plants his seeding, how many.  How much water he pours, how many times, and approximately when the sprouts will start to show.  He knows what they will look like in the end.  He knows in the end they will wither.

He thought he knew what he was doing when his children were were going through a similar growth process.  He enrolled them in music schools. He paid for years of hagwon.  He talked endlessly about the CPA route and how I were to obtain my 150 credits.  He thought he was going to see a future CPA.  He thought he was going to see a successful business woman proudly walking down the concrete streets of New York City like a boss.

He thought he was going to be able to speak proudly of his daughter to his father in Korea so he could rest peacefully in his old age and back pains.He loves his plants and wakes up every morning to tend to them.  He wants to know they are doing.  Because at least he knows they are the only things that can turn into what he wants them to be.  The sesames leaf sprouts were finally ripe to be eaten.  And the bulbs bloomed to chrysanthemums just as he had wanted.  The other two he tried to nurture for 21 years bloomed to be ferns and red oaks instead of red roses and lilacs…how failed he felt.
How disappointed he feels…What to make of his situation. Is this what he thinks of while the clock marks his 16th hour at the office? Does he smile when he thinks of his chrysanthemums blooming right? Or does he straighten himself up when that weight of sadness about his children hover his mind like fog clouds?I wish I knew what went on that busy mind of his…

Today was a most interesting day–bumped into Prarthana after 872634 years in the streets of Harvard Square. Then had the most intense conversation with a hippie about Satanism, Christianity and sin. Now I’m sitting in GB 401…nowhere near as enlightening.

It peeves me wh…

It peeves me when people treat me like an idiot or talk down to me with “knowledge”. Or when people will repeat what I say, but will correct me by using technical terms or some scientific jargon.  Please get off your high chair and allow me to kick your royal crown off your head.

That would be all.
Thank you =)

Peace & love.
harhar