Sorry, But You Look Chinese

Fri, 01/29/2016 - 08:37 -- mxiao

To the boy who said

“Sorry, but you look really Chinese”:

 

Well.

Hate to break it to you,

but I am Chinese.

 

And what was that “sorry” for?

Telling me I look like the race I am

isn’t offensive to me.

That’s probably a compliment,

you know,

my parents raised me right

and gave me good genetics or something.

I’m not good at science.

 

To be honest,

I own no traditional Chinese clothes.

Not a single qipao.

And obviously I don’t have long silky hair

that you could braid up

under heavy headdresses.

Actually,

scratch that,

I don’t even know if those headdresses are heavy.

I’ve never worn one.

 

That doesn’t make me any less Chinese.

 

To be Chinese

is to feel pride

about being a member of a race

that considers itself

the Mother Nation.

It’s knowing that your people

are resilient and hardy and crafty

and have been so for centuries.

And it’s also about

being known for having fantastic food.

 

Priorities.

 

But

let me tell you about

the other side

of being Chinese.

Let me tell you

about being called a chink

by people who don’t know

that the term comes from the sound

of the mines and railroads

that the Chinese were enslaved to work.

About Vincent Chin,

a Chinese-American whose stolen life

was only worth $3700,

two years of probation,

and no jail time for his murderers.

About the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882,

the first and only time in US history

that an entire race was forbidden

from stepping foot on American soil.

 

This is the hidden side of the story.

It’s the history

and the blood

and the sweat

and the tears

that people don’t see.

 

But it’s not a story you haven’t heard before--

 

--getting asked every time you introduce yourself

where you’re actually from--

--getting called a drug dealer for carrying herbal cough drops

bought from the Jing Men on Route 10--

--getting told that you aren’t special

because you’re Chinese and there are a billion more of you in the world--

 

This is not something you don’t know.

 

This is not something that hasn’t been said.

 

I just don’t know

when anyone will listen.

 

Poetry Slam: 
This poem is about: 
Me
My community
Our world

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