Month: November 2015

Finding Self Justice

As a Filipino-American suffering from the colonial mentality for the majority of my existence on this Earth, I had a lot of internal issues that I did not address till I got to college. Those two things were internalized racism and racial colorblindness. I honestly didn’t know what internalized racism, let alone just what plain ol’ racism was. I heard of the word, but never knew what it meant. I couldn’t even grasp the idea of race. I never connected race with how I looked and  the societal expectations and stereotypes placed upon me because of my skin color.

As a youth moving from middle class suburbs in Fremont to being in low-income apartments of the East Bay and eventually residing in upper class housing, I was colorblind for awhile. I always accepted people for being people regardless of their race. I thought that it was great that they were Asian, Black, African American, Latin@, White, etc., but I didn’t know that it would be problematic to think in such a way. Simultaneously, I had internalized racism due to constant passive media consumption and my upbringing.

A lot of these attitudes stemmed from my dad as he wasn’t (and probably will never be) fond of black people. He would always place them in boxes of being a “thug,” “gangster,” or just plain inferior if they looked a certain way unless he knew them personally. Then he would tokenize the individual saying that he knows the person so there’s no way he can be racist/prejudiced.

I do understand that theoretically people of color can’t be racist, but I’m drawing from memories so bear with me. This would in turn affect me because I would think just about the same way. Being colorblind and internalizing some of the attitudes from my dad made me fluctuate from being downright prejudiced to being accepting of others. This finalized itself within me by my carrying prejudice attitudes toward specific groups, while telling downright “racist” jokes. I never knew how to deal with a lot of these feelings within myself until I addressed them with others when I got to college.

For the first half of my college career, I carried on harboring these attitudes but didn’t do anything about them till I took a class called “Teaching In A Diverse Society” with Professor Marcos Pizarro; he showed me what social justice was (based on a working definition we were given) and this was the start for me. Addressing issues of social justice and diversity within the institution of education was the start of my unpacking attitudes that I soon started to despise. How could I have thought this way for so long? Even after the class concluded, I started to engage myself with other social justice and diversity driven places such as MOSAIC, the Cross Cultural Center at SJSU, and other various programs that enhanced my growth as a student leader and as an individual.

Doing work in MOSAIC has allowed me to deconstruct more of my experiences in being privileged as a cisgender heterosexual male, but also explore my oppression as a young middle-upper class Agnostic Asian Pilipino-American. Hosting different workshops and spaces for conversation has allowed me to address these facets of my being, but also define what solidarity and allyship is to me. Building this critical social justice and diversity lens through MOSAIC and personal reading (check out books by Jeff Chang such as Who We Be: The Colorization of America) has translated into the work I do not only as an intern for MOSAIC, but also as a Resident Advisor in University Housing and my ambition of becoming a student affairs professional.

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by IAN ZAMORA

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Romance

Tình thương làm người bị thương. Surrendering love causes pain (literally: the hallmark of love causes injury to people)

There is a reason why “love” and “hurt” are the same word in Vietnamese.

I am in the process of healing a freshly broken heart, learning how to walk away on my own. Oftentimes, it feels as if I am only drifting.

The process of learning another human being is hard. The idea of allowing someone else to fully experience the strange, sappy, ugly, and very real parts of me and for me to experience those parts of them—that is hard. It is vulnerability. It is romance. It is the love that I was taught to give and desire as a young woman. It is undeniably me.

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Growing up, I had a sense of knowing that I would eventually get married and have children. This is what we are socialized to do—but I did not truly feel this way until I fell in love with you. You served that prophecy—lifelong companionship, marriage, parenthood, tending for my aging parents and yours, holding hands well into our old age when our children would care for us too. I recognized early on that we were raised differently, but I had hoped that it would not negatively affect me and you. My Vietnamese parents taught me closeness and consideration—to keep loved ones at the top of my mind. Your English and Mexican American parents taught you independence and individualism, to love from afar.

And still, I had visions of you and me. You were my self-fulfilling prophecy.

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It is strange to contemplate the mere idea that I will once again become familiar with another creature—quirks and thoughts and scent and body. I may never know truly and exactly how they will react to the slightest change in air and atmosphere, but I will have the closest idea of how they feel without them breathing a word.

Those things all felt so sacred between us. They still do.

I am afraid of exploiting the very few things I have left to treasure. How will I recount the nuances of my childhood to someone else? How the overcast skies in my first home gave me a certain inexplicable nostalgia that still floods my daydreams. How can I teach them my favorite Việt catch phrases? The very words that took nineteen years to slip easily and intentionally from my mouth into open air. How can I extend my hand out to theirs, dropping a tiny bottle of magical minty dầu in their palm as if it is not special to me? All these things are special to me. All these things are me.

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I am a hopeless romantic unlearning deep-rooted attachment.

I do not fall in love easily. And still, I long to float on the same wavelength as another human being who looks at the world with curious eyes, lies beside me only telling truths.

But I fear vulnerability once again. I fear bearing resentment. I fear nakedness and shedding skin. And I do not know how, at least not yet, I will be able to ease into a contented place with another person again.

I allowed myself to hide from the world in contemplation of what “us” truly meant. I seek to convey these feelings of love and sadness embedded eternally in the fabric of the universe… though I am studying the art of doing so without you.

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by ELAINE LE

image: (Be With and Without Me, 2009 Daehyun Kim)

Good Old Cup o’ Joe

About two weeks ago, I went to one of my favorite cafés to study with a friend of mine. She is white, blonde, thin, and conventionally attractive in the way you would picture when I list these aforementioned qualities. This (unnamed) café is one I frequent at least once a week. I love the maple wood the tables are made out of, the light seeping into the space from the high windows—not to mention that their coffee is great. I usually luck out and find a table in the far corner of the café, near the bookshelves, sit down, and work diligently. Something about that place makes me focus really well. Maybe it’s the fact that there are no distractions, but I study at many cafes, and for some reason, it’s always that one where I can get the most done.

Anyhow, the last time I went there, I was with this said friend. She was in line before me and when it was her turn, the barista struck up a conversation with her: “Any plans for tonight?” And she responded casually that she has a younger brother so she can go trick or treating and she got lucky, wasn’t that nice? To which the barista responded: “Yeah I can’t do that. I’m a grown man…” and the rest of their conversation was lost to the cacophony of morning sounds and then suddenly it was my turn.

He did not ask me what my “plans” were for the rest of the day. He did not engage in any sort of conversation with me. He merely asked politely what it is I would like to order. I, being the cognizant brown girl I am, expected this. I am used to it. So I told him I wanted an iced Moroccan mint tea, paid, and went to find a table for my friend and myself.

That same barista brought my iced tea to my table and then he turned to my friend and said. “You’re iced mocha is coming right up, Miss.”

Even she glanced at me to see if I had caught that.

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This is where my story ends and my reflection begins. I go to this café at least once a week; my friend was just with me that one time. The barista that served me had done so many times before–so he undoubtedly recognized my face. So why did she get that special treatment? It sounds petty to white folks reading this. Why don’t I just get over it and move on? Why am I “overthinking everything?” But I still thought to myself, In all the years I’ve been coming here, this barista has never struck up a conversation with me like he did with her. In all the years I’ve been coming here he has never called me “Miss.”

Did that happen to me because I am brown? Or did it happen because I am awkward and inept at small talk? (Most people will say the latter because it’s an easier answer and it is true to an extent—I am awkward). But what if I was an awkward, socially inept, thin, and white like my friend is? Would I have been treated the way I was?

No. The answer is no, I wouldn’t have. Of course, this young barista probably meant no harm: he probably didn’t understand the gravity of his seemingly quotidian words and his disparate treatment towards me; he probably didn’t understand that the person he is serving has lived with this sense of weariness her whole life, and that she can detect racism, even the slightest hint of it, to the degree that she will then go home and write about it, and then she will write about it again two weeks later because it is still irking her. He doesn’t know any of this.

But I am annoyed. I am annoyed that this stuff happens to me in the Bay Area, where we are supposedly “unaffected” by these issues of race to the degree places such as, say, South Carolina, are. I am annoyed that he didn’t even try to mask the fact that he didn’t care to treat me with the same level of welcoming and respect. I am annoyed that I am still thinking about this two weeks later. I am annoyed that it will keep happening to me and there will never be anything for me to do about it. I am annoyed because I will keep frequenting that café—because I study well there, because I like the space, because I like their coffee. I am annoyed because my decision to do so acts as a form of resistance to me: it is my way of saying I belong there too, but underneath that sense of conviction is the pain that comes from having to think like that at all. But most importantly, I am tired.

I am tired of being treated as less. I am so tired of having to predict the way people will treat me, and of being right about it ever time. I am tired because I know this will never end, that the reality of being a brown girl in America is that it is a gruesome, never-ending, vicious cycle of mistreatment, pain, reflection, and then a stronger backbone that I would not have had to worry about cultivating had I been white.

With each microaggression; with each misrepresentation; with each insult, taunt, invalidation, I become stronger. But I also become more bitter. More angry. More hurt. More isolated. There are days where I lie in bed, tugging at my skin, wishing I could shed it off like snakeskin. But I can’t. It’s all I’ve got. And it keeps me warm. So I keep going.

Now it would appear that the obvious solution is to stop going to this café. But I refuse that. I keep walking into these spaces—spaces where I know I am not wanted, whether I receive this message in a subliminal way the day I did with my friend or whether it is more overt—precisely for that reason: it is my way of telling myself that this is my place too. I will keep saying it as my favorite café, because in doing so I resist that which would have otherwise eaten away at my soul. I will keep going.

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by FATEMA ELBAKOURY

image source: (http://img1.beachbodyimages.com/beachbody/image/upload/v1409762611/beachbodyblog/Beachbody-Blog-Pumpkin-Spice-Latte.jpg)

I am Bitter

I am bitter.

It has taken me a lot to actually come to grips and be able to admit it, but I am. Not speaking of taste or smell but that I am angry, hurt and resentful.

I am bitter that I am the only black person in three out of four of my classes here at San Jose State.

I am bitter that when I walk around campus I am able to smile, recognize, and name just about every other Black student I see, simply because I don’t see many of us on this campus.

I am bitter that out of the fifteen college courses I have taken I’ve only had one African American professor which, might I add, was a part time Professor.

I am bitter that he and I were able to form the best bond I’ve ever had with a teacher, not because I was the best student in his class but because he recognized my struggle in himself when he was in school, the struggle of a young African American trying to better herselv when everything in this world is telling and tempting her not to.

I am bitter that I am even still going through this pain that he had to endure decades ago.

I am bitter that no matter how much I try, I can’t seem to fall out of love with the way I look when my hair is bone straight.

I am bitter that I am absolutely scared to the death as well as insecure to even try and give my natural hair a chance.

I am bitter that Madam CJ Walker ever invented a hot comb to begin with because that comb was able to take away a huge portion of who Black woman are.

I am bitter that I have to sit in classes and hear teachers talk about “BlackLivesMatter” while smiling or frowning—depending on which teacher—as if they should receive a Nobel Peace Prize for even taking time out of their busy syllabi to mention the topic.

I am bitter that when they do take the time to mention it they can’t stop their eyes from falling on me every few seconds just to see what my reaction is.

I am bitter that they look at me with pity in their eyes; I would rather a blank stare than pity.

I am bitter that after they speak on equality, justice for all, and change needed in the African American community, they are able to feel like they’ve done their good deed for the day, but yet still leave and go live their privileged white lives.

I am bitter that my life is able to be a lecture in classrooms.

I am bitter that when everyone else closes their notebooks and stops taking notes, this topic is over for them.

I am bitter that this topic is never over for me.

I am bitter that I do not need to take notes and listen whole heartedly to the lectures because how can a White woman learning all her facts on the news and Wikipedia tell me about the life I actually live every day.

I am bitter because in the midst of educating myself on my own race and my own culture I found that I now cannot even enjoy everyday life.

I am bitter that when I watch TV I don’t just see “funny” commercials of kids having conversations and being silly, I see the young black boy with the uncut hair and the ADHD behavior while the other white kids are looking at him as if he’s an experiment.

I am bitter when I watch shows like My Wife and Kids and I see the dark skin, medium length hair young actress replaced by a mixed, light skinned, curly haired girl, and even more bitter that the producers act as if the viewers aren’t going to notice.

I am bitter than now when I watch Scandal I no longer fully enjoy the story plot but find myself cringing when Olivia and Fitz’s lips attack each other’s’.

I am bitter that as I sat in the movie theatre watching Straight out of Compton I couldn’t help but think, “I wonder if one of the lead producers getting rich off of this are White”, then following it with “Of course they are DaMaya, white people market off of everything we do. Duh.”

I am bitter that though that movie was a success story, my black men are looked down upon for those same reasons.

I am bitter that most of my Black male peers here at San Jose State are literally praying and wishing ever night to get drafted into the NBA or NFL because other than that, they have no future or plan.

I am bitter that they couldn’t care less about a degree.

I am bitter that as I look around for a mate (if I actually want to date an African American man, which I do) my choices are getting slimmer and slimmer.

I am bitter that most of the men that actually make my heart flutter or cheeks hurt from smiling so much are the same men that I cannot take home to my parents and actually get approval.

I am bitter that they are the men that have records, tattoos, gang history and so much more.

I am bitter even more so that they were made into these ‘disapproving thugs’ by the society we live in.

I am bitter that my Black Kings are being taught to hate their own Black Queens and are too dumb to even notice it.

I am bitter that the thought and product of pure Blackness is no longer seen as beautiful in this society by both Whites and Blacks.

I am bitter that North West is seen as more beautiful than Blue Ivy simply because she has features of a mixed baby, and coarse hair as well as a wide nose that no longer fits the description of beauty.

I am bitter that as I look at the majority of successful black men in the industry, actors and athletes, their wives, girlfriends, and babymama’s are rarely black.

I am bitter that as a Black Queen I can proudly say “I love my Black Kings”, but Black Queens are not being loved or even wanted by our own “kings”.

I am bitter that I have no true culture: America and the White man decided to throw watermelon and fried chicken our way and act as if it’s ours.

I am bitter that when I do feel angry and feel as if I hate White people, immediately I start to feel bad and racist.

I am bitter that I have that innate respect in me for White people even when on the other hand it’s so easy for them to hate me.

I am bitter that we have women like Rachel Dolezal in this world.

I am bitter that she was able to take something that is so dehumanizing and such a hurdle in everyday life to manage for black people, and make it something that actually helped her progress further in life.

I am bitter that in her interviews when she speaks of her two black sons that she adopted, she speaks of them as if they are a keychain or a new Louis Vuitton purse added to her collection.

I am bitter that she’s tokenizing these black boys not even knowing all that they will undergo in this harsh world.

I am bitter that a white woman can go adopt black children and be seen as a hero when in reality she is crippling that child even more because she can’t even begin to fathom what that child will endure, let alone prepare them to face it.

I am bitter that I am a black woman and the thought of having a son petrifies me and yet white people have once again found a way to market off of our downfalls.

I am bitter that although I love the skin I’m in, if I could choose—if only I could truly choose—it would not be black.

I am bitter that I am forced to love this skin because no matter what I do I will always be black.

I am bitter that if it were life or death for Rachel, she would be able to save herself by simply wiping her blackness off.

I am bitter that it is a war for me every day and there is no wiping off my blackness.

I am bitter that everyone wants to be black but no one wants to live blackness.

I am bitter that woman all around the world pay to look like Black Queens; be it through lip enhancements, butt implants, hip implants, tanning salons, and so on.

I am bitter that Kylie Kardashian can wear cornrows and be praised as if she invented them, yet Zendaya gets bashed for reaching back into her history and wearing faux locks.

I am bitter that fashion icons like Marc Jacobs can take bantu knots, a hair style that Black woman have been wearing—and might I add have been scrutinized for wearing for centuries—and place it on the head of white woman and try to name it ‘Mini Buns’.

I am bitter that somehow the exact same hairstyle is seen as more beautiful on white woman than black.

I am bitter that, once again, everyone wants to be black but no one wants to be black.

I am bitter that writing this was literally the easiest thing I’ve ever written because these thoughts are in my head every day, all day.

I am bitter that I feel as if I have to dedicate my life to being everything the system has set out for me not to be.

I am bitter that I even began to educate myself on all of this because had I not, maybe I would have a chance at having one normal day without feeling like the world is sitting on my shoulders.

I am bitter that though I have reached page three there is still so much that I have failed to mention.

And I am tired of being bitter.

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by DAMAYA WALLACE

Filipinoness

For this blog, it’s sort of a continuation from my first blog which explored the colonial mentality. This time I’ll be talking about the idea of Filipinoness. When I talked about the colonial mentality, I defined it as the idea that ethnic identity is seen as a form of backwardness and that the individual suppresses that identity for assimilation into the mainstream culture.

Okay, so story time.

For those of you that don’t know, I also work in the residence halls here. I was talking with another resident advisor about a program they wanted to help host. The conversation then alluded to the topic of Filipinoness and Mexicanness.

When we got into this topic, my coworker started talking about her experience of others questioning her Mexicanness. She identifies as Mexican and told me that others had asked about whether or not she was Mexican. She responded with a stern “yes,” but the people questioning her didn’t accept her as Mexican. This was all based on her actions and what a Mexican is supposed to be and act like. They essentially placed her in a “box” that measured her Mexicanness as rather low. She then said that she felt rather confused after the whole situation because her own people wouldn’t accept her as Mexican.

When she finished her story, I then talked about the idea of Filipinoness for Filipino-Americans. Based upon the research I have done on Filipino-Americans and what I’ve seen with other Filipinos I know, too much Filipinoness is seen as a bad thing. It’s rather interesting because this mentality, the colonial mentality, is a product of the colonial legacy of the Philippines and it plays out daily in most Filipino-American’s lives today. Parents of some Fil-Am youth try to suppress the ethnic identity or the learning of Filipino heritage and history by using the amount of Filipinoness their child displays as a sign of backwardness.

I come from a divorced family and currently live with my dad. I’ve been with him these past twelve years or so and I’ve experienced this with him on a rather subtle level. As a former president of my Filipino student club in high school I would always try to tell him about things we did in our club that were about cultural awareness, but he would always respond with, “Why are you doing those things? They’re not important!” or something to that effect. It seemed as if knowing about his culture wasn’t important at all. That affected my mental state because for a good period of time I thought it wasn’t important to know about my culture.

I still strive to learn about my culture because it is part of my identity and something I am passionate about educating myself about. Now that I have the tools and knowledge to explain and reflect upon this experience, it is important for me to move forward because when I become a teacher I want to be able to support students through this same sort of experience. This idea of too much Filipinoness is something I hope to study in the years to come.
Thanks for reading y’all. Much knowledge, wisdom, and love.

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by IAN ZAMORA