My Closing Speech from E(RACE)D But Not Forgotten


Hello everyone, I hope you’ve all enjoyed the fantastic panels and speakers today. I know I’ve certainly learned a lot, let’s have a round of applause for the students who put this conference together!

Now just to give you all some context. I grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona. I think it was on a list of least diverse cities in the United States at one time. And growing up in a white suburb in Arizona…well, it definitely led to some very interesting identity formation. I remember, I knew I was Chinese. I also knew I was American. But at the same time, I remember not quite understanding why my school put me in English as a Second Language classes, or why people asked if I knew how to make sushi. Or why I got weird looks for the lunches I brought from home. I also remember writing “I wish I was American” on my bedroom wall over and over and over again because even though I knew I was American, my classmates and peers never once let me forget that I was also Asian. Because at the time, I didn’t know that to them — American meant white.

I want to share a story about my mother. She came to the United States in 1986 with just a small suitcase of clothes and photographs. She met up with my father, and for the next ten years they lived off of what they could find on street corners, the generosity of friends, and pure resilience in pursuit of the American Dream. I didn’t know any of my parents immigrant story until I got to high school. Then little by little, my mom started telling me about her life, as if suddenly realizing that if she didn’t tell someone, those stories would be lost forever. She talked to me about how scared she was one night when the man living next door banged on my parents door screaming at them to go back to where they came from, that America didn’t want them. She told me about how one winter, she and my father lived in a small room above a slaughterhouse where the walls were sheet metal. We would sit in the car together and she’d twist her wedding ring while telling me how different life in America was from the dreams she had as a teenager.

I remember one of the first things she taught me was how to say no. She said to me when I was around 6 that “people were going to try to take advantage of us because they think we’re weak. We have to be loud and we have to be strong when we say no”. I also learned how to handle the age old question of “but where are you really from?” From her. She would always answer Phoenix, Arizona. Or Louisville, Kentucky. Or Binghamton, New York. She never gave an inch. My mothers stories live on in me through my life. Her influence shines through me.

I feel the same way about the rich, beautiful, colorful history that I became aware of after high school. An impulsive google search of “what does Asian American” mean led to open door after open door, my blinders had been taken off and I started to see the world as it really was. With every new face, name, and date that I read about, I felt more alive than I ever had before. It felt like coming home. There was no turning back. The stories of the people who came before me live on in me and thrive in the work that I do online and on the ground.

One thing I’ve always believed is that in order for us to move forward and grow, we have to know where we came from and where our roots are. Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. How much of our own history as Asian Americans do we not know? Are we not aware of?

Our stories have been erased, whether it was by negligence or intent. But they will never be forgotten. We carry their legacies in our hearts and their work on our backs. We keep the fight going because they built the blueprints we rely on, we could not be here without them. And that’s why storytelling is so important. I use my blog and my privilege of having a microphone and a platform to tell my stories, my mothers stories, and to bring awareness to others stories. With every life experience that we share, we archive it in our minds, on paper, online, everywhere. They will never die.

But they do have to be accessible. Now, I’ll be honest — I have never been the “smart Asian”. Just as Mee Moua talked about earlier, I felt a way about some of my Asian American classmates. I actually ended up working at a nonprofit with one classmate, and I was shocked to learn that she felt that there wasn’t that much racism or discrimination in our hometown. And then I started thinking, wow either I’m over sensitive or she’s delusional. But what was the difference? She was in the cocoon of the international baccalaureate program, in all honors classes, etc. I was on academic probation and getting detention for truancy. I go to a lower tier public school where I’m pretty sure very few of the students know what the words schema or oppression mean. We as activists, or as academics who have a passion for social justice, have to remember where we came from. We have to remember our communities and our roots and be able to use our privilege as politicized and educated individuals to go back to our communities and keep fighting.

In my journey of identity and social consciousness, I’ve gone through a few phases. I remember when I first started Fascinasians there was so much anger. I felt so much hatred and bitterness because I felt like the peaceful childhood and adolescence I remembered had been a lie. All the microaggressions, the racism the sexism, the classism, it had all built up inside me because I didn’t have the words or perspective to talk about it and process it. I was so angry that my history had been kept from me, and I was bitter that I went through everything seemingly alone. Coincidentally, this was around the time my mother and I started sharing our stories with each other. So I eventually could learn from her resilience and her strength and her endurance. I found my voice through blogging and writing about my experiences as an Asian American woman, an Asian American feminist. Words are our weapons: they are our shields and our swords and we have to yield it deliberately and with consideration.

I think that we, as activists, have to remember one important thing in all that we do. We don’t have to be the first to do something, we don’t have to be the pioneers. What matters is that we take action. Period. We are privileged to have access to the history and information that’s led to our social and political consciousness. Privileged to be surrounded by mentors and elders who can guide us. Privileged to be able to learn about what identity formation even means. And especially privileged to be in higher education institutions. Build off of that foundation, so we can grow bigger and stronger and taller than ever before. So that in the future, our community can keep feeding off of these legacies. With a hope like that, who knows what we’re capable of.

I’ll never forget the urgency in her voice when my mother told me these stories. I wanted to tell her that these stories wouldn’t fade away or disappear, they live on in my memory and in my life. One day I’ll tell my own family about where we came from and what we went through. Oppressors can try to erase us from history to keep us down, but we will never forget where our roots are. We will never forget the sacrifices it took to reach where we are today.

I was lucky to hear Mee Moua speak at ECAASU 2014. She said, “we must never let the activist in all of us die. We must never let that fire go out”. Our shared history resurfaces in the way we live our lives. I intend to live well, and to do my mother, and the many many Asian Americans who’ve inspired me, justice.


We’ve been ‘cool’ for a very long time, and in that sense our culture has been taken for a very long time. How do we define when we’ve arrived? It’s not when a young, white girl in Berkley is wearing nice garlands or those nice buddhist beads, or wearing bindi. I don’t feel like my life in anyway has been improved because she has the ability to do that and thinks that’s okay. My life hasn’t improved. The life of my mother has not improved. Our voice as a community within this economic system has not improved. 

A good friend of mine, she’s south Indian, and she grew up in Connecticut. Her mom would make her wear her bindi and go to school. She would get harassed by kids… she would be harassed so much that what she would do, is that because she was so ashamed to have that bindi on her head, she would leave her house, wipe it off… and then come home and put it back on.

To the point where a child would have to think about such a deliberate attempt to refute their own culture I think is pretty profound. If there’s a white girl wearing a bindi walking down central avenue in the heights, she’s not considered a dot head, even though she has a dot on her head.

For me, the feeling is disgust and anger. The way I look at it if I see it, I just get so mad because I think, how dare this person be able to wear that, or hold that, or put that statue in her house and not take any of the oppression for that. How dare they. That’s not fair. We have to take so much heat and repression for expressing ourselves.

I’m going to rip that thing off your head, and I’m going to scrub that mehndi off your hands, because you don’t have the right to wear it. Until the day when you walk in our shoes, and you face what we face… the pain, and the shame, and the hurt, and the fear, you don’t have the right to wear that. It is not your right, and you’re not worthy of it. I feel like it’s so superficial and it’s so disrespected. One day, wake up, be me, and then you’ll see how powerful what you’re wearing is. ”

—Raahi Reddy, Yellow Apparel: When the Coolie Becomes Cool 

(via fascinasians)

As terms like womanism, intersectionality, and women of color enter the mainstream, it is important to remember that they do not exist in a vacuum. They were created by Black women to address the ways in which we feel excluded from mainstream feminism. Kimberle Crenshaw, Patricia Hill Collins, Loretta Ross, Audre Lorde, and bell hooks are more than names to pluck convenient quotes from when it suits you. They are Black feminists, and they are part of a long tradition that can be traced back to Ida B. Wells-Barnett and beyond. So when your idea of feminism in 2013 harkens back to the racist, sexist rhetoric thrown at Wells-Barnett by Susan B. Anthony and Frances Willard, then what kind of movement are you trying to build? If your definition of feminism is rooted in Mammy myths, what can be built with you? Are you fighting for equality for all, or your right to be equal in oppressing Black women?
- Mikki Kendall (karnythia), "For Black Women, Everything is a Feminist Issue" (via so-treu)

(via angrywocunited)


Renhui Zhao
What’s Missing from the Amy Chua Conversation


If you’re like me, you’re sick of hearing about Amy Chua and the uproar over her latest book, The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America. Since catching wind of the premise of the book, which deploys outdated understandings of cultural determinism to argue that cultural characteristics are responsible for the success of certain groups in America, the blogosphere has (rightfully) erupted in outrage, publishing a multitude of pieces lambasting Chua’s thesis and its racial and ethnocentric implications.

I get it—Chua’s argument is flawed, poorly researched, and fails to grasp how structural inequality and institutional racism impact upward mobility (and lack thereof) in the United States. But something is missing from the conversation: a discussion of Chua’s role in supporting American structures of racism that depend on a distinction between model minorities and problem minorities. What’s more, criticisms have failed to link Chua’s rhetoric to the larger history of Asian Americans being used to perpetuate (and at times themselves participating in) anti-Black and anti-Latino racism. 


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Megan Wilson, Surface, 2014

is a word we barely know. but know we are not.

so then i say this to you.
you. with the low sun face. with the burning mountain eyes.
you. with the skin is that is always
dusted with stars.
you. with the soil in your thigh. arm. lips.
you person of color.
you are precious.
you are precious.
you are precious.
spend time with this.

- nayyirah waheed (via nayyirahwaheed)

(via nayyirahwaheed)


Hollie Fernando
if i have written something, a poem, and you have been moved. have received something. and you are not a poc, human to human, of course i am warmed that my words have touched you. i simply assert that you do not make your receiving, central. that you do not remove the nucleus from my poetry, or their matter. that you honor the boundaries. address, that I am gleaning details from us, and gifting them to us. celebrate a woc who is yarning and weaving mornings and nights, into softness, water, healing, warmth, and star from the shared experiences of herself and others. i assert that you respect their receiving as paramount. that what is theirs is coming home to them, and that this, is what is most heart wrenchingly beautiful and extraordinary. there are many poc artists who do not make this assertion, who offer all the food on their plates, to all and everyone. so, from them eat. freely. but do not expect that from us all. respect that the magic we put in our food will often times be for ourselves. first. and there is everything healthy in tending to your own gardens. everything right in protecting your gardens, in a world where your gardens are consistently threatened with fire.
- nayyirah waheed (via nayyirahwaheed)

Andrew Smith

All she wanted
was find a place to stretch her bones
A place to lengthen her smiles
and spread her hair
A place where her legs could walk
without cutting and bruising
A place unchained
She was born out of ocean breath.
I reminded her;
‘Stop pouring so much of yourself
into hearts that have no room for themselves
Do not thin yourself
Be vast
You do not bring the ocean to a river’

- you are oceanic - Tapiwa Mugabe, (via tapiwamugabe)

(via tapiwamugabe)


From California
Gregory Halpern
There is a reason my parents crossed the Atlantic. For those of us entrenched in our families’ Herculean feat of immigration, some unnamed desire to remain hopeful cannot be vanquished. Perhaps it shouldn’t. Our families fought borders, oceans, legal systems, and their own fear. If not for ourselves, we owe it to them to reclaim this democratic process. We owe it to them to ensure their hard-fought rights to vote, to fight, to be heard will not disappear quicker than our accents.
This means mobilizing the way our families did so beautifully. This means coming together the way we have seen our communities do. This means research on voting rights legislation, drives to ensure our communities are registered, hours spent working with no pay. This means continuing a legacy whose inheritance emboldens us. We owe it to them to ensure that our voices will not stop with the state-sanctioned methods of political engagement, that we will think creatively to overcome boundaries and negotiate disparate realities the same way they teach us to do each day. The American dream may be an illusion, but the immigrant child never sleeps.
- Earning My Parents’ Stars and Stripes: An Immigrant Kid’s Perspective on Citizenship and the Voting Rights Act (via wocinsolidarity)

(via wocinsolidarity)


Buddha’s Ghost
broken english
- when my mother struggles to spell a word in english
I want to break the entire language
into little pieces
so the edges of these letters
will stop cutting her

— aysha via Diaspora Defiance
(via decolonizehistory)

(via angrywocunited)