These Eyes

Some people say that, “Asians have it all”
Now, I don’t want to be Ms. Picky-picky
but basically all of that statement is wrong 


You don’t see my suffering
Not when my boobs are like this
and my eyes are like this
And you think you know me
before I can tell you that
No, I’m from New York.
I was born there.
No, I’m not North Korean
No, I don’t eat dogs
But you like hot dogs
and I don’t eat pork
so I wonder who’s the sick one here?


You forget that I’m a person
You forget that my Asianness
doesn’t qualify me to be the face of Asians everywhere
And if I were Caucasian, no one would tell me
that I look like a Brit? or a German?
But right now, they wouldn’t call me an American either


And, no, your love affair with my culture doesn’t justify
making me an Other
Yellow Fever sounds like jaundice.
It’s a soft kind of racism
that looks like appreciation but
liking the taste of a fruity drink
doesn’t take out the booze
So when you think, “feisty for an Asian” is flattery
then you’re already drunk
When you want to judge me by
black hair, small stature, willing body
by how good of a good girl I am,
you should know that I was not “Made in China”,
my life does not come cheap


Your bootleg love produced this headline
“College Students Reveal the Dumbest Things They’ve Heard in Class
and It’s Hilarious”
and this quote,
“I wish more Asians would kill themselves more so my major would be less competitive,”
24 entire hours after a student was found dead
on campus, by jumping
I waited for the punchline
before realizing that it was me
and the joke
it was me
Doing an endless standup routine
unless I was sitting down, shutting up
being invisible, like it isn’t enough that
you expect from me on the SAT,
ACT, IB, AP, midterm, final… Perfection.
You also have to act like I don’t deserve to be here


Asian bodies aren’t just for display, we
take up space, our
voices raise and shake the dust
traditions aren’t just ancient entertainment
edged with rust
they’re our battle cry
Are you surprised that we can celebrate our heritage
without losing our heads to it?


And until you get it
I’m unapologetic
and even then, why should I say
“sorry” in a society that expects so much from me
and so little in the way of creativity
as if all Asians have the same bamboo-raft sob story
and the books that we write aren’t worth writing
unless the protagonist’s white or
unless the protagonist’s white
finding her ancestral identity
as if nothing in me is interesting unless it’s co-opted history
Like it’s not authentic if it’s not hard to get


And it’s not hard to get


My point is
my personality recedes past the rice paddies of my yellow face
until I’m not there at all
Instead of me, you see
Kabuki dolls and kimchi
Dragon ladies and Tiger Moms
You see me through the 2D glasses of “manga”
like I’m a pin-up cartoon
with a child voice and adult ideas
of what to do to your body
When you see me, you see
Bound feet, Kama Sutra, green tea


I am not your model minority
Not your mockery
Not your muse
Not your idea of what I am
or your judgment that puts “what” above who I am
in your mental list of things that matter
and I matter,
I matter, so


Where do you get off thinking chinks are blind
These eyes see through your bullshit
and backhanded compliments
These eyes see everything

DSC_0840Kat Tan is a first-year spoken word poet at UNC, majoring in Bioethics and minoring in Creative Writing. In April, she and four others will represent UNC at the national collegiate poetry slam invitational (CUPSI) at Austin, Texas. She can be found scribbling feverishly in a notebook at odd hours of the day, falling love with your laugh, and questioning everything.

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