Quoted: Bao Phi on Grappling with Race

One of the insidious benefits of being a person of color raised in Minnesota is to be acutely aware of how race impacts you on several different levels.  The fact that I have to explain much of my story before people can even accept that I have the right to call myself a Minnesotan is telling in and of itself.  I can’t tell you the number of times that artists who have moved here from other cities have been considered Minnesotan or honored with trailblazer status before me, even if I’ve spent all but about 6 months of my life being raised in Phillips, and even if I’ve been a performer right here in Minneapolis since 1991.  Because I’m seen as Asian, not American, I can excel at things but I can never be considered a creator.  And then I’m told by people of all races that Asian Americans are the most privileged of all minorities and in fact most people don’t even consider us people of color, and in order to be down, we have to show solidarity with other communities (who are never pressured to show solidarity to Asians).  Even if we have proof that overwhelmingly shows that these are false assumptions, they are still believed to be the truth even amongst those who would pride themselves on being leftists and community organizers.

Throughout my development, I have felt that pressure, to conform or assimilate to a population more visible, more respected, more feared and envied than mine.  And in the past, I have.  I dissed my own communities for my own gain, and dealt with the immense wells of self-loathing I harbored for myself and my people.  And that temptation, to submit, still exists in me, because really, who wants to be hated for bringing up that loathsome specter called race?  Especially for a group of people who are continually told that we have no right to complain, that we should be thankful for what we have?

A friend of mine just emailed me about this strange phenomenon we face, that we are intensely scrutinized while remaining completely invisible.  People talk about us, hate us, and we aren’t expected to ever talk back, fight back.  We belong nowhere.  We have no rights to anything.  Our bodies are not ours, and we have no voices.

— Bao Phi, the Blaog at StarTribune.com

(Thanks to Leah for the tip!)

(Image Credit: Hyphen Magazine)