Have They Run Out of White Tears Yet?

Calvin Trillin
Calvin Trillin

Have they run out of White tears yet?
Racism, after all, we can’t as easily forget.

Days ago, Calvin Trillin penned a foolish ode
to Orientalism, chinoiserie, and General Tso’s.
Trillin appropriated China’s provincial diversity,
and re-processed it into no more than a foodie’s troublesome adversity.
Twenty eight lines of witless, badly written drivel,
to lament that China is not so conveniently artificial
as orange sauce basted fried chicken bits,
or stir-fried noodle counterfeits,
or tasteless envelopes for pseudo-Confucian tidbits,
or any mix of cream cheese and crab could possibly transmit.

Shitty poetry notwithstanding, this is no harmless literary spree,
and no ingenious criticism of the “food-obsessed bourgeoisie.”
Canton, Shanghai, Tibet, Szechuan,
Shaanxhi, Fukien, Uigher, Hunan,
are not just fantastic places with funny names,
or mere source material for the latest Williamsburg foodie craze.
These lands are home to real people with real lives,
who don’t just disappear once “recategorized” from coveted to contrived.
Most violent is this White poet’s political erasure of China’s marginalized groups,
whose struggles for equality (here and abroad) far outweigh his pithy desire for ma po tofu.
Instead, ‘who we are’ is colonized, flattened, and erased in general,
replaced with a thinly-veiled exaltation of the classic Yellow Peril.

Trillin treats China’s diversity as ‘weirdly Asian’ gobbledygook,
even as our culinary traditions White people shamelessly took.
Our food and culture they celebrate and claim,
while our anti-racist outrage they demand we tame.
“Be good, Asians,” Trillin says, “Know your place.
Never mind that your traditions I’m about to deface.
Crack a smile. Be a doll. Cook me your food.
I’ve no real interest in who’s actually who.”

So why, I ask, is there always shock and surprise,
when we resist, speak out, step up and rise?
As if they think we’ve already forgotten Michael Derrick Hudson’s yellowface —
a White poet’s fake Asian name used to push aside real Asians in a poetry footrace.
So, once more into the breach, my friends!
No rest until literary racism (of Trillin’s ilk) ends!
This week we clapped back against Trillin’s bigotry with trademark cogence,
calling it a “ridiculous piece of self-centered white western indulgence.”

In due course, Trillin emailed a weak sauce non-apology for his racism,
saying his poorly-written doggerel was all in good fun.
Pretty soon, we’ll hear the charges of humorlessness.
Also, the free speech hand-wringing and fuss.
“We were joking! It’s satire! Learn to laugh!”
As if the victims of racism bear responsibility for your racist gaffe.

Inevitably, the White tears will come,
along with cries of “what more could we have done?”
Here’s a hint for Trillin and other “clever” artists:
Next time, think twice before you decide to go full throttle racist.

I’ve got no patience for those privileged cheeks so wet.
I’m too busy enduring your racist bullshit to care if you’ve run out of White tears yet.

Note: Jenn is not a poet, and should not be judged for what she writes at 2am in the morning, four hours before she’s supposed to catch a flight.

Read More: Have They Run Out of White Poems Yet?

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  • trer24

    The difference between your poem and Trillian’s is that I can clearly understand what you mean from the words you wrote. Some of Trillian’s defenders have argued that if we “knew” who he was and “understood” the context of satirizing NYC foodie culture, we’d understand and appreciate his poem. But if it was really a well crafted poem, why do we need to go through those not-so-obvious steps to get what he’s saying?

    So I’m just going to conclude it’s more racist drivel, using an interpretation based on my life experiences.

  • Lol thanks! I’ll be the first to say its a terrible poem, but I’ll gladly take anyone who says its better than trillin’s!

  • Guest

    Damn, this is some Tupac shit right here, Jen (lol). If you rap this over a Kanye beat you’ll be going places. : )

  • Asian culture is so diverse, and so incredibly nuanced, that it takes turning off about 75% of one’s brain cells to approach the level of ignorance that Trillin demonstrates in his poem.

  • Mayi Kulan

    Does Jenn ruminate / on the people of Naples / when she eats pizza?
    🙂

  • LOL, it’s not but I appreciate the kindness! 🙂

  • Kumar Ramanathan

    Calvin Trillin was on the Daily Show earlier this week talking about how much “empathy” he has and how that’s why he’s able to write about race. Reminded of this wonderful piece, his milquetoast form of orientalism, and how white writers so often get away with being lazy and casually racist just because they have the novelty value of being white people who write about race.