Photo of Mia at 3-years-old, with short black hair and bangs. She sits on her foster mother's lap, looking at the end of a pen light. Her foster mother is Korean. She has a pink My Little Pony in her other hand. Sitting next to her foster mother is her adoptive mother, who is white.
By Guest Contributor: Mia Ives-Rublee
I spent my childhood hearing from white adults about the immoralities of Asians. I was told about how strict Asian parents were and that Koreans were too patriarchal. People would go out of their way to show me negative news articles that talked about Asians in a bad light. They insisted I was lucky to not have parents like that.
The continual feed of negative attitudes rubbed me the wrong way, making me want to be less and less connected to the Asian American community. As a child, I ascribed to the colorblind philosophy that adults pushed upon me. Oftentimes, I forgot I was Asian unless someone pointed out some physical difference I had.
I nudge my laptop and stretch my legs along the backseat. Working from home has lost its charm and extra effort needs space, so journals litter 4 sq. ft. floor mats and hide a college application essay from 11 years ago. I refresh for updates and realize that another person was shot, that he survived what eight people at two spas did not. I graze posts by women who look like me and ingest each one that I can. There is anger articulate and dismay indefinite while I flip through my papers blankly. I’m looking for the throughline of something wrong, how I’m at a loss to feel something so obvious. I’ve been American for as long as I could remember. It’s taken weeks to see who I am before that.
Mom and Dad came through JFK, closer to Ellis Island than Angel. I’m a city slicker by birth, cowkid by youth, Pinoy by milk and blood. Lola tended to her first grandchild as Mom and Dad worked when and where they had to. Memories overwritten, I imagine sewing machine laughs and strong whiffs of my forehead until Lola was pulled back to her homeland. A scattered village took place and I slept over at every Tita’s I wasn’t related to. Decor and playmates changed, but the lumpia still crunched, loganisa sizzled, fish bubbled, and rice plopped. I traded them for Lunchables at school as I liked the Reese’s and ham, water added.
Lesser tastes rhymed and stretched eyes to deem me Chinese, but I’d retort I was Filipino, even if the best movie was Mulan. When I started Spanish in first grade, the grown-ups proclaimed its shared base with Tagalog, the Philippines’ national language, yet that was an ocean away from Arizona; I wasn’t Mexican though we were the same crayons. I browned with glee on family visits and classmates would notice, often with envy as Dad confirmed. Donning my “Filipina with a Brain” shirt, I still heard “Chinese,” less insult than mislabel, but it didn’t stop me from tackling assholes. Otherwise, I was reputably high-achieving and polite, which are supposedly Asian qualities, but I’m my parents’ daughter. I remained so after the divorce, new schools and addresses, but some things had to give way.
Yet, for Elliot Rodger, this narrative is complicated by Rodger’s own tangled and confusing relationship with his racial identity: one that defies simple categorization as Rodger being straightforwardly White, or otherwise.
Artists at Play is a relatively new Asian American theatre collective in Los Angeles, and they are proud to announce the opening of their production of 99 Histories next week.
99 Histories is a play written by Julia Cho in the early 2000’s, and focuses on a young Korean American woman named Eunice — a former cello prodigy and now unmarried and pregnant — returning home to her estranged family. Upon her homecoming, Eunice sets out to mend her relationship with her own mother, Sah-Jin, an emotional process that raises issues of identity and the stigma of mental illness in the AAPI community.
I’m really excited to present the newest episode of Reappropriate: The Podcast, wherein guest Juliet Shen (@juliet_shen) of Fascinasians and I tackle the question “what is AAPI feminism?” It’s a great conversation that talks about identity, movement-building, gender & sexuality (including interracial relationships), and our role models. I hope you will take an hour to watch the podcast through YouTube above, listen to the audio only version using the mp3 player below, or download the podcast through the iTunes store.
Note: In this podcast, I use the word “crazy” a couple of times in a manner that could easily be seen as reinforcing the ableist stigma of the word as negative. I want to draw attention to this because I first want to apologize to any listeners who are offended by my use, and also to underscore that this is a personal language habit I have been actively working on for many months. In the podcast, we talk about always being self-reflective and aware of our internalized -isms as well as conscious and deliberate about everything we do; I think this is a perfect example of what we were talking about and am disappointed in myself for the usage of this word. I think activism and advocacy is always a learning process, and I am certainly not perfect when it comes to challenging my own issues. So, yes, you will hear me slip-up a couple of times in this podcast and use an ableist term, and for that I apologize.