It matters who tells our stories and how.
The violence against marginalized communities is rooted in erasure.
Every word spoken is a stitch woven into systems which weaves its way into our DNA. The words unspoken, the apathy left unchecked today, are woven into policy and pop culture tomorrow.
Terms like “Chinavirus” and racist portrayals in entertainment embed themselves in our cultural mind, which accumulate into the acts of physical violence we’ve seen for too long.
When the Transatlantic Railroad was completed on May 10th, 1869, an infamous picture was taken of the final golden spike—the picture included none of the estimated 20,000 Chinese railroad workers who made up 90% of the labor force.
The railroad company kept no death records but about 1,200 Chinese bodies were recovered at the sites. The Chinese laborers were paid 30 to 50% less than the white workers.
It was thirteen years later that Senator John F. Miller argued for the Chinese Exclusion Act, which banned all Chinese from immigrating to America and was passed within hours. Miller called the Chinese “machine-like” with “muscles of iron,” while at the same time were called immoral and filthy.
Other examples of erasure:
– Chester B. Cebulski, the editor-in-chief at Marvel Comics, posed as a Japanese writer Akira Yoshida for a year. Chester, who is white, was given a pass for racist portrayals because he was an “Asian writer.” When he was outed in 2017, he called his theft “old news.”
– Many white artists have exploited “Asian-sounding” names, including David Wong (Jason Pargin), poet Yi-Fen Chou (Michael Derrick Hudson), and Keiko Yamada (Larry Clark), who pretended to be a Japanese female composer.
– Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American actress, rose to stardom in the 1920s but was prevented from starring as the Chinese lead in the film adaptation of Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth. The lead went to a white actress who wore yellowface. Wong was offered the role of the villain, which she declined.
Despite this erasure, we have always fought back. In June of 1867, about 3000 of the Chinese railroad laborers went on strike for better pay and conditions. It was the largest strike in labor history at the time. The company did not negotiate any of the terms but eventually raised wages, though not as high as the white workers.
The model minority myth is just that: a myth.
We will always be more.
Growing up as the only Floridian Korean I knew, I went ragged trying to be white, studying all things American, soon forgetting my language. For me, *white supremacy* meant I dreamed in white. I was told it was right. But I am waking to a better dream: I have always belonged.
I no longer dream in white.
I dream in colors.
I no longer dream of blending with others.
I dream of ensuring no one else feels other.
I dream of returning to ourselves.
I dream of ancestors who always dreamed of what we could become.