Archives for posts with tag: people of color

since i’ve been living in korea, moving from place to place, i’ve had limited or no access to new books in english, especially the kinds i’m looking for. the two books i brought with me are gloria anzaldua’s borderlands and audre lorde’s sister outsider, which i had already finished by the time my plane landed, but they have been a constant source of new truths and inspiration.

by now, i’ve read through both of them multiple times, continuously going back to meditate on different parts. both books so profoundly and beautifully explore the questions that i am always contemplating, the frameworks through which i filter my experiences, and have become especially relevant now that i am confronting my history and roots in a new way. even though i experience these questions as a korean american and do not pretend to claim the chicana or black/caribbean american experiences, i feel that the works delve into a place so much deeper than those identifications, rearranging the world itself to make space for their truths. it has been like sitting with a mentor, who knows what you’ve been through and understands how you think, but can always bring out your own thoughts in a way that transforms how you understand them.

Imagethis past week, i’ve been studying borderlands like a bible. for some reason, i’ve felt drawn to a different part of it every day, throughout the day. my amazing friend stephanie introduced the book to me, and this is just one of the ways in which many of my friends have really stayed with me throughout this trip. it is a gift beyond words to have kindred spirits out there who are always there, in that place deepest and most formative to who i am, no matter where in the world we might be.

i just wanted to share a few parts, that are only flickers of the light that is anzaldua’s work:

“writing produces anxiety. looking inside myself and my experience, looking at my conflicts, engenders anxiety in me. being a writer feels very much like being a chicana, or being queer–a lot of squirming, coming up against all sorts of walls. or its opposite: nothing defined or definite, a boundless, floating state of limbo where i kick my heels, brood, percolate, hibernate and wait for something to happen.

living in a state of psychic unrest, in a Borderland, is what makes poets write and artists create. it is like a cactus needle embedded in the flesh. it worries itself deeper and deeper, and i keep aggravating it by poking at it. when it begins to fester i have to do something to put an end to the aggravation and to figure out why i have it. i get deep down into the place where it’s rooted in my skin and pluck away at it, playing it like a musical instrument–the fingers pressing, making the pain worse before it can get better. then out it comes. no more discomfort, no more ambivalence. until another needle pierces the skin. that’s what writing is for me, an endless cycle of making it worse, making it better, but always making meaning out of the experience, whatever it may be.”

“the work of mestiza consciousness is to break down the subject-object duality that keeps her a prisoner and to show in the flesh and through the images in her work how duality is transcended. the answer to the problem between the white race and the colored, between males and females, lies in healing the split that originates in the very foundation of our lives, our culture, our languages, our thoughts. a massive uprooting of dualistic thinking in the individual and collective consciousness is the beginning of a long struggle, but one that could, in our best hopes, bring us to the end of rape, of violence, of war.”

“whites, along with a good number of our own people, have cut themselves off from their spiritual roots, and they take our spiritual art objects in an unconscious attempt to get them back. if they’re going to do it, i’d like them to be aware of what they are doing and to go about doing it the right way. let’s all stop importing greek myths and western cartesian split point of view and root ourselves in the mythological soil and soul of this continent. white america has only attended to the body of the earth in order to exploit it, never to succor it or to be nurtured in it. instead of surreptitiously ripping off the vital energy of people of color and putting it to commercial use, whites could allow themselves to share and exchange and learn from us in a respectful way. by taking up curanderismo, Santeria, shamanism, Taoism, Zen, and otherwise delving into the spiritual life and ceremonies of multi-colored people, Anglos would perhaps lose the white sterility they have in their kitchens, bathrooms, hospitals, mortuaries and missile bases. Though in the conscious mind, black and dark may be associated with death, evil and destruction, in the subconscious mind and in our dreams, white is associated with disease, death and hopelessness. let us hope that the left hand, that of darkness, of femaleness, of ‘primitiveness,’ can divert the indifferent, right-handed, ‘rational’ suicidal drive that, unchecked, could blow us into acid rain in a fraction of a millisecond.”

“Soy un amasamiento, I am an act of kneading, of uniting and joining that not only has produced both a creature of darkness and a creature of light, but also a creature that questions the definitions of light and dark and gives them new meanings.
We are the people who leap in the dark, we are the people on the knees of the gods. In our very flesh, (r)evolution works out the clash of cultures. It makes us crazy constantly, but if the center holds, we’ve made some kind of evolutionary step forward.”

sidenote: i have yet to find a korean american woman writer who speaks to me as much as audre lorde, gloria anzaldua, jamaica kincaid, kiran desai, and the list goes on… this is probably from a lack of trying on my part and a lack of exposure for those writers. if anyone has recommendations…

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10-6

now on a flight to jeju, after our family reunion in gyungido. excited, but also nervous, because i know jeju exists at the fray of transformation in korea, and its history is one of incredible struggle and loss, including a genocide that has gone unnoticed by the world.

it was joy to spend time with my whole family in korea for the first time in ten years. though i live on the other side of the world and have seen them only a few times throughout my life, i have always felt very close to them somehow.

spending time with family made me revisit the constant struggle in my mind between individualistic vs. communal ways of life. while i have always idealized family, community, and culture, i realize that doing so often rejects and ignores my own complicated identity. i was born and raised in american society, and while valuing family and community as necessary to our survival as human beings, i have also existed in such a way that my daily life has become somewhat independent of these structures.

as a person who lives in her head, i like being alone most of the time and don’t function very well in large groups. i have always had trouble reconciling myself with the inherited cultures, traditions and social norms of both my korean family and american society. i came to be who i am now by questioning everything and often breaking away from expectations so that i could choose the reality and standards for my universe. while i love my family and recognize how they have informed my life, i would not be able to fully thrive within that space alone. and though i’m often an apologist for the value and even superiority of communal lifestyles, much of my identity has formed in opposition to the expectations of conformity to any community’s structure. i have come about my own convictions in a process of choosing what i know to be right, and have refused much of what is asked of me to participate in the community i idealize.

the things about me which i fiercely protect, i also end up putting on a pedestal and accepting unconditionally. my korean identity and family structure are also the parts of me i have had to resist and recreate for myself and my mental/spiritual survival. while as an american, they are the marginalized parts of me i must fight to love, as a korean, my failures in these spaces have been used to make me feel inadequate, inappropriate, and alien in different ways.

none of this is wrong, however, but a necessary contradiction of surviving as a bicultural person in a world that marginalizes you twice for it rather than valuing the added depth of your experiences. while i create these nostalgic representations to barricade myself against the constant pressures to assimilate and reject my heritage, i realize that what i most sincerely value is the experience of living as a person of color in the US, and especially as a second generation immigrant with very concrete ties to another world, another way of imagining the universe.

the experiences of a person of color in the US expose us to constant struggle and trauma, but simultaneously give us access to a world of profound understanding and exploration of our existence. they privilege us with unique perspective, and as people who live in the US, where there may be a more culturally acceptable tendency to question and correct things about society that we don’t appreciate as individuals, and more opportunities (though rarely used positively by most americans) for us to consider each others’ differences in order to arrive at a reformed understanding, we have more room to create new communities and cultures of understanding. it allows our imaginations to transcend what any of the cultures we were born into can provide for us.

i would not choose to exist in any other way than a second generation immigrant poc in the us. despite the anger, pain and frustration we endure in response to the constant attacks and messages thrown at us that we are pathological or nonexistent, we survive and reach a place of human understanding that once we experience, we could not live without.