on the edge of injustice

I feel on edge.
I am not an edge.

I am the strange puzzle piece in the middle, maybe,
that I can’t quite place in the broader picture. See,
my parents came with nothing, not a dream, not a vision.
Refugees, not immigrants—this wasn’t their decision.
To ABC that proudly see their parents’ sacrifice:
I can’t relate. My parents paid before they knew the price.

Enter community with minorities, call myself a POC
Speak out in solidarity. Call for strength, for unity.
But… is that my place? On whose authority?

I’m a victim, this I know, white progressives tell me so.
But when I’m in a room of color, I feel light compared to others.
My burden’s light, I sleep at night, I fight the fight but it’s not mine.

I’ll chant and walk beside you, with my hands up
Don’t shoot—me down, but I don’t know how it feels to fear a cop.
I don’t know how it feels to fear the threat of deportation.
I don’t know how it feels to fear my homeland poisoned, taken.
All I know is “chink” and “gook”—words of discrimination,
But it’s sticks and stones that break your bones, not micro-aggressions.
Listen, I know oppression isn’t a competition, but…
I don’t know how, or where, or if I’ll join the conversation.

Some days I’m more aware of race.
Jeers toward my favorite foods made them lose their taste,
And my eyes would fill with tears no matter what their shape.
But other days… Other days, I wear a different face:
—You know, the one that listens to Taylor Swift and eats, like, foh instead of pho?
Listen, I know oppression isn’t a competition, but…
I won’t deny that there’s a kind of relief in being a chameleon.

Schrödinger’s model minority—I am both privileged and not.
POC blame me for Peter Liang, but hey, white guys think I’m hot.
I complain about whitewashed Asians in Doctor Strange while people out there getting shot.
Listen, I know oppression isn’t a competition, but…
Am I privileged? Am I not? Am I the kettle or the pot?
I have broken Vietnamese. I was born here, not overseas.
And my heritage is something that I save for special occasions,
Like my ao dai that gathers dust when it’s not the New Year season.
I’m scared that I pull it out whenever it’s convenient,
A silk shield against my fears that I’m privileged or racist.
Listen, I know oppression isn’t a competition, but…
I almost envy my parents because their broken English cannot be erased, and—

There’s a place for every puzzle piece
But not, it seems, a place for me

This poem was featured in Issue 2 of the OU Forum on November 29, 2016.


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