Because I, a mestiza,
continually walk out of one culture
and into another,
because I am in all cultures at the same time
My skin is a battlefield
My skin is the war of my people
The oppression and domination of myself by my self
The mud of the battlefield runs
Thicker than blood
In my veins
I am a leper
My skin is my Juden Star
My Scarlet Letter
He held my wrist against his
Told me I(t) was beautiful
He loved my skin like a blood diamond
In a Tiffany’s ring
I learned it was not called rape
It was called civilization
When a barbarian takes a barbarian
They make a mongrel
It was not called rape
You cannot make love
You cannot make war
To a beast
My skin is a traitor
To the beast within
Do not TELL me you CANNOT SEE my skin
A flayed woman is a dead one
I am the colour of the lands you could not conquer
That night with our bodies pressed together
White on gold
I learned between my legs
You learned against my teeth
We all bleed the same
Beneath our skin
~ ~ ~
There are a lot of international students from China at the college that I live in, and let me tell you, we chafe badly together.
Identity is often about what we are not, as much as it is about what we are; and when you meet someone who is both you and not you, it sits uncomfortably. I don't think they like the idea that someone who looks like them acts like me; I am a scandal. I do not speak the language.
I tried to have lunch at a Taiwanese cafe near campus, and I'll never go there again. They were so horribly rude to me and I couldn't understand because surely they've met some Korean of Philippino or other Asian who can't speak Mandarin and then I caught them staring at my wrist, at the jade bracelet that is a symbol of an old and ancient culture that both banishes me and holds me prisoner. Sometimes it feels like a shackle.
My mother wears a jade bracelet; I've always wanted one, since I was a kid. People say it suits me, and I think yes, it should, because I am the colour of the lands that your people could not conquer; I am the colour of the earth that my jade bracelet was mined from. But let me tell you, Asian girls don't act like me. And my bracelet, the eyes of my ancestors, is with me as I am myself; when I am free. It is a silent witness to every act of sin - it clinks against every beer glass, it presses into bodies like a seal into hot wax.
People insist on talking to me in my language but it is not; it is the language of the people who never bothered to claim me, who left me for dead. At any given time I have about four languages squabbling over me, trying to take precedence; several conflicting, contradictory traditions that I am meant to honour all at once, and ultimately I fail at all of it. But then I feel guilty, guilty for not speaking in the tongues of my forebears; one day, when I am under the earth with the warriors and the mothers of kings who begot me, perhaps we will just sit in awkward silence. As I grow older I notice gaps in my parents' English and it frustrates me; but then I get angry and defensive when people mock them, or mock the mistakes I learned from them, because my dad passed to me the infamous, immense Korean pride, but then he had to swallow that pride and let a child help him write. But my own lack of words frustrates me, too. I feel like half a person, a person who can so easily be silenced. Sometimes I am embarrassed and humiliated, but other times I am just angry. I exist, as I am. I will not live my life in apology.
I have the right to wear my jade, dammit. I exist as an accident; I live in a world ashamed of my presence. I am sorry that things die with me. But with me, things will also live, and endure. After all, that's what I've done; that's what we all do. Endure, in spite of everything.