Sorry to bother you again on this topic, but it seems as though my asks on this are either getting lost or are being passed over. If admins don’t want it up, an explanation as to why would be really appreciated, because this is a subject that’s really been bothering me, and as an angry Asian girl, I thought this was the right place to find some answers.
I originally asked a question regarding Lucy Liu and her interview with David Letterman. Specifically, the part where she specifies that she likes to excercise indoors, because if she were to excercise outside, she would get dark and start to look “a little Filipino.” Well gosh, as a Filipino, I’d say I look VERY Filipino- so yeah, I took offense. But then others started making me feel bad for feeling upset, saying things like “you’re overreacting,” “do you feel THAT bad about yourself that you have to take offense to something like that?” “shut up already, she’s Asian too, so what’s the big deal?”
This last one really bothered me. Because she IS Asian, but still, it just made this huge gap so much more apparent. Like in a nutshell, I’m the BAD, lesser kind of Asian you wouldn’t want to be, implying that there are others more valuable, superior compared to us. That’s how it made me feel. That this actress, who I looked up to and felt a slight connection with because we share the same race, thought less of me because what? Some of us have dark skin? It’s embarrassing, but I’ve always felt like I was looked down on for being Filipino, and when I was younger, even blindly wished that I was born a different ethnicity. I’ve been told things like, “Filipino? What’s that? You’re not Asian, aren’t you Spanish/Mexican/Pacific Islander?” or “You don’t look Japanese/Chinese/Korean/Vietnamese/other well-known Asian ethnicity, so you CAN’T be Asian! Quit lying! (Which is really annoying in itself- like being Asian isn’t a race, it’s some sort of special club I’m not allowed in, so I have to lie about being in it)” And it usually is because I’m dark and all anyone every sees, usually in the media, is a light-skinned Asian.
That’s why it bothers me. It made me feel like an outsider, or a black sheep to my own race. It hurt my feelings, and everyone just wanted to sweep it under the rug, because she’s famous. Because she’s Asian also. Because she made an apology, which I found was very flimsy. That dark skin wouldn’t match her role set in winter? So then why mention looking Filipino in the first place? Would a Filipino not fit that role? I couldn’t accept this, it just didn’t make sense to me. It looked more like an attempt to quietly hush it away, than an actual apology. My feelings are still hurt. I’m not blaming Lucy Liu or trying to hate on her. But honestly, a proper apology would have made a difference. Actually thinking about it and how she basically said “Ew, I wouldn’t want to be YOU” and offering up a thoughtful apology would have meant the world to me. Just because she’s famous and an Asian doesn’t absolve her of criticism from other Asians. I still feel like she has a dislike for Filipinos, and makes me wonder how many other people might have a dislike for me, simply because of who I was born. No closure.
I’m still trying to love myself for who I am, and it’s really hard when things like this happen, especially when someone you think is on your side is against you. Shadeism is a messed up thing. According to my family, I’d be SO much prettier if I wasn’t so damn dark. And I’m not even that dark. I know more Filipinos darker than myself, who I can only hope don’t go through this sort of discrimination, or worse. I used to spend a lot on skin whitening products and spend a lot of time indoors myself, before I realized that that was all ridiculous. I AM pretty, even though I’m not light skinned. It just irks me that no one else is willing to see this. And what Lucy Liu did was just take in a cruel ideology and then perpetuate it, and when I spoke up on it, I was told to sit down and shut it.
But since I seem to be the only one with the issue, maybe I AM just overreacting. Since it’s out now, I won’t bring this topic back up again.
I wrote a response to this but it didn’t publish. Take two. UGH.
I kept passing up your messages about Lucy Liu because someone had brought it up earlier. They were short posts unlike this one. I apologize for ignoring your earlier messages, I didn’t realize you had more you wanted to write about it!
Anyway, despite her apology, it still completely sucks and I don’t know how much she even knows about shadeism and her own light skin privilege. I’m sure very little since she doesn’t have to engage it if she doesn’t want to.
I find that in American media, Filipin@s are often the butt of jokes if they are mentioned/represented at all. Like the Filipina nurse joke from Desperate Housewives a few years back or the gay Filipino man from Family Guy. It’s utter bullshit.
You’re not overreacting at all. Shadeism manifests itself in pretty subtle ways sometimes. Again, very sorry for passing over your earlier messages. -Kat
In sixth grade Mrs. Walker
slapped the back of my head
and made me stand in the corner
for not knowing the difference
between persimmon and precision.
How to choose
persimmons. This is precision.
Ripe ones are soft and brown-spotted.
Sniff the bottoms. The sweet one
will be fragrant. How to eat:
put the knife away, lay down newspaper.
Peel the skin tenderly, not to tear the meat.
Chew the skin, suck it,
and swallow. Now, eat
the meat of the fruit,
all of it, to the heart.
Donna undresses, her stomach is white.
In the yard, dewy and shivering
with crickets, we lie naked,
I teach her Chinese.
Crickets: chiu chiu. Dew: I’ve forgotten.
Naked: I’ve forgotten.
Ni, wo: you and me.
I part her legs,
remember to tell her
she is beautiful as the moon.
that got me into trouble were
fight and fright, wren and yarn.
Fight was what I did when I was frightened,
Fright was what I felt when I was fighting.
Wrens are small, plain birds,
yarn is what one knits with.
Wrens are soft as yarn.
My mother made birds out of yarn.
I loved to watch her tie the stuff;
a bird, a rabbit, a wee man.
Mrs. Walker brought a persimmon to class
and cut it up
so everyone could taste
a Chinese apple. Knowing
it wasn’t ripe or sweet, I didn’t eat
but watched the other faces.
My mother said every persimmon has a sun
inside, something golden, glowing,
warm as my face.
Once, in the cellar, I found two wrapped in newspaper,
forgotten and not yet ripe.
I took them and set both on my bedroom windowsill,
where each morning a cardinal
sang, The sun, the sun.
he was going blind,
my father sat up all one night
waiting for a song, a ghost.
I gave him the persimmons,
swelled, heavy as sadness,
and sweet as love.
This year, in the muddy lighting
of my parents’ cellar, I rummage, looking
for something I lost.
My father sits on the tired, wooden stairs,
black cane between his knees,
hand over hand, gripping the handle.
He’s so happy that I’ve come home.
I ask how his eyes are, a stupid question.
All gone, he answers.
Under some blankets, I find a box.
Inside the box I find three scrolls.
I sit beside him and untie
three paintings by my father:
Hibiscus leaf and a white flower.
Two cats preening.
Two persimmons, so full they want to drop from the cloth.
He raises both hands to touch the cloth,
asks, Which is this?
This is persimmons, Father.
Oh, the feel of the wolftail on the silk,
the strength, the tense
precision in the wrist.
I painted them hundreds of times
eyes closed. These I painted blind.
Some things never leave a person:
scent of the hair of one you love,
the texture of persimmons,
in your palm, the ripe weight.