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invisibility/being raced/vulnerability

calamityschild's picture

in a comment that anne left on the first english paper i wrote in our 360: "I also note that you don’t mention your own positionality in the complicatedly linked stories you tell here...Your difficult, stretching story makes me wonder what other stories of being Asian-American might deepen even further the probing account you give here of 'looking for innocence.’” 

in class i said something along the lines of, “i’ve spent my whole life trying to get other people to see me like i’m white.” what i mean is that, for a long time, i did not want my race to influence other peoples' perceptions of me (see: discourses of colorblindness). but that’s changed for me, because i think now that the people who don’t “see” my race are not seeing a significant part of me. my request to be racially visible, however, is complicated by the cultural representation of asian americans, which is often formed in terms of invisibility. 

and i want to bring up how it has offered me a certain degree of protection—a sheltering from racial stress and visibility. this has been granted to me through my proximity to whiteness as a light-skinned east asian person. it has allowed me to extricate myself from black/white binaries, to exist (when it is convenient or safe) as a spectator to these binaries. it has lead to, what feels to me like, a unique kind of racial signification-at once markedly “other,” and simultaneously given the ability to recede into the background, into invisibility. being exoticized into obscurity obscures the way other people can see you. 

paulo freire says "washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.” if i let myself remain unseen, uncalled on, unengaged—then i am upholding the status quo. often i feel like the in-between space i occupy as a non-white and non-black person makes it easy to fall into a course of inaction. i find this problematic as heck(!!!!!) and so...i want to be open to experiences of being explicitly and publicly raced. i want to be more conscious of myself in this way. 

mitsuye yamada says, "invisibility is an unnatural disaster.” invisibility is not the nature of my race. being asian does not make me predisposed to invisibility-but there are aspects of east asian american culture and the construction of the east asian american identity that make it possible for me to be less visible, and to feel less raced than other racial groups. (for context, i’m thinking of confucian values of passivity, conservatism, and and quietism, and i’m thinking of yellow-peril characterizations of east asian americans that cast us as vague, encroaching foreigners.)

i want to recognize that i have acted in ways that enhance my visibility and ways that have reduced it. and i want to recognize that it is hypocritical for me to keep asking for asian american visibility and to be unwilling to implicate myself in everything i think about. 

thank you for listening to me today, i am sending love to those who offered comfort and hugs to me in my delicate emotional state in class <3