I confess

I used to resent

This dark-haired, yellow-skinned dream I have.

This Korean dream I am

I carved, starved, punctured

I formed

my own wounded frame with these hands

my ancestors gave I used to strip it all away

Broken chopsticks and grains of sticky rice formed a trail

behind me as I picked each kernel off one by one

little by little to erase the very thing I was

and the very thing I didn’t ask to be

No more “You’re pretty for an Asian.”

No more side-eyes at my mother’s accent and my lack of one.

I just wanted

to be normal.




White America,

I still think about that third-grade lunch period when a girl asked

to try a piece of my seaweed

How she pretended to gag when she tasted it

How she ran to the bathroom while they laughed

He laughed

She laughed

I laughed

So that I wouldn’t feel so alone

So you wouldn’t think

something was wrong

with me.

White America,

I spent all of middle school listening

to you tell me I’m not pretty

You handed me a pen and told me to draw

the parts of myself I wanted to change

and I shaded myself in completely

The hair I wished was blonder

The eyes I wished were bluer

Taller, the legs I wished were longer

I was dissipating into the whiteness

Only a handful of calories in my 12-year-old body

I listened

every time you said

I wasn’t pretty

To you I was

I am

quiet, agreeable, passive

Pretty China doll

The model minority

Yet you told me

you tell me

to stand

tall, be different, don’t feed

into the stereotypes

So I resisted

And I still resist it

But how can I

when all you can see

is quiet, agreeable, passive

Pretty China doll

The model minority

Selective vision, America

White bread lunch box, striking

me with my own chopsticks,

America, you snap and my foreign

tongue burns down to ashes

You wave your hand

and Scarlett Johansson’s suddenly Asian

This is your magic trick, America.

White America,

You say we’ve made

we’re making


but how much time

do you need for your


I don’t want to play this game anymore

I want to like


I want to like


This, if nothing else, I know.

Dear America,

America is

White America

It always has been.

I want to retrace the steps

I took the broken shards

I left the grains

I threw away.

I want to take it all back

The years I wasted

in self loathing

The time I spent letting you feed

me your sour fables

No more.

I’m making

my own progress

and I’m writing

my own stories

I am taking it all back.

I’m grasping

And gripping

and reaching

and running

and soaring

And I won’t


or be silenced

I won’t let go

Because this, if nothing else, is mine.

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