Excerpt from Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai:
More is Not Better
I now understand
when they make fun of my name,
yelling ha-ha-ha down the hall
when they ask if I eat dog meat,
barking and chewing and falling down laughing
when they wonder if I lived in the jungle with tigers,
growling and stalking on all fours.
Because Brother Khoi
nodded into my head
on the bike ride home
when I asked if kids
said the same things
at his school.
I could go back
to not understanding.
This year, I felt a different kind of sadness – a type of fleeting emotion sprinkled with a touch of hopelessness…and perhaps helplessness too. I’m not quite certain which one, so let’s say both. Why? Because I don’t know what to do with what I’ve learned about American imperialism.
The America I once knew was bright, especially to people who had left their motherland. For us, she was a new beginning. She meant opportunities, a better life, and success. But who is this America that represents life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for?
As an immigrant who has settled on the territory of the Tongva peoples, I am thankful to call this place my home. As a student at Colorado College, I want to acknowledge that this is the land of the Jicarilla Apache, Cheyenne, and Ute peoples on which I am living, breathing, and learning about settler colonialism and its legacies on the indigenous and Asian communities. I am very grateful for these opportunities and spaces to unlearn, question, and share with my fellow peers and professors, especially since the privilege I have to sit and consume information comes with a cost that people before me had shed blood for.
Throughout these blocks, I quickly realized that I am still living in an America that doesn’t belong to everyone. As I come to understand that violent histories just repeat themselves, the light at the end of the tunnel seems to flicker and fade as the image of America as a safe space for dreamers shatter. But so what? What am I going to do after learning that America has dispossessed Indigenous peoples, enslaved Africans, incarcerated Japanese Americans, criminalized Muslim Americans, refused refugees, hated Chinese Americans, and more?
At this moment, ignorance seems so blissful. Similar to how Ha, the main character from Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai, wished she could go back to not understanding the racist comments her classmates made, I sometimes wonder if it would be better for me to not know. All too often, I wish I could hide under my blanket and fall head over heels for fictional rom-com protagonists. Out of sight, out of mind – right? Not really. No matter how much I want to escape thinking about “so, what now?”, it’s constantly in the back of my mind. While understanding English made Ha angry, it also empowered her. I loved how she later used English to stand up for and protect herself. Certainly, I don’t want to turn a blind eye to the pain that nameless generations of marginalized communities have faced and are facing. I have no idea what I am exactly searching or aiming for, but I know that even if learning makes me feel sad, angry, and hopeless, it’s a much needed foundation. I also need to know what I am fighting for – whatever that may be – right?
Side note: Originally, I wanted to write a post on cliches/old sayings/ idioms that I would use to describe the literature we read. However, I decided that it just makes more sense to include it in this post, so if you noticed, there are several cliches/old sayings/ idioms here…