Dolma

Hey everyone! My name is Dolma Rabgay and I am a psychology major and Asian studies minor. I work at the ID House and am a Bridge Mentor, but in my free time, I love to do karaoke with my friends!

Posts by Dolma

Writer’s Block

This past block has reminded me that whatever form of writing I am working with, involving some kind of personal experience in my writing made the writing process considerably easier. I don’t know if the writing was better, but writing personal narratives always took less time to write and felt like less work to write. I know this is probably a good thing, but I can’t help but feel worried about what I would do when I have to write something that I cannot involve personal things in. 

Looking back at this semester, the hardest thing to write was my research proposal for cultural psychology. It took me days to write and every time I worked on it, I found myself spending hours just trying to get motivation to write. Going forward, I want to find a way to enjoy writing without involving personal experiences. I have a long journey ahead of me in the realm of higher education…which inevitably means a lot more papers to write—most of which I probably can’t include personal experiences in. 

I’m worried for the future. I mean maybe I haven’t found my “scientific” muse yet. But damn I wish I had. 

Working-class Problems

I read a paper that made me angry today (but not really today because I wrote this a while back). 

It talked about working class people versus middle people and the differences in the struggles we face. I enjoyed the paper in the beginning. It talked about the issues low-income people face trying to succeed in America. It had terms to define what I was feeling in a more academic way and research to back up that these feelings were real. It felt pretty progressive until I reached the discussion part of the paper. 

Something the paper mentioned as an “answer” to low-income people being disproportionately affected by systemic issues was “to provide them with cultural capital.” At some point, I know that this ideology was the “standard” for progressives but I have always resented it a bit. I think it’s demeaning to assume that all low-income people and POC (as this is usually applied to them as well) don’t know anything about what it takes to make it. The “tools” we need to succeed. Yeah, we may not know anything about croquet or whatever, but those things don’t really apply to the real world. 

The reality is that many (not ALL this is important) know the tools we need to have and are taught about them. However, that doesn’t mean we know how to use them. All my life I’ve been taught how to do things so I can survive but I never felt like I knew how to reproduce these things myself. 

Just providing cultural capital to marginalized societies is not as productive as people think. I don’t know the answer specifically but I do know that that isn’t it.

Decolonizing STEM

This class has reminded me that I have a long way to go before I decolonize my mind. Cultural psychology highlights how the field of psychology, and science as a whole, uses WEIRD (White, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic) as the norm for majority of our research. They are the “baseline,” the “ruler” for which we use to measure other societies.

This phenomenon isn’t always transparent, up in our faces. It can be subtle, like in the way papers phrase non-WEIRD societies’ data as “unique from” or a “deviation from the norm”.

Growing up, we always heard that actions speak louder than words, that what you do means more than what you say. And, to some extent, I still believe that to be true. But, how can we really believe that constantly reinforcing language that says one group of people are “normal” and that all others are “not normal” has no consequences?

Students look at these papers that have been published and revered by the scientific community and use them as the examples for their own papers. Researches are literally setting the blueprint for future scholars to be problematic.

Of course, with this, it is important to understand that no one and nothing can truly be unproblematic. Consistent work and intention, along with mistakes, go into this process. STEM has had a lot of problems but has also made a lot of progress. However, we should never be satisfied with being understanding at one point in time. Our community can and should do better.

Stem During Coronavirus and Protests

I don’t think I ever anticipated how difficult taking a stem class online would be. My last two blocks were humanities classes and not to say that they weren’t difficult, they definitely were, but for different reasons.

Trying to sit down and focus on watching lectures, taking notes, learning new terms (academic ways of describing feelings that BI-POC and POC already know), and making presentations took more effort than it ever required in the past. On the one hand, classes helped me get a handle on my internal schedule (time isn’t real in quarantine folks). However, on the other, I feel more and more exhausted.

Cultural psychology is so crucial to decolonizing the field of psychology, but I can’t help but feel like classes are distracting us from what is important. The coronavirus is still as dangerous as ever, but the government is still opening businesses instead of giving relief funds to those in needs. Black people are STILL dying at the hands of the police. Native Americans are disproportionately being affected by the virus. Duterte is trying to pass the anti-terror bill.

The world is in flames. It has been for a while.

So how can anyone stay focused on school right now? Every minute I spend focusing, I lose time that I used to sign petitions, calling departments, and donating the small amount of money I can.

I just want to lay down and cry because I want to care about college, I do. I spent so much time and effort working on trying to get where I am now, my parents did as well. But I can’t. I can’t will myself to care about anything but the violence I see online.

How do we move on from here?

Finale

“Hope that you won’t forget that boldly giving up is courage as well.” – Min Yoongi

As my time as a blogger comes to a close, I want to reflect what it was like to have to be a student during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Before I deleted social media, I saw a lot of posts about how people were trying to “hold themselves accountable”. At first, I ate that shit up. I followed workout pages, tried new diets, and even tried to force myself to write at least four things everyday. Although keeping busy did keep me entertained for a couple weeks (maybe even month, who knows at this point—time is a social construct at this point), I grew tired and eventually even more depressed than I already was. I stopped doing all those new things and I even stopped doing the old things I used to do in my free time. I just laid in bed for a while and felt terrible. 

Being at CC (or I guess anywhere to be perfectly honest), you kind of develop this heightened capitalist complex where you feel the need to constantly do something, producing something that has to have some sort of worth. As a result, I think many of us have lost sight of what is sometimes necessary: healing. 

Of course, I want to acknowledge that having time and the means to take a break is a privilege. I’m lucky to be in the situation I am in during the pandemic, but many can’t afford to take a break. 

Though, I do want to emphasize that doing nothing, giving up on endeavors your heart is not completely invested in, and NOT being productive should not be something that is shamed. There is nothing wrong with admitting that we need breaks or cannot continue. There is courage in acknowledging our weaknesses. 

Writing these blogs has given me an outlet for my rants about things I was passionate about in class and my frustrations in the real world. Saying goodbye to this blog and to my wonderful class is sad, but like I said, there is power in admitting weakness and right now, I feel weak. 

Fox Girl

It took me a while to build up the courage to reflect on this book. Fox Girl by Nora Okja was so beautifully written, but so incredibly heart-breaking.

When I imagine Korea, I think of vast oceans, development, music, idols, and industry. I don’t imagine a country that has been forever altered by a war, I don’t imagine the American military. I’m glad I remember Korea for those things instead of the latter, but why do we only imagine certain countries like Vietnam as “war torn”.

In class we discussed the act of choosing what to remember rather than “forgetting”. Forgetting implies accident and no intentions to do something. Can we really say that America has forgotten certain things? I think of the Japanese Internment and how America has specifically chosen to leave that out of so many history books. I think of how Hawai’i was forcibly taken from the Natives but has been written off as “ceded”. People have not forgotten these things, but knowingly chosen not to remember them.

Fox Girl, reminds us of the things that have been chosen not to remember about America’s military presence in Korea. Many Asian countries have been criticized for their sex-industries, but to criticize the countries requires one to acknowledge America’s part into creating those industries. Fox Girl allows us to see why prostitution and sex-trafficking was and continues to be so prevalent in South Korea. The country was suffering because of the war and with the military presence, the sex industry began to take roots. In a sick and twisted way, the system has been cited as the savior of the economy in South Korea, now with 94 million cases of prostitution occur every year, bringing in more than a $13 billion a year (Eddie Byun). Fox Girl was hard to read, not just because of the sexual violence, but because the story showed how the US military began to create a condition where the country could not survive without it. When Hyun Jin was disowned and Sookie left for the Monkey House, she had no where to go but to the Lobetto and the brothels. And even though, Hyun Jin did eventually escape the industry, it was clear that not everyone was so lucky. Sookie, stuck in the industry since the young age of eight, was stuck and knew she could not escape. Ultimately, deciding to never leave. A never-ending cycle of trauma.

Korea isn’t remembered as a “war zone”, but Fox Girl depicts a time when the country was one. It may not currently be the same “war zone” it was during Fox Girl, however, the residual effects of the war are still very much present.

Spiral

Revolution
By Ali Amin

Speak to me with your tongue while it is still free,
while your body is still yours.
Let your words travel through the air,
uncontrolled
spontaneous
necessary
tumbling through clouds of dust that dim the sun.
Until they reach my ear
and so many ears, spilled onto the table,
waiting.
Speak the truth while it is still alive, while lips, cracked and bleeding, can still move.
Time is beholden to neither lover nor tyrant.
Say what you must.
I will listen.”

Excerpt From: Samira Ahmed. “Internment.” Apple Books.

Although, I have conflicting feelings about Samira Ahmed’s book, Internment, I believe in its message that the wrongful imprisonment of marginalized communities is always possible.

Oftentimes, we look back on historical injustices like the incarceration of Japanese people and see them only as “things of the past”. Our neglect, indifference, and ignorance has caused these events to happen over and over again–though I do want to say “history is NOT repeating itself,” no, our lives are functioning within a predetermined spiral.

I have always hated the phrase, “history is repeating itself.” It’s overused, cliché, and implies that to a certain extent–that this “repeat” of history was escapable. However, if all these things were escapable, why does the oppression of people of color continue to prevail? Why do we have detention camps for undocumented children? Why are there re-education camps for Uighurs?

As long as we continue to reject that these events are happening because of the way we let society function and oppression thrive, these events will continue to happen. It is not something as simple as a “repeat.” These things are happening, over and over again, regardless of how hard we try to stop it because we are still trying to function within the same “spiral”. Until we break free of these predetermined futures and the spiral we are trapped in, we will remain stuck within the same cycle of oppression.

Do you have a “story”?

Today, I will be reflecting on my our discussion about “true war stories”.

During the first week of class, one of the stories we were asked to read was, Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice by Nam Le. In the story, the narrator is faced with the dilemma of whether or not to “sell out” and write his father’s “ethnic story”. His ability to choose is ultimately taken away from him when his father burns the only copy of the story. While highlighting the dissonance between two different generations of Asians and Asian Americans, the story also touches upon the desire that many second generation Asian Americans have: to have a story.

Nam Le’s story made me reflect on my own desire to “have a story”. When I was growing up, my family made our country’s history very clear while simultaneously keeping their history silent. I used to make up different versions of how I thought my parents grew up and believe them to be true. “They crossed this river at this time,” etc., etc., just so I could build my own story from it.

Doing this was the only way I kept myself tied to my Tibetan identity growing up, but I have since learned that not every story has to be a devastating immigrant story to keep me tied to my identity. However, society places more values on those stories, which is why Le’s character so desperately wanted to tell his father’s story. He was not only hoping that it would make him money, but that the story would help him find himself as well.

Every child of war, displacement, and of genocide survivors have ties to trauma, that is inescapable. No matter what form our traumas take, they are all valid and they are worthy. Nam Le’s story reminded me that I don’t have to morph my or my parents’ experiences into something it is not. It also reminded me, that we don’t need to have “stories”, but we do need to validate each other without hidden agendas.

Incarceration

Last Friday, we read When the Emperor was Divine, a story about a family’s experience during and after the Incarceration of Japanese peoples in America. By reading the story, it became more understandable as why so many internees were quiet about what happened to them. It wasn’t so much the time they spent in the internment (though this definitely had seriously detrimental effects), but what came after. The family in the story were ostracized and ridiculed for something they can not change; their identity. It is possible to change your name, the color of your hair, but this family could not change the fact that they were Japanese. And what’s worse, they too hated themselves for being Japanese. The children would apologize for any slightly mistake, regardless off whether or not it was their fault, and what was possibly the most painful to read, was the mother’s fear of being alone as it might cause her identity as Japanese might become more transparent (196).

In Pilgrimage, the children of the internees are seen taking a stand and protesting the internment. They frustrated that they didn’t know such a big part of their families’ history and when I first saw this, I understood that anger. However, as time goes on, it feels difficult not to also understand their parents’ silence. How are you supposed to talk about a time where the entire country hated you to your children? Do you risk passing on trauma to them for the sake of honesty or stay silent? For the next generation, it was a time to figure out their history and ask for redress and although that may have been difficult, it would have been more difficult to protest if they were carrying memories from that time like their parents were.

Reading the story was hard because it made me confront my own anger towards my parents. I was so upset for so long because they had left me in the dark about their history, even now I don’t know the full story of their experiences. I blamed them for their silence, but I completely forgot to take their feelings into consideration.

I am still curious about their history, but I know now to have more patience.

A Child’s Perspective of War

For class today, we were asked to read Thannha Lai’s Inside Out and Back Again. I remember passing by the book in my school’s library when I was in elementary school, but I never really had the urge to read it. Poems were short and confusing, while books like Harry Potter were long and fantastical (meaning it didn’t really require me to think for too long). But reading Inside Out and Back Again now, even though it is a children’s story, was healing. Lai’s story was moving (to me) because of the childlike innocence the story has. I really felt like I was reading from the perspective of a child, especially when Ha talks about how, “no one knows,” that she buys less food so she can buy more treats, which makes her feel “smart” (31). When I was younger, I too thought I was smart and that I could get away with anything (i.e, playing my gameboy under my blanket when my mom said go to bed). However, part of growing up is learning that your parents knew what you were doing all along. Ha too learns that her mom knew all along that she was buying less pork to buy fried dough (231).

Ha’s confession signified growth and development in the way, she was growing older, admitting her secret wrongs. Unlike the other stories we have read, Inside Out and Back Again zones in on what a meant to to be a child during war. It showed what it felt like to not understand what was happening, the loss of something you never really had, and how it felt to see the things and people you love all from the perspective of a child. The story is so heartbreaking because we all understand what it was like to be at that age, ignorant, scared, (sometimes) selfish, and angry. It is so was easy to understand how Ha and her siblings felt, which made Lai’s story all the more accessible to both children, and adults.

The class is coming to an end this week and its a bit of a bittersweet moment for everyone. On the one hand, we will have more time for ourselves and relax. On the other hand, this class has been one of the most reflecting classes I have ever taken and… well not being in it anymore is going to be a little saddening. Asian American/Asian studies have been a way for me to explore my identity in a predominantly white space, for which I am always grateful.