the confessions of a 21st century Asian American:
reconstruction//ruin//release

WRITTEN BY RACHEL XU

every night on channel 6

another hate crime headlight lies prone

across the screen, blaring sirens

and barricade tape flashing “CAUTION”

for the viewers but powerless to

prevent the attack, to disentangle

the CCTV footage before the race bait

flew from their lips, or before the

dirty leather boot slammed into

their senescent ribs – onlookers

present yet stationary, there to look

then turn away but never to act.


                                                                        ‘what a shame’ the newsmen say,


                                   ‘possibly race-motivated’ the sheriff dismisses


my family watches in bloated reticence

and continues picking at our now-cold dishes.

.

.

afterwards, when I wash my face

or scrub my thick-skinned fingers,

sometimes I can’t help but scrutinize

the mirrored figure, wonder if I could

take these hands and peel away

my Tuscan yellow skin like

noxious wallpaper, just to repaint with

a fancy alabaster matte finish; then

perform rough-hewn rhinoplasty –

grope and mold my flat, oversized nose

in a V-shaped uptilt jutting with the overcooked

privilege that comes with store-bought genetics.


soon, I reshape my brown “squinty” slits

into blue eagle eyes, ovular innocence of

plastered American girl dolls, but

sharp with reproval and enshrouded disgust.

crease my vapid, flat skin

into pristine double eyelids

plastic surgery for the soul,

aesthetic reparations for some

existential sin; a damned birthright

for being born alien instead of white/right,

for using chop-sticks instead of stones

to hurl slurs and false niceties

down our throats, or on the street,

in our schools, behind closed doors and

while walking down chapel halls.


it is not self-loathing nor repulsion –


rather, it is fear


real, palpable unease

thrumming like motor engines beneath

the surface of our white lies,

dipped in faux understanding

every time we catch their side-eyed revulsion

pejoratives entangled in insular insecurity

for those who look & speak like the “other”


                                                                                       here, we are the brown and yellow 

                                                                                       sheep

in a black and white flock

corralled towards the barren outskirts

cleaved together and apart

from the ethnic fabric of this country,

a diasporic collage of broken English and foreign accents

of yearning to smash the picket fence facade

yell “THIS ISN’T RIGHT” into a vast void

of casual indifference

to make them see us

as flesh and blood intermingled into one collective spirit,

unable to be sundered through by any forms of

prejudice

or expulsion

or otherwise.


no, we were not born with hatred

for our skin, our faces, our speech;

it is your cold rejection that made it so,

and it is only the calloused unraveling of

nylon-twined miscommunication

that can mend bridges for our fractured communities,

reignite the anaerobic flame of conversation,

and bear acceptance for the reflections in our mirrors.

Rachel Xu is a high school student who enjoys reading, writing, sketching, and playing badminton in her free time. She has been published in various anthologies such as Hysteria, Live Poets Society of NJ, Poetic Power, Academy Press, Teen Ink, etc.