“Dear Lupita,” it reads, “I think you’re really lucky to be this Black but yet this successful in Hollywood overnight. I was just about to buy Dencia’s Whitenicious cream to lighten my skin when you appeared on the world map and saved me.”
My heart bled a little when I read those words. I could never have guessed that my first job out of school would be so powerful in and of itself and that it would propel me to be such an image of hope in the same way that the women of The Color Purple were to me.
I remember a time when I too felt unbeautiful. I put on the TV and only saw pale skin, I got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin. And my one prayer to God, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter-skinned. The morning would come and I would be so excited about seeing my new skin that I would refuse to look down at myself until I was in front of a mirror because I wanted to see my fair face first. And every day I experienced the same disappointment of being just as dark as I had been the day before. I tried to negotiate with God: I told him I would stop stealing sugar cubes at night if he gave me what I wanted; I would listen to my mother’s every word and never lose my school sweater again if he just made me a little lighter. But I guess God was unimpressed with my bargaining chips because He never listened.
And when I was a teenager my self-hate grew worse, as you can imagine happens with adolescence. My mother reminded me often that she thought that I was beautiful but that was no consolation: She’s my mother, of course she’s supposed to think I am beautiful. And then Alek Wek came on the international scene. A celebrated model, she was dark as night, she was on all of the runways and in every magazine and everyone was talking about how beautiful she was. Even Oprah called her beautiful and that made it a fact. I couldn’t believe that people were embracing a woman who looked so much like me as beautiful. My complexion had always been an obstacle to overcome and all of a sudden, Oprah was telling me it wasn’t. It was perplexing and I wanted to reject it because I had begun to enjoy the seduction of inadequacy. But a flower couldn’t help but bloom inside of me. When I saw Alek I inadvertently saw a reflection of myself that I could not deny. Now, I had a spring in my step because I felt more seen, more appreciated by the far away gatekeepers of beauty, but around me the preference for light skin prevailed. To the beholders that I thought mattered, I was still unbeautiful. And my mother again would say to me, “You can’t eat beauty. It doesn’t feed you.” And these words plagued and bothered me; I didn’t really understand them until finally I realized that beauty was not a thing that I could acquire or consume, it was something that I just had to be.
And what my mother meant when she said you can’t eat beauty was that you can’t rely on how you look to sustain you. What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul. It is what got Patsey in so much trouble with her master, but it is also what has kept her story alive to this day. We remember the beauty of her spirit even after the beauty of her body has faded away.
And so I hope that my presence on your screens and in the magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey. That you will feel the validation of your external beauty but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside. There is no shade to that beauty.
The Asian Pacific American community must stand in solidarity with other communities of color. We cannot pick and choose our battles when our potential allies are suffering and then demand a seat at the table. Likewise, affirmative action is not a pick and choose program - it is a core and central component of civil rights to correct the injustices that have been wrought on historically marginalized communities. The Asian Pacific American movement must be able to stand by other communities of color and protect our collective civil rights. We must also be able to recognize the internal differences within the Asian Pacific American ethnic groups and fight for inclusion of the historically disadvantaged APAs in affirmative action. And non-Asian Pacific American groups must include Asian Pacific American narratives as part of the racial and civil rights discussion. You cannot claim intersectionality without intersectional analyses.
The way that the Stand Your Ground statute is used in jury instructions boils down to this: ALL THAT ANY NON-BLACK SHOOTER NEEDS TO DO IS TO SAY THAT THEY WERE AFRAID FOR THEIR LIFE…because scary Black person. It matters very little if the so-called “reasonable fear” existed in reality, or only in someone’s mind, or not at all
Newsflash: ANY given reason =/= “reasonable fear”
I’ve sat on a jury as a foreman before, and please believe me when I say…during deliberations in the jury room, “reasonable” can easily become, “well, he did give a reason for his fear" if someone strong (or Black) isn’t there to immediately shoot that thought process down
Make no mistake: Dunn didn’t use the words ‘gangster’ and ‘thug’ in his testimony by mistake. You don’t have to look any further than the glaring difference between how RichardSherman was derided and pilloried as a “thug” vs. when White people like Mayor Rob Ford and Michael Grimm (R-NY) aren’t even arrested after being caught on film using drugs or making credible death threats, let alone not called a thug. Those two words—thug and gangster—and many more have become heavily weaponized and racialized, and they are ‘polite’ stand ins for the n-word. And that codedlanguage didn’t just happen all on it’s own
Just re-watched Community’s “Advanced Dungeons and Dragons” episode, and it hit me right in the feelz. It’s such an incredible piece of television with an awesome anti-bullying message. It even reminds me of my own adolescence, when I used to play pretend with my siblings. We played in an empty basement, but man, they were some of my fondest memories.
If I had the courage, I’d like to tell you that “maybe in another place, in another time, in another age, we could have been together. You’re the one who keeps me up at night, picks me up when I’m down, and sends me smiles throughout the day. You’ve know the contours of my body and the dimples in my skin. So maybe in another place, in another time, in another age, we could have been lovers. But for now, you will be my almost - the one I almost loved, my friend.” If I had the courage, I would say that to you.
Anonymous asked: Your eyes, your smile, & your compassion for equality. Your dimples, your shoulders, and your love for your community. Your voice, your hands, and your devotion to find love. Your personality, your carefree attitude, and the list can go on but you're just about enough not perfect nor close to it. You're Kham, a beauty, mystery, and only human. So be human, be imperfect, and just be you.
Thanks, Anon! You totally made my day. I think I was kinda drunk post-State of the Union and that thought had been kinda bugging me lately…so drunk blogging? haha, either way, that was really sweet. Mucho gracias.