Friday, April 28, 2006

The Diasporic and the Minor

Tuesday, 7 pm.

As usual, Prof. H made his final remarks, classmates hurriedly packed up their laptops, papers, notes, and handouts. Someone grabbed the last piece of cookie, another person tripped over an extension cord. I, though not the first one to walk out of the door, quietly made my exit before the end-of-the-class round of chattering had a chance to begin.

Bathroom break, iPod check, refilled the water, down the echoing stairwell. 7:10 pm, out of WJH.

The American Empire as invisible imperialism. Bin Ladin as the contemporary Hadrami leader waging a pan-Islamic war against the thriving American Empire. Pseudo Middle Eastern specialists busying themselves advising ineffective gov't policy to the white house, the whole countrymen on fire in temper with the rising gas price. The haunting of history, the deja vous from the ancient. "You're History!", the Americans like to say. This time, they themselves have become the biggest victims of History, and we don't even know how History is going to finish them.

Walking against the wind tunnel outside the WJH, I turned on my iPod. A familiar melody in soft Mandarin voice froze all the remaining thoughts in mind, silencing the world around me.

Hadramis the diasporic? I'm sorry folks, when was the last time you went home? Don't talk about the diasporic discourse with me. You can't even handle a 24-hour plan ride just to go home. Nor would you ever understand what it feels like when sometimes you could only remember what home looks like through that iPod tune.

April 18th, 7:15 pm. Nothing felt like home. Not that yellow cottage house down the road, not that nicely mowed lawn. Not the happily blossoming red, orange, pink tulips by the road, nor patches of purplish bell-shape blossoms. Not the sunset, the dim sky, nor even the slightly moistured air. The road was too empty, the sidewalk too straight, passengers too few. Nothing looked like home.

Me and my music, melodies from home. Don't talk about the diasporic with me, folks. B/c this is diasporic, I am diasporic, this moment is diasporic.

7:16 pm, the diasporic continued.

*****

I spent some time giving my arm and my hand a thorough look the other day. No, nothing was wrong with them. My arm was still strong, hand still dry, the faded scar on the middle finger remained intact. Nothing was wrong except a tiny scratch on the back of my hand which I had no idea how I got it from. But I continued to look, for a long time.

I was checking my skin color.

Yes, this color that others call yellow. True, I don't claim to have the fairest skin tone nor facial complexion. Although the other day in class I discreetly turned around to look at my neighboring white friend. My skin and hers, l looked back and forth. All I wanted was to do was a little comparison, or maybe an affirmation. My skin and hers ... darker and lighter. Then I turned the other way to look at another Asian friend of mine. Her skin is lighter than mine, but darker than the other.

What is the difference? Since when have I turned color-blind?

Utterly confused.

This color that others call yellow, and this color that others label as white. What is the difference? Maybe it's time to consult the ophthalmologist's point of view?

I cannot tell the difference between my skin tone and another's. But I've been called the "yellow" since birth. Some people can't tell the difference between their skin tones and the others, but they are called "black," "red," or "brown." And b/c of being born "black," "red," "brown," or "yellow," as if we/they are nothing but a bunch of pigments on a painter's color-mixing plate, we/they are at times destined to be used or defined or regarded as nothing but pigments, subject to the painter's own fantasy and imagination.

Interestingly, the painter often calls him/herself - white.

The other day at Dado a white young man asked me if I'd like to grab a cup of coffee with him. I didn't have to look up to know what was boiling in his mind. As I turned around to answer his intrusive question, the look in his eyes confirmed my speculator before.

To him, I was nothing but yellow. Ok, maybe beautiful, but more so, exotic, and intensely exotic b/c I am yellow.

"No, thank you." I said. "Plus, I already am drinking coffee."

Although that really wasn't the worse. At least I could still win myself a title of being "exotic" whereas others who are dubbed "black" may be viewed as "criminal," "brown" as "third-world," or "red" as "primitive." Comparatively speaking, being "exotic" b/c I'm yellow isn't the end of the world.

And comparatively speaking, I wouldn't have to grow up in a crime-ridden inner city kid going through metal detector at school everyday just b/c I were regarded as "black." Nor would I have to be deprived of equal learning opportunity at school b/c I were called "brown," or to live at the fringe of the society, both geographically and politically speaking, b/c I were seen "red." Even compared with some of my other "yellow" fellows, I would not have to encounter the humming of "chin-chang-chung" song b/c my very first utterance of American-accented English usually silences those people's humiliating tunes.

9/10 times, at least.

Everytime when #1 bus zooms down Mass Ave and halts suddenly at the Central Sq. bus station, I see this familiar scene: a few African-American men and women, some middle-aged and some old, shivering in the winter cold. On a sunny day they may be cracking a joke or two with one another, but when the rain pours, they could barely keep any part of their body dry. One by one as they finally get on the bus, some would mumble about how bloodily freezing the weather is and some would wonder what happened to the 15-min interval schedule. At that moment, only question in mind:

Just b/c they are black?

梅ちゃん at 10:19:00 AM

2comments

2 Comments

at 4/28/06, 12:27 PM Anonymous grace said...

hi may, thanks for your comment...i miss you tons! i love reading your posts...you are such a gifted writer!!

 
at 5/1/06, 6:38 AM Blogger Chat Noir said...

記得去年Kelly san在課堂上強調過她因為皮膚白,在日本總是被小孩摸或者另眼相待的故事嗎?
那時候我也轉過頭去,看了一下她的手,想著,你的白和我的黃,差別到底在哪裡?

後來讀到說 Franz Boas(the father of american anthropology)也問過類似問題,心中安慰多了。那時1930年代,他們面對著猶太人算不算白人,東歐人算不算白人之類的問題。是啊,我們真能定義不同顏色的界限嗎?那個界限從哪裡到哪裡呢?

 

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