Rant – A Poem

I could rant about the boredom

About not being able to eat at the crepe place

Or get my nails done to match the front door

I could rant about the kids 

Running around inside then outside, being loud

And disturbing the neighbors working from home

I could rant about the heat 

And not being able to go to the beach

Or to Disney for the first time

I could rant, but I won’t

I can’t

When families are made newly homeless through job loss

When food pantries are not getting enough donations as their lines get longer

When parents are risking their lives for $7.25 an hour

When some kids don’t have an outside

When some kids can’t be loud or else

When black bodies are pitted against blue bodies

When black bodies are killed and will never get to go to Disney

My immigrant, light skinned Asian, college educated, middle class, suburban stay at home mother runner rant is bullshit.

Because I can still breathe when others cannot.

New House in the Suburbs, Paul Klee
1924 – National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

This poem was written for Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge #235 – Rant. I have also incorporated a Wednesday Writing Prompt from Jamie Dedes’ that she posted on April 22, 2020 that used the picture above as a starting point. I wasn’t able to write anything for that prompt then, but the picture has stayed with me so I am glad to be able to use it now.

I really liked the haziness of this painting – it reminds me of the images/ideas I had in my head about the kind of house I would live in when I grew up. I wanted a symmetrical house, with a weeping willow in the yard, maybe a pond close by. There would be a swing under the weeping willow and in the fenced in yard, there would be apple trees and flowers. And of course, there would be birds flying under the yellow sun with a few puffy clouds overhead.

I lived on the first floor of a duplex in Brooklyn when I envisioned my “grown up home”. We had a little yard in the back that was usually overgrown with weeds despite our attempts to grow vegetables and flowers. The kitchen was all the way in the back, so you had to pass through all the rooms to get to the back of the house. I would ride my bike up and down the street on the sidewalk, from our house to Aunt Rita’s house – that’s as far as my mom would let us. Sometimes, we would go to the bodega at the end of the block to get treats or get some plantains for a quick and yummy afternoon snack.

My kids have never lived in the type of place I lived in growing up. They’ve only known single family homes in the suburbs with decent yards and two or more bathrooms. They all are currently obsessed with living in tiny homes when they grow up, that they would park in our driveway so we can all still have dinner together as a family.

All my dreams of living in a spacious house have been reversed with my children’s dream of living in a home smaller than my childhood Brooklyn home. The irony.

As I write this in my typical American suburban kitchen with granite countertops, I am acutely aware of what I have, that others don’t. Yes, I know my husband and I worked hard to afford to be “comfortable”; that our parents also worked hard so we can live “better” then they did. But I know we had help – social supports, financial resources and a systemic societal advantage of being stereotyped as the “model minority”.

At least, I used to see it as an advantage. After much reading (check out this article and this one), I realized that any type of stereotype is still a stereotype and is actually a disadvantage. Also, the whims of racism can change quickly and harshly as evidenced by the rise of anti-Asian sentiments with the arrival of the coronavirus that has been named by some as the “Chinese virus”.

So while I have lead a financially and educationally privileged life, I still have experienced racism:

  • I’ve been accused of stealing at the local grocery store numerous time (to the point that I go to a different store farther way in a more diverse neighborhood just so I don’t have to worry about being “randomly audited” when I shop – because it isn’t random if it’s always and only me)
  • I’ve been called racial slurs as I’ve been out running
  • I’ve felt afraid going to a new place and realizing I was the only non-white person there and getting those looks that tell me I don’t belong

The thing with racism is that it erases the individual – that all important staple of American exceptionalism. You don’t see my struggles and triumphs. You don’t know about the awards I’ve won or that my closet with pants sizes ranging from college to pregnancy. You aren’t aware that I love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or of my passionate conviction that Heinz is the best and only ketchup in the world. You don’t know that I dreamt of a house with a willow tree in the front.

But because I have lead a financially and educationally privileged life, I need to use that advantage to help those who were not as fortunate (through no fault of their own). Otherwise, I will be just as complicit in perpetuating racism.

Rant over.

©️ 2020 iido

Cafe Privilege or Why I Don’t Trust White Women Who Don’t Order Coffee When We’re Meeting at a Cafe – A Poem

You had arrived first

Patiently waiting for me

Our meeting began

But you hadn’t ordered coffee

I was confused

Since I knew the score

Without paying the price

They ask you to leave the store

But you sat and you talked

That’s when it got scary.

You exclaimed, “I don’t see colour”

That it wasn’t a worry

I should have known

Right then and there

To keep my mouth shut

I shouldn’t have cared to share

But I took a chance

And brought up the notion

That your ability to sit without buying a thing

Was because of your white complexion

Your demeanor, indignant

And your voice, like ice

“Don’t call me a racist”, you said

“That isn’t nice!”

I never called you that

I began to protest

I’m just pointing out this double standard

To get it off my chest

But you didn’t see

The privilege that you wore

And just like that

You stomped out the door

I sat and I wondered

Just when things went wrong

You and I had a lot in common

We even liked the same songs

But the one thing different

Was what you claimed not to see

The colour of my skin

That claimed my ancestry

I know I’m not poor

Or disabled or gay

I speak the language

And I’m allowed to stay

I know I’m privileged

And have much to repay

But today you proved again

The different rules in play

While I sat stunned

Feeling full of self-pity

The server comes and asked

When I’m buying a coffee

I’m still seen as other

I just have to accept

While drinking my coffee

I silently wept

But you just continued

No hiccup in your step

Then you told everyone

That I was inept

You used your white privilege

To put me in my place

Because I said the price of coffee

Depended on your race

So – if you are a person

Who is truly aware

Of your privilege and whether

Life is really unfair

Be sure to buy coffee

And listen with your heart

In order to end the -isms

That’s where we need to start

This poem was written for Anmol’s prompt at dVerse Poetics to write about privilege. dVerse has had several thought provoking posts: political provocation in poetry and now this one on privilege. It makes me happy and hopeful that they are opening the conversation about these topics. * As of this writing, the link has expired for this prompt! My overthinking has again caused me to miss Mr. Linky! 😢

The poem is also written for Patrick’s Pic and a Word Weekly Challenge – Color (or as Patrick would say “Colour”). The issue of privilege, race and racism isn’t just based on ethnicity (a person’s cultural background – whether it’s based on religion, tradition or ancestral location) or nationality (the country of one’s passport) but the actual color of one’s skin. Even within communities of color, talking about “colorism” – the fact that light skinned POC have some of the white privilege that darker skinned POC don’t have – is a difficult conversation.

This poem is based on a true incident that happened to me a few weeks ago. The white woman who I was speaking with effectively damaged my reputation because of a disagreement regarding politics and race. Despite saying she wasn’t racist, her behavior indicated otherwise and I don’t think she was even aware of this. I carry the burden of this interaction. No matter the privileges I have (whether born with it like being physically able or earned like my education and financial status), here in the USA, it is what people see that often times determines their behavior.

One last note – Björn’s post about provocation in poetry inspired the title of this poem. Before anyone gets into a huff – I don’t mistrust all White Women – just the racists ones who don’t order coffee when meeting in a cafe.

©️ iido 2019