A Whole And Not A Sum

March 19, 2010

In identifying myself as Asian American,
I am compartmentalizing myself under one convenient label.
I am techie, piano-playing, yellow peril–
A whole and not a sum.

What happens when this myth falls through?
Perceived as a math whiz, treated as a threat?
The industrious skewer of the grading curve?
The model minority scorned for perfection,
Alienated and bullied as a whole, and not a sum.
Yanked by pigtails, as the job market sours,
The coolie who stole the job for hire.
I am the low-cost, high-efficiency perpetual foreigner.

In my lifetime, I have actively fought against stereotypes,
Wanting to assimilate, to acculturate.
It seems that the harder I try, the luckier I get.
I am a lover of the arts and speak perfect English,
Been told I write like I’ve studied English forever,
Been told I am hiding my accent, only to my delight.
My genetics cannot lie: I am Asian.
A whole and not a sum.

What would happen if ethnic studies were taught by Whites,
If Asians dominated the NFL,
And minorities became the majority?
Stereotypes will crumble,
But discrimination will reassemble
And the tug-of-war ensues.
Is there comfort in knowing we are different,
No matter how hard we try, how lucky we get,
We are different only by 0.1%.

What is the truth when a lie is unmistakable?
The 0.1% is too trivial to detect a lie.
Am I a label, with value stored?
Are you another price tag for comparison?
Or are we all of fair value, 99.9% square?
Will we put our futures up for sale,
0.1% discount?
Who will buy it?
Why should we care?

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