written by Tommy Chaisuesomboon
Welcome, one and all, to the first meeting of AA.
Let’s go around the room and introduce ourselves. I’ll start.
My name is Tommy Chaisuesomboon and I’m an Asian American.
See, my problem began when I was born because Buddha decided to create me in his image: Asian.
He didn’t take into account, though, that I wouldn’t actually be in Asia, but instead, put me in the womb of some woman who for some reason, saw America as a land of opportunity.
And so I, that Asian tabula rasa, was filled with ideas of America, the kind of America printed on shorts that show far too much thigh, the kind of America that you see on the perfectly-manicured white faces of Hollywood, the kind of America that took it upon itself to call me a perpetual foreigner.
Everyone, I have to come clean. I am a traitor,
a Judas Iscariot who tells tall tales in the tongue of body language; I am a banana, a twinkie, a wolf trapped in a sheepskin of off-yellow melanin.
See, I hear,
“Oh, you’re the whitest Asian I know!”
“Godda-, sorry, I mean BuddhAMN, are you Asian!”
Maybe. But don’t try dropping the American that I always append to the end of Asian when I talk about myself.
See, do I say my r’s or l’s as if they had an identity crisis?
Laura and Larry rarely lull their rural roosters to sleep.
Are Roland and Sally rallying here in their lorry?
Would you rike me to continue?
Because I have a history that goes far beyond the English you expect me to not know.
We are the Opium Wars, coolie laborers on the railroads, Chinese Exclusion Acts, Japanese internment camps, Vietnam War,
I am Vincent Chin
I am Vincent Chin
I am Vincent Chin who lost his life when some ignorant men beat him to death because they hated the idea of the Vietnamese even though he was Chinese American
I am the model minority who lost his identity in a crowd of racial anonymity because hey, don’t we all look alike?
But although my identity can be reduced to double As, it can stand from anything from the Affirmative Action I’m supposed to hate because I supposedly can’t get into any Ivy League
Despite the fact that AA are the only grades I’ve ever seen on my report card,
or the AA in the Associate of Arts which is the Absolute Antithesis of the MD/PhD I’m supposed to get because for some reason,
it’s a Pretty Huge Deal that I get called Doctor so that
MS does not only stand for the Master’s of Science I’m supposed to get for my career
but the prefix to my spouse, the new, equally educated, hopefully also Asian American, Chaisuesomboon in the family.
I live in a world of acronymics, reducing the complex and long identities I have into short and sweet stereotypes.
And my world is the USA,
US…is a land where I am a perpetual foreigner, where my almond-shaped eyes and straight black hair mean that until my great-great-grandchildren intermix to the point where the only sign of their heritage is the polysyllabic last name.
Hello everyone in AA, I am Tommy Chaisuesomboon, and I am another, anonymous, Asian American.