Or, Questioning My Place In Racial Justice as a Minimally Marginalized Minority.
Lots of alliteration, huh? I find that when I haven’t written a piece in a while I tend to see alliterations roll off the fingertips as if I were a master of them in conversation. If you know me, however, you know that I am far from a master of conversation. Regardless of rhyme, there is never reason. I am the poster child for someone who is better on paper than in person. Is that too self deprecating?
Well, regardless, this piece is focused on not feeling like I belong anyway.
My name is Erin Oquindo, and I am a half-filipina-half-white college student searching for the best way to be an ally. I am just tan-looking enough to confuse, and just white-looking enough not to be made fun of for it. I’m white enough to have a primarily white friend group, but dark enough to know that pursuing theater as a profession would be a shot in the foot. I’m simultaneously blessed and cursed to live in this in-between community of mixed Asian-Americans, specifically sons and daughters of Pacific Islanders, who feel as though they must lump themselves into one of two groups–pick a side, if you will. We are not oppressed on the daily, merely offended. We have voices among the white community, but cannot claim all of their privilege. We are underrepresented, both on the mainstream front and on the social justice front. Racism doesn’t kill us, it just forgets us. Representation is our goal. Fix that, and we’re good to go. Right?
But how do I speak out for other marginalized groups?
I attended a meeting at my school for the Black Student Alliance (BSA) a few months ago with some friends. I was welcomed with open arms; the discussion was specifically about allyship, and I found it extremely informative. But while hearing from various voices in the meeting, I noticed that my personal social standing as a mixed Asian-American didn’t exactly fit what everyone else talked about. When invited to speak, I had to physically stop myself from calling myself “white,” and ended up just saying I was a “non black.” Yikes. As you can imagine, that was incredibly awkward. Like I said, I’m better on paper.
I was so ready to “pick a side” like I was saying before. I was resigned to believe that there was no other option. Now I wasn’t the only person there who didn’t fit into the white-or-black filing system we had going. But even those people had a perspective from which they knew they could offer fresh and helpful ideas. They were muslim, they were fully of asian descent, they had a first hand story to share, etc. I didn’t fit with them either.
I don’t want this to be interpreted wrongly as me wishing for different heritage. I love who I am, and I take a lot of pride in the various cultures from which I came. But looking specifically at the issue of allyship in regards to racial justice, I simply don’t know my place. I don’t want to settle for choosing to capitalize on one half of myself in order to speak for others. I know there has to be a unique angle I can use to help, one from which I can be wholly myself and wholly invested in using my perspective and the resources that come with it to aide in the fight for equality. I just haven’t found it yet.
Hey, thanks for letting me word vomit! If you have something to add to this discussion, please comment and/or share on Facebook so we can keep the conversation going! I’d love to hear more input on this matter.
Wandering Mind Series will end fairly soon, but new formatting on the site will allow for more writing like this to still exist on PM! Being able to just purely write for the sake of writing has not only fleshed out this blog, but it’s been very therapeautic for me as well. I’m looking to make this type of content permanent, so keep an eye out for good changes in 2017.
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