My terms, definitions, and disclaimers
It's odd to be posting this right now; I've finally gotten more than five hours of sleep and so am obnoxiously peppy and optimistic.
I've read the following posts/articles lately, which have all tangled together in my head in a giant mess: Zee on tone, zvi on tone and educating, workplace anger and gender, the "gotcha" game, and jlh's question: "But sometimes I wonder, does that lead to added responsibility for me? I'm so used to 'educating' people about race, but is that my job, because so many of my friends are white?" I've also been going through old emails when rachelmanija, coffeeandink, minnow1212, liviapenn, rilina and I decided to do IBARW last year in an attempt to write up another IBARW post, and what gets to me (and I think the others as well, though of course I don't speak for them) is how conciliatory we sound.
The tangly mess in my brain goes something like: Anger makes people not listen to me. I want to be listened to, particularly when I speak about things that are important to me. Therefore I should not sound angry. But. I am a woman, and when I get angry, people listen to me even less. I am Chinese, and when I get angry, people listen to me even less. I look young, so people listen to me even less (I get mistaken for a student a lot). Talking about racism makes people uncomfortable, and people get angry easier, and listen to me even less.
And I think about it more (or I don't), and I think: That makes me really fucking angry!
Mitsuye Yamada puts it better than me: "Their anger made me angry [...] I didn't expect their anger." (link to rilina's reaction to the quote, though I highly recommend both Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Togther? (where the excerpt is from) and This Bridge Called My Back (where the essay was originally published).
gaudior has some excellent points about anger and people listening, and she is not at all arguing that people should not be angry -- admittedly, I had to reread several times because of my kneejerk reaction, but she clearly says that the anger is not helpful when it comes to educating, assuming that educating is the goal. And jlh has further good points about educating and the burden of responsibility, as does zvi_likes_tv.
And so, I am left in a conundrum. And I think about Frank H. Wu's introduction to Yellow, in which he introduces himself as a professional Asian-American; he is called on as the Asian-American voice in issues of race, he is known for his stances and statements on race, and he is an Asian-American activist. There's a sense of regret when he writes this, along with a sense of pride.
This is when I look at my own LJ. I know a lot of people are reading me now for posts on race, and I thank you for that. And I know many people came for commentary on fannish things, books and manga, and found the race posts interesting as well, and I am grateful for that. I don't think I am a Professional Chinese-American-from-Taiwan-TCK Person; LJ makes it easier for me to be all things and not just one thing. Also, I can't not talk about being Chinese, being from Taiwan, being a TCK, having grown up abroad. It's part of who I am, just like part of who I am is a woman who lives in California and has rats and swing dances and loves food and loves books beyond almost all else.
jlh's question also poses a twister: I don't think any POC should be responsible for educating anyone else on race and racism, not when there is so much already on our shoulders, not when we're going to get asked anyway. And one of the cool things about this IBARW is seeing people educate themselves; heck, I have learned a ton just from two and a half days of posts.
But for me, personally... I do feel responsible for educating. Not because I am Chinese, but because I am human, because I used to be too silent, because I have been complicit in this system as well. I wrote last year for IBARW on speaking out, and I continue to stand behind that. I continue to feel guilt about being silent, but I believe the answer to guilt is not to sit and feel guilty, but to do something to make things better. Blogging is a small thing in the scope of things, but it is still a thing, and it is a small thing that is getting me to do more things.
I didn't actually mean to talk about educating, but just to state why not educating isn't an option for me. And yet, educating is tiring, and I don't always want to be the teacher. One of my sneaky sekrit reasons for organizing IBARW this year is so everyone will be talking, so I don't have to talk as much! (It is all part of my master plan for world domination.) Seriously, though: the more people talk about all aspects of racism, the less problematic it is when one conversation gets derailed, because there are a million more going on.
But really, what I wanted to talk about was anger.
gaudior is right; anger makes people less willing to listen. And as you can all tell, I want people to listen to me. It is hard admitting to that, given the combination of the pressure both to be a quiet woman and a quiet Chinese person, and it is even harder admitting that I have something to say.
To be listened to, I have to give away my anger. And not only that, even if I don't act or sound angry, even if I make every effort to sound calm and reasonable, people will still comment on my tone because I talk about race, because I am female, and because I am Chinese. I reread last year's posts on the Great Cultural Appropriation Debate of DOOM and there were times my hands were shaking because I was so angry, and still, I nearly bent over backwards to not give offense to anyone. And look how that turned out.
"Why are you so angry?" I've been asked. And my question back is: "Why aren't you?"
I thought ap_racism and deadbrowalking were "too angry" and "too hostile" and "too bitter" when I first found them. Looking now, looking at all the things talked about there, all the tiny racist incidences that shred away your humanity, little by little, I wonder why people aren't more angry. Sometimes I'm not angry when I come across these things; it's just shake your head and move on, business as usual, and a cynical laugh, and that makes me sadder than the anger does, because I need to care.
Also, holding on to my anger is a bit of a "Fuck you!" to the world, just like my wearing pink and girly skirts and frippy clothes is. So you're going to use these things to define me? Go ahead and try. And yet, of course I'm aware of how problematic it is, how maybe people will listen to me because I look small and feminine without realizing that I am angry as hell inside; how maybe people will overlook me as being soft-spoken, given what I wear and my Asian-ness; how maybe some people who might have listened to me end up going away because I am too angry; or how maybe people will listen to me because I'm not "scary and black."
These are the Catch-22's that partially define and delineate my life -- not all of my life, but some of it.
So hi. I am here, and I am angry as hell, and sometimes I will be constructive and educating, and sometimes I will be incoherently rageful. And that second part should not be something I have to hide, particularly given how so many systems try to take it away already.