My Broken Wild Heart

Little Notes

May 31, 2020

When I was seven years old, we visited Washington D.C. and did the grand tour of all the monuments. I completely bought into the American Dream and proudly believed that the benevolent founding fathers of our adopted country were happy to welcome my family and me as citizens of America. I was grateful. The dream — that line in the Declaration of Independence that says all men are created equal and are guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But you know what? That liberty was not meant for everyone and the pursuit of happiness was contingent on the exploitation of black people.

To quote Krista Tippet from On Being, “Race is a dehumanising construct, an invention of white people in modernity. Its endless terrible consequences have distorted our bodies, souls and societies.”

Last week, my wild heart broke apart in two. In my grief, I listened to all of Seeing White, Season 2 of the illuminating and informative podcast Scene on Radio from the Centre for Documentary Studies at Duke University. I wanted to understand. When I understood, my heart fell to pieces again as I finally accepted that the American Dream was never meant for everyone; at least for not anyone who isn’t white. That includes me, my children and theirs.

The foundation on which America was built is collapsing and the fortification of my own interior scaffold has lost its ballast. Who am I if not a Chinese American? And if I accept that I am Chinese American and non-white, I have to accept that I am nothing more than a second rate citizen in the country of my birthright.

With the onset of Corona Virus and reports of racist incidents against Asians, I worry for my two sons. This can’t compare to the torment that plagues black mothers about the safety of their sons, day in and day out in both the US and the UK; something which often seems completely out of their control. My heart breaks for them. As mothers, we know that all lives matter.

I believe that each and every one of us, whatever our race or ethnicity, want a better life for our children. Every mother should be able take that as a truth. It is my dream that we get there soon.

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