From 1910 to 1940, Angel Island (in the San Francisco Bay) processed hundreds of thousands of immigrants coming into the US. My grandfather was probably one of them.
Often called the Ellis Island of the West, Angel Island was differed from its eastern counterpart in many ways. At Ellis Island, processing took a few hours; on Angel Island it could take weeks or even years (i.e., detainment). At Ellis Island almost everyone (98-99%) was approved for entry to the US (~1-2% denied); at Angel Island around a quarter (18-25%) were denied entry.
Why the disparity? Ellis Island–in New York Harbor–saw large numbers of European immigrants; Angel Island saw mostly Asian immigrants. The US Government did not want Asian people here, so they made the process hard and grueling.
And now America is reviving its past. Make no mistake–thousands of white children (from Canada or England, perhaps) would not be taken from their parents, even if their parents didn’t have proper visas.
Because this isn’t just about immigration. This is about racial “purity.” This is about the same cruelty that last century led to eugenics in California and Nazism in Germany.
I am grateful that my father raised me to know that the (mis)treatment of black people, of indigenous peoples, of Chinese Americans, of Japanese Americans, and many other groups were interconnected. It’s not only the struggles that are shared–xenophobia, racism, lynchings, economic exploitation, political disenfranchisement–but also the ways oppression targets specific groups (racialized slavery, reservations and Indian schools, internment).
The history my schools gave me did not mention the intersections or the solidarity between movements. Perhaps that’s why I was surprised to learn about Yuri Kochiyama and her friendship with Malcolm X.
As I work to be more involved in our current movements, I look back for role models and guidance. For that I appreciate Yuri Kochiyama–an Asian American ancestor who was also pro-black and much more.
On May 4 as I was driving home from work, I started crying. KQED 88.5 FM was playing a short segment on a Chinese restaurant. But it wasn’t any Chinese restaurant. It was Frank Fat’s, and they were talking about the banana cream pies I had grown up eating when I visited my grandma. They were talking about Chinese Americans in Sacramento, the same Sacramento my dad grew up in. They were talking–it felt like–about me.
I don’t remember any other time I’ve listened to the radio and felt so seen.
This article, “Can You Appropriate Your Own Culture?” by Jaya Saxena, described experiences I’ve had but didn’t have words for. Does being white negate my Chinese experience? If I express my Chinese heritage, can it become appropriation?
One passage captured the endless internal questioning I experience:
Nobody has a solution. Every time I wear Indian jewelry or clothing, I know there are people who will see me as Indian, people who will see me as wearing something I shouldn’t, and people who will say that even though I have Indian heritage, I’m treated differently for wearing a sari than someone who is “really Indian.” These things are all true, and they all exist at the same time.
These are all true, and they all exist at the same time. Perhaps along with the various layers of perception there are also multiple layers of identity: half, full, and something else entirely–all at the same time.
The Amah Mutsun people are fighting to save a sacred site, Juristac. As someone who grew up near this site, I hope to see my community stand in solidarity with our native relatives. I had the honor of hearing Chairman Lopez speak on Friday, and I’m in awe of his deep wisdom and passion.
Fortunately, there is also a video sharing the message:
“The destruction and domination of California Indians has never ended. It continues to this day.
But from that time to the current, it has always been our goal to protect and preserve that–and to return to Juristac so we can restore our ceremonies and restore our spiriutality and our culture and the environment there.
And make it holy and sacred once again.”
-Valentin Lopez, Chairman of Amah Mutsun Tribal Band
As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse by an older child, I compartmentalized many of my emotions and experiences for a long time. Only after hearing about other people’s experiences of CSA also involving other children (rather than an adult) did I begin to recognize what happened to be as a form of abuse.
I first came across Vanessa Williams describing her experience. Before watching this video, I hadn’t realized molestation could be done by another child. So, I had categorized what happened to me as childhood exploration, even though I also knew it shouldn’t be happening. And, I similarly experienced a sexual awakening that led me to think I was responsible; that my own curiosity was at fault. In fact, even my subsequent relationships felt shameful to me, because they carried the legacy of abuse without me recognizing it.
It was reading Janet Mock’s Redefining Realness that I finally understood my desire for attention was exploited; that it wasn’t my fault. That as a gay child I was especially vulnerable to abuse. That the abuse shifted my belief system around intimacy, boundaries, my body, and much more.
Most recently, I came across Ser’Darius Blain talking about how long it took him to talk about it, about how (black) masculinity prevented him from processing his feelings, and how seeking counseling helped him finally forgive himself.
Because I heard these three people share their experiences and because I finally talked about the molestation in therapy, I have come to a place where I can fully acknowledge my own experience of repeated childhood sexual abuse when I was 5. I can finally accept and forgive myself (even though it wasn’t my fault). And, I know that I’m not alone. #MeToo
Vanessa Williams Opens Up About Being Molested as a Child | Oprah’s Master Class | OWN (YouTube)
“I knew it felt good but also something that should not be happening.”
“At that young age–having that happen to your body–it awakens your sexuality at an age where it shouldn’t be awakened.
I think that had that not happened in my life and I had an opportunity to have … a normal courtship with a boyfriend at 16 or whatever and have your normal first kiss, there wouldn’t have been that shame that was kind of always haunting me.
But, I think it made me more sexually promiscuous and and more curious at a younger age than I should have been.”
Redefining Readlness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock
“…I liked the attention, the closeness, and the intimacy. … It was his attention, his wooing, that shifted my focus. And that was what I later learned that predators have in their arsenal of affections: They are able to make an isolated, outcast child feel special.” (p 44-45)
“It took me years to recognize, label, and acknowledge Derek’s actions as molestation. I made excuses for him, from blaming my femininity to blaming his age. He was young, so he didn’t know any better, I often thought. But blaming myself and making excuses for Derek didn’t allow me to uncover the facts about child sexual abuse. … Though I now have empathy for Derek and am aware of his emotional immaturity, that doesn’t negate the pain his actions inflicted on me over those two years in my childhood.” (p. 45)
“As a survivor of sexual abuse, I developed a belief system that shaped how I viewed myself: I can gain attention through sexual acts; my worth lies in how good I can make someone else feel, even if that means I’m void of feeling; what I do in bed is shameful and secret, therefore I will remain in the dark, a constant shameful secret.” (p. 46-47)
“Derek didn’t command that I tell no one, that I keep what we did in his bed a secret. He knew I wouldn’t talk because I kept myself a secret… He could smell the isolation on me, and I was lured into believing the illusion that he truly saw me. I was a child, dependent, learning, unknowing, trusting, and willing to do what was asked of me to gain approval and affection.” (p. 47)
“Derek took something away from when when I was only eight years old and left me with a lifetime of murkiness surrounding issues of intimacy, sex, pain, love, boundaries, and ownership of my body.” (p. 47)
Ser’Darius Blain Opens Up About Childhood Sexual Abuse (Now This News)
“You blame yourself for not getting yourself out of the situation.”
“Reading some of these accounts with the #MeToo movement, I can sympathize and empathize with some of the victims and understand why they took so long to say something. Or some of the ones who didn’t say — haven’t, still haven’t said anything at all.”
“As a Black man, specifically, we’re only allowed two emotions. That’s happy or mad. We’re not allowed to be confused or conflicted… or sad or depressed.”
“You owe it to yourself to talk about, to get help, so you can live the fullest life you can possible live.”
Why do first-hand, personal accounts resonate differently than generalized history? I’m not sure, but Zora Neale Hurston’s interview with former slave Kossula is one of those deeply resonate personal accounts.
“I want to know who you are and how you came to be a slave; and to what part of Africa do you belong, and how you fared as a slave, and how you have managed as a free man?”
His head was bowed for a time. Then he lifted his wet face: “Thankee Jesus! Somebody come ast about Cudjo! I want tellee somebody who I is, so maybe dey go in de Afficky soil some day and callee my name and somebody dere say, ‘Yeah, I know Kossula.’ ”
This and more highlighted in Vulture; the Hurston’s full account in Barraccoon.