Today I went to see the highly-anticipated (though not among the misogynistic crazies of course) revamp of “Ghostbusters.”  The previews packaged before the show were a range of features: teasing us with not one, but two Tom Hanks movies and the memorable trailer of “A Monster Calls,” based on the children’s fantasy novel.

Without knowing much about the movie, I found myself straight up crying during the trailer. Tears uncontrollably streaming down my face, the lump in my throat forming–I had woken up for a relaxing 10:30am matinee of women kicking CGI paranormal activity in the ass only to find myself already fighting all my emotions. I know I’m a huge feeler and cry easily, and visual storytelling particularly triggers that inside me, but this was flirting with hot mess levels.

Tickets to the feels train:

The premise you gather from the trailer is that this boy’s life, Conor, is an absolute mess because the world around him is. His single mother, played by the talented Felicity Jones, is dying of a terminal illness. There is unending hell from pre-teen boys at school. And for a 13 year-old boy with a face that just looks like he needs a big hug, you know that’s a lot for him to handle.

Partway through the trailer, The Monster emerges and you wonder if you’ve started to watch a Marvel spin-off starring Groot, voiced by Liam Neeson instead of Vin Diesel (I’d pay good money for a Fast and Furious/Taken crossover film). And you kind of hope that maybe Groot is here to save the day with his magical tree powers that actually is the cure for the very disease Conor’s mom has on Earth. But that only lasts about two seconds before all the interactions between Conor and The Monster have you wishing you ordered a large popcorn to suppress any potential whimpering.

“A Monster Calls” – Conor and The Monster. PC: collider.com/Telecinco

So what is it about The Monster that triggered this in me? During the week our country celebrated our independence, two black men died at the hands of police, reminding us that Monday’s holiday didn’t really have much to celebrate for some. A peaceful protest in Dallas was interrupted by the devastating murders of police officers. And if you decided to also check the state of the world, that week included bombings in Baghdad that took the lives of more than 200 and an ISIS attack in Bangladesh killing twenty people. And that just scratches the surface.

The powerful photo of Ieshia Evans, standing in protest in Baton Rouge that same week, has become an iconic image for #BLM and the state of our policing. PC: Jonathan Bachman/Reuters

As the world becomes smaller due to globalization, and more information is delivered at lightning speed, much of the news that floods us seems to only lead to one conclusion: we can’t go on like this. That the very narrative the human race is deciding to write for itself, on top of uncontrollable circumstances, is that it is full of hate. And whatever you believe in, I think most of us can take a step back and hope that we weren’t created for this. It is simply too much.

Because when it comes down to it, we all are Conor hoping for a fantastical creature to come out of nowhere, just for us, to tell us to “break something.” That this monster, unexplained in its existence, comes because it sees our pain and wants us to let the anger, frustration, and overwhelming feelings all out. That it is here not to make all of those very painful things go away, but to stand alongside you to somehow make existing better. Because in those moments, we have never felt more human, more limited, more vulnerable. That our physical bodies, no matter how much we scream, cry, and even pray–sometimes the world around us simply doesn’t respond like we want it to. Or that it needs to. And instead people keep dying. Injustice continues. And hate decides to trample love. And the only solution we can think of must be something not of this world.

The journey I am on now as an Asian American woman trying to her best to make the world live out the belief that #BlackLivesMatter, I often think of my Black friends who experience unending trauma and wish so badly the country they live in would encourage them to “break something.” That their emotions are truly valid and it’s okay. Because unfortunately, the heartbreaking truth is I know each of them has a monster calling inside of them, to help them cope with the pain. But each of them are trapped in a culture where there is no room for that. And that monster is uninvited. Instead, their vocal frustrations is seen as anger with no reason, their desire to bravely take a stance with their bodies is seen as annoyances and even violence, and their attempts to hold onto things to call their own is seen as perpetuating discrimination instead of naming it appropriation. And on top of it all, there’s no time to escape reality because survival in the current state of this country requires you to be aware of who you are at all times.

So when I see this trailer and the story it’s previewing to me, I can’t help but be swept up by its beautiful cinematography and hopeful soundtrack. Because for two minutes, it is the most cathartic experience I can dream of as it pushes us to carry on somehow even when life is only a series of crushing pain.

 

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I saw her once. It was a moment so brief, yet so powerful.

Bangkok, Thailand - Night
Pradipat Road, Bangkok, Thailand. July 2014.

I was in Bangkok, waiting to cross the street on Pradipat Road. There she was, riding backseat of a motorcycle. One hand was clutched to her dashing male companion with amazing abs (the details are a bit foggy nowadays), the other held none other than: a chicken wing. As the two passed me, she managed to finish that wing in lightning speed and toss the bone on the street. I gasped in amazement. Who was this woman that I wanted to bow down and give all my respect to? Where did such liberation come from? How could I get on HER LEVEL? That Thai woman gave zero f***s that day because she was living the dream–she had a bag of poultry’s best offerings on her lap, a beautiful man to guide her through the city, and the kind of confidence that made me question everything.

On that day, Thai Chicken Wing Woman became one of my greatest heroes. Inspired by Janelle Monae’s “Q.U.E.E.N.,” a new life mantra was birthed through two hashtags:

eatdemwangzthrowdembonez

Today I pay tribute to the chicken’s ulna, humerus, radius, hinge joint, and all the meaty goodness attached. Yes, I’m turning on the overdramatic meter to max.

Chicken wings represent the respect I have for the living things I eat. This Buzzfeed article expressed one of the most disrespectful acts of this world. If you are guilty of this, I implore you to reconsider eating bone-in, traditional wings. You don’t deserve them.

An entire chicken, usually averaging a few pounds, only has two wings. ONLY. TWO. PRECIOUS. WANGZ (Helpful tip: If you find more than one, I don’t recommend you eat that chicken). So if you want to just take a bite out of the middle and throw the rest of the very things that gave that chicken any hope of flying, then go for a roasted drumstick or fried boob. Five chickens did not need to die so you could play sick games with that 10 piece wings meal. Don’t you even dare think I want you at 50 cent wing night with me.

Eating a chicken wing takes immense care, time, patience, and actual enjoyment. Embrace the cartilage. Detach some bones. Suck some marrow. When you are done, I want to see your plate hold a pile of bones ready to be an exhibit at the history museum:

wings museum

God gave us these glorious cuts of meat ready to be deep fried for 8 minutes. Or baked for 45. Or grilled for 30. Or dipped in lava for three seconds. And then finished in a bath of seasonings, rubs, and sauces to create the glorious CHICKEN WING.

I am a woman in her late twenties with ambitions, dreams, and wide feet. I have visions that one day I will ride on the back of a motorcycle, holding onto the abs of a man I’m attracted to with a lovable personality and deep convictions, eating delicious wings, and throwing the bones to all the stray dogs we pass like a rich and charitable princess.

That’s the dream. Until then, I will #EatDemWangz and proudly #ThrowDemBonez sitting on my couch re-watching episodes of 30 Rock.

wings collage

I’m American. All the way through. I was born and raised in California, grew up watching Nick at Nite, and sometimes get teary-eyed watching fireworks on Fourth of July. Hell, the first beer I ever drank was a Budweiser.

When my parents took my sisters and I to their villages in China (they immigrated to the US in 1980), it was an incredibly emotional trip. The poverty they left behind scarred me, and I understood who I was on a whole new level. On top of that, it was overwhelming to be in the majority. The color of my skin was the norm. My first language of Cantonese was all I heard. All the food I had was prepared in either a wok or clay pot. It was a life-changing experience that allowed me to understand the parts of who I am in ways I never could in the states.

But I didn’t belong there. I’m not Chinese. I’m Chinese-American. And a strange tension comes with that hyphenated identity.

Marching at the one year anniversary of Michael Brown's death in Ferguson, MO.
Marching during the one year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, MO.

In a country founded upon a racial construct that has used “black” and “white” to define power, the question I and many others ask is “Well since I’m not black or white, how does the #BlackLivesMatter conversation involve me?”

Yes, for those of us who fit into that category, it’s confusing to be a part of a country with such a dynamic. We’re not white and don’t have a long legacy of privilege. We’re not black and haven’t suffered the centuries of oppression in this country. We’re not Native and didn’t watch our land and people be taken away. We didn’t really have much say in creating that history, but want to be here. We still desire to live in the regulations and implications of that history somehow because it’s either worth it or simply all we know. So we’ll stay.

My post today is going to be specifically targeted toward Asian Americans. It’s a call to Asian Americans to realize that we have a position regarding the issue of #BlackLivesMatter whether we realize it or not. There is no such thing as neutrality. Every choice we make, whether silent or vocal, intentional or unintentional, is part of contributing to the larger system at hand.

The thing with the Asian American experience is that we have something called “conditional privilege” (highly recommend Pastor Ken Fong’s podcast episode with Jenny Yang that addresses this). Our privilege depends on the situation, and our skin color can either benefit or oppress us. Our race is associated with being a model minority, and it is a destructive lie. The system may make some of us believe that we have actually somehow “made it.” Sure, I have experienced privileges due to being Asian. But when it comes down to actually having a voice at that sometimes overly idolized table, not so much. The overall privilege is a myth if you simply look at the disparities within our Asian American/Pacific Islander community:

reappropriate.com  / CAPAC

It seems to make way more sense to do everything we can to be the percentage of Asians who can succeed. To play the game of being American with our heads down, and just be our true selves in the confines of our homes, where our voices only matter to our families and anyone we care about. The inherent desire to want what’s best for ourselves and loved ones isn’t wrong. But how do we pursue such livelihood without it contributing to an oppressive system?

Asians make up 6% of the US population. We are a part of American history now, some of our families longer than others. We are writing it with the lives we are currently making here, in this moment of time. A lot of us feel uncomfortable with that concept. Culturally, we want to respect those in authority and not come into the space and claim it as ours. It took us, our parents, grandparents and generations before us immense suffering and hardship to leave everything for the dream. So many of us settle for living humbly in that reality, pursue the success we’re told to, and just be grateful enough to be here (especially those of us with citizenship statuses).

But if we call the United States of America our home, then we must reconsider. Because future generations will look back and ask where their ancestors were during the early 21st century, during a time when black lives were continuing to be taken unjustly. We certainly cannot rewrite this country’s history, but we currently have a unique opportunity to be part of changing the power dynamics that were set before us–before we made whole percentages of the American population. I see fighting against injustices as both honoring the sacrifices of civil rights movements, as well as the sacrifices of my parents who gave up everything to make a life here. That I carry on a legacy of continuing to make this place my home. And I want it to be a place with hope and a love for all of humanity that lives and is to come. This is my country, along with 18 million other Asian Americans.

Our silence is consent to the power and privilege of the white majority, allowing the decisions to be made for us. From that, we will then try to navigate ourselves through the myth that perhaps we’re removed from it all. That maybe we all start from equal places, with the same opportunities, and if you work hard enough, we can all make it. But the facts, the statistics, and the stories prove more and more each day that to not be true.

Yuri Kochiyama / International Examiner

There’s a lot I respect about my Asian culture. We’re not afraid of suffering and sacrifice. We honor our elders. We think collectively in a lot of healthy and helpful ways. We make some damn good food. But we also have to remember that fighting against injustice is actually very much part of our DNA as well. I look back on the Tiananmen Square student-protests paralleling the recent protests in Hong Kong. I have been inspired by the incredible Yuri Kochiyama. I mean all I need to say is Gandhi.  And these barely scratch the surface of a long list of Asian gamechangers. So why can’t we bring that beauty, strength, and hope here? To accept that the system is imperfect in a lot of ways, and embrace it as part of our own purpose to make it better?

Fighting for the reality that #BlackLivesMatter is ultimately the truth that every human being is worthy. That we, as Asian Americans, say no to the dangers of the system, and give up the little privilege we have to pursue justice. Yes, it takes time to understand the issues. It’s going to take an immense amount of emotional and physical energy. It’s going to require us to pay some real costs. We’re not going to be able to avoid facing racial injustices ourselves as we continue on the journey. But imagine with me how worth it all of it can be when we can see less unarmed black bodies die, incarceration rates fall, and empower more black lives in our education system? That the disparities and gaps would become narrower and eventually nonexistent? Can we dream together on how to take down the system’s flaws, and make it truly a place that values all people?

So with such a unique role in American history, where Asians are the fastest growing immigrant population, how will our numbers be part of deciding the narrative of the #BlackLivesMatter movement? And ultimately, this country’s?

Me at a march in Ferguson, MO. Standing in solidarity as it was the one year anniversary of Michael Brown Jr.'s death.
Me at a powerful march in Ferguson, MO. Standing in solidarity with my “hands up” for the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

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