Having witnessed the indecencies of our justice system and the insidious nature of power and patriarchy, I am part of the 74% of Americans who know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence. I was about five or six years old the first time I witnessed intimate partner violence (IPV); my mother, at twenty-one, was gasping for air by the hands of a young man, likely no older than I am today. It is unfortunate, yet telling, that often times it is violence and power that give us our element of humanity. And although it is my first vivid memory, it was surely not the last. A number of broken bones and ribs, collapsed lungs and swollen features later, I found myself face to face in a number of hospital rooms with a resilient yet lost soul; a woman who had not yet found the resolve to transition from victim to survivor.
You know the stereotype: young girl is molested at an early age and/or abandoned by her father, causing her to search for validation by spinning around a pole and dancing buck-ass naked for money and attention from random men. I’m not going to say this stereotype isn’t true because if I did, I would be lying. The fact of the matter is that my father molested me repeatedly when I was in preschool, and then once again when I was fourteen years of age.
Disclaimer: The discussion of inclusivity and solidarity is relevant to many constituencies in different ways; this is my unique take as an Asian, female-identified individual.
I’ve come to a curious, heightened recognition these past few weeks: my ethnicity is something to laugh at. When an Asian woman is denigrated and exoticized by a group of white men in an offensive video entitled “Asian Girlz”, I am told I shouldn’t be so upset because the woman clearly enjoyed it and the video was clearly just a joke. When the lone Asian character in the critically acclaimed Netflix series “Orange is the New Black” perpetuates negative racial tropes through easy, cheap humor that capitalizes off of her awkward silences and accented, broken English, I’m supposed to double back in laughter, shake my head, and say “Well, at least they have Laverne Cox!” When I express my anger at careless, racist reporting of an Asiana Airlines crash that killed two teenage girls--KTVU fired a producer after the network broadcast the pilots’ names as “Sum Ting Wong,” “Wi Tu Lo,” “Ho Lee Fuk,” and “Bang Ding Ow”--the immediate reaction I get is a giggle and a laugh.
It was the winter before I started graduate school and I was in the first term of my pregnancy. Between waiting to hear back from prospective campuses and working a full time job that paid below a living wage, I was spent. Many women face this decision with fear of what others might think. This piece is my story about my journey to choice.
I could not arrive at a reasonable plan to make it through my first year of graduate school as a single mother. The programs I had applied to were full time, elitist and predominantly white. How would my classmates treat a single pregnant woman? Higher education already posed a series of ubiquitous challenges. Adding a newborn to the scenario was going to be exponentially trying. During my only ultrasound, I sang a childhood melody to my baby. After many tears, embraces, conversations and prayers, I decided to bid my farewell.
To this day, I don’t know what my father looks like. In 24 years I have had no contact with my biological father; it is more likely that someone reading this post has more information on him than I do. Despite my complete disconnect from “that” side of my family, I’ve always known I was half white. And for as long as I’ve been aware of my mixed ethnic heritage, I’ve identified as a black girl, unequivocally. How could I possibly pledge allegiance to a culture I didn’t know? To people I’d never talked to or even seen?
Over 24 million children in the U.S. live without their biological fathers. These children are, on average, two to three times more likely to experience education, behavioral, health and emotional problems, use drugs, be poor, engage in criminal activity or be victims of child abuse than their peers residing with two (married) parents.