Artist: Melody S. Yang

My Eyes See What Yours Won’t

My people 
come from the mountains of Southeast Asia.
They crossed rivers 
and wandered through jungles 
to escape the ruins 
that your people forecast.

A canyon 
in the shape of your combat boot 
scars the skin of my people, 
and the walls that surround us 
are no longer fences, 
but the linked arms of your forces. 

And like a miserable storm 
with no eyes to see how its rain 
gouged deep 
valleys from which my people can’t escape,
you too, choose to be blind.

Do you close your eyes at the sight of your consequences
because you are ashamed?
Or because you believe you aren’t to blame?

With my eyes,
I see you take from my people,
and the others that you’ve dragged here 
to build this hill that you’ll die on.

I see you fetishize our women,
our clothing,
our food,
our customs,
all while trying to make us throw away our culture
and adapt your carefully cultivated menagerie of
stolen traditions.

Why do you stay silent?
Are you pretending to not hear the microaggression
when your friends say
“I really like Asian girls, 
they’re smart and submissive,”
like that’s supposed to be a compliment?
Who are you trying to fool, 
me or yourself?

Don’t think I don’t take note 
of when you mock my people’s accents.
I see when you drag your eyes
to enforce your slurs.
I see when you disregard my intelligence,
claiming my color influences it.

I see when you stand atop your watchtower,
waiting for my people to rise up
just so that you may shoot them back down.
You understand that your privilege
encourages the othering of my people 
in order to advance you and yours. 

Do you see my long black hair
and forget that my roots weren’t grown in oppression?
Know that my pride stems not from power, 
but from resistance.

And when you look into my eyes
and see the dark brown of my iris,
does it remind you
of the earth that you’ve broken
and the people you’ve stolen?

Why do you see my eyes
and believe they want to be exoticized for your pleasure?
Why do you ignore the tears of my people, 
telling yourself 
that they enjoy being dismissed?

Tell me, is the combination of 
my dark brown eyes 
and my long black hair,
an invitation for your bright white colonization?

My peoples’ story quilts give voice to our pain 
and our ancestors strengthen our will
to survive this endeavor.
We’ll make it through your mountains.
Just wait and see.

Artist Statement
Many Hmong people died at the hands of the United States military, but Hmong history is
rarely taught in US schools. Hmong people are refugees of The Secret War, where the CIA
recruited men into a guerilla force to combat communist Vietnam in Laos. After US
withdrawal, Hmong people were deemed traitors and pushed out of their homes in the
mountains. My Eyes See What Yours Won’t follow the observations and questions of a young
Hmong woman as she experiences microaggressions from her peers, hopeful that someday the US will embrace their AAPI citizens. --Melody Y.