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.