Opinion | Media Guest: Me

Opinion by Hannah H. Kim
March 24, 2021, 9:29 p.m.

When I couldn’t focus on anything else last week, I found myself turning to Langston Hughes. What started as simple procrastination led me to recreate “Dinner Guest: Me” to reflect the latest discussions surrounding the Atlanta shootings and anti-Asian racism. 

There’s so much to love about “Dinner Guest: Me” (1965): the mix of gratitude and resentment; the tension of pride in one’s racial identity and delight in being acceptable to whites; the performance of white allyship, emotional yet ineffectual; classism in racism; the burden and responsibility of being a token — such complex, biting topics in an unassuming, mellifluous package.

Then there’s the complicated history of Black-Asian relations in the US. An Asian-American officer was complicit in George Floyd’s murder, and many recent attacks on Asians have involved Black assailants. Racism and xenophobia have marred relationships both ways, and sometimes it all feels personal as I grew up hearing about the Rodney King riots from family who lived through it, my extended family now small business owners in Baltimore. But past and present Black-Asian solidarity gives me hope, and I aimed to build off Hughes’ legacy to signal that we’re in this fight against White Supremacy together.

Recent cultural accomplishments (Crazy Rich Asians, Parasite, Minari, K-pop, etc.), educational and professional success (actual or perceived) and misogyny don’t make anti-Asian racism any less real. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery — and here, I hope, also a form of protest and solidarity.

Media Guest: Me

I know I am
The “Model Minority” Problem
with awards in hand,
Answering the usual questions
That come to white mind
Which seeks “demurely”
To “Probe” in “polite way”
The how and whether
Of anti-Asian U.S.A. —
Wondering how this could be
when “Asians do so well,”
Selective empathy inbuilt,
To excuse and accuse,
“It was Sexual Guilt.”

The headlines are confused,
The solidarity divine,
And center of attention
At the national table, finally mine.
To be The Problem on
The Web (#stopAsianhate!)
Is not so bad
(though friends’ silence is sad).
Solutions to the Problem,
Of course, wait.

Read “Dinner Guest: Me” (1965) by Langston Hughes at this link

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Hannah H. Kim is a Ph.D. candidate in the Philosophy Department. She is also an Assistant Editor for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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