Emma Edwards-Lee: “What Are You?”

What Are You?

I remember as a kid hating that I wasn’t “more Asian”

and that my skin wasn’t fair.

I begged most my life to have pin-straight hair.

I was a “hoarder’s cluttered garage”-style hodgepodge

of cultural paradox and ethnic shocks.

My Hispanic, Black, white, and native roots mélange-d

with an off-color Taiwanese stain reminding me

of the pain of a father’s absence.

Feeble-minded creeps would stop me

on the street and interrogate me for one inquiry:

“What are you?”

I would set up a pie chart and start departing

upon them my congenital stats when someone asked

until I realized strangers only asked so they knew

how to label me racially.

I initially picked up on this when they’d follow

their first question with, “So, what do you identify as?”

My apologies, I didn’t know

I had to choose for you.

I’m sorry if it’s not easy enough for you

to stereotype me due to my ethnic ambiguity,

but these countless interactions have left

me jaded and dissuaded against the curiosity

of outsiders who only want to know

“what I am” so they have a way of judging me.

So, the next time you see me

and think of asking out of curiosity?

I’ll tell you what I am.

Capable of minding my own goddamn business.

What are you looking for?