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2017 Youth Poet Laureate

Sharon Lin

A Footnote on a Hollywood Blockbuster

Tilda Swinton, your yellowface is not to blame
If Hollywood’s standards state that Natalie Dormer is
Japanese enough to play an Asian girl
If Scarlett Johansson in a black wig and contacts
Is enough to replace the thousands of Japanese
Americans interned away for your film
For the millions of Asian girls who never see themselves
Except as exotic sex toys on television
The first Chinese American woman elected to Congress
And the Senate both in the same year
Why have we waited so long?
Is it because you couldn’t give up your chow mein
Your Kung Pao Chicken and Egg Foo Young
Long enough to give us a chance to rise from
The firecracker ashes to give us a voice?
Is it because you prefer your petite Asian girls
In porn than in government, that our names are just
Too hard to pronounce?
Is that why you called the first Asian American
Miss America ugly, because she didn’t fit your
Sexual fantasies, wasn’t a China Doll
for your yellow fever?
Is that why Jeremy Lin made headlines simply because
You couldn’t believe that an Asian man could
Have anything but a small penis and small voice?
Is that why you call us a model minority, then
Slander our tiger parents when maybe
Your standards are just too damn low?
Is that why our girls are starved sick,
told that if they aren’t perfect then they are nothing?
Is that why I still get asked on the subway
Where I’m from, because being a first generation
American isn’t enough to show that I’m anything
More than fresh off the boat?
Is that why my almond eyes and yellow skin
Beg whether I speak English or Chinese?
Is that why we’re nothing but a monolithic sea of
Yellow, that everything we touch becomes Asian
American privilege, that our bamboo ceiling defines
Our place in society, that you can just ignore us
Because we’re too complacent to speak up?
Is that why you confine us to dumpling houses
Exile us to the slums of the city, and still sell
Your movies for China’s sweet, sweet yuan?
Is that why we can never find our kind
In a black and white society where we are simply
Another color of people?
Is that why you ignore that whole
Century of systematic lynching
Of rat tails and laundry cells
Of the railroad system that we build
But were never acknowledged for?
Is that why you wipe our history and blame
It on our silence, why you shred our past
And claim that we work too hard, that we
Steal jobs when our immigrants are working
Twenty hours a day to make a living
In a society that wants us out?
Is that why when we stand in solidarity
Against racism, we are shunned because
Being Asian means shutting up and taking
It in the ass?
Is that why you can’t find enough Asians
At poetry slams for inspiration, why we
Can’t be CEOs or heroes, because we’re
The ones who have to be saved?
Is that why you fear us, because you’re afraid
Our chink eyes will see right through your lies
That you know that our voices will rise
Like a dragon’s flame, that our 200 dialects
Will expose you, so you shove us to the ground
And bury us under centuries, till we’re nothing
But a footnote on a Hollywood blockbuster?

Sharon Lin is an 18-year-old senior at Stuyvesant High School. She has been named a White House Champion of Change, a Turnitin Global Innovation Award Winner, and a Scholastic Art & Writing Award Winner. Her writing has appeared in WHITETEETHMAG, Muse Magazine, Asbury Park Press, KidSpirit, Spirituality and Practice, The Feminist Wire, and other publications. She has appeared in Voice of America, de Volkskrant, and Fusion Magazine. She is also a Congressional App Challenge winner for the app iVOTE. Lin currently resides in Corona, New York, and enjoys filmmaking and photography.