by Anna Dang
I resent that I’m Vietnamese American.
I once questioned if I resented the Vietnamese
Because the feeling of self-hate felt similar to the feeling of displacement
that I have always felt deep in my Heart
But now, I know self-hate was my mistake.
It was just once hard to understand
“It” being the irony
of my existence.
It’s so confusing:
My care for vulnerable peoples has led me to anti-capitalist politics,
yet my refugee family fled communism.
I have inherited the identity of Vietnamese American,
though it is the United States’s empire that makes me a displaced Viet person.
That’s just, like, so ironic.
I’ve been told to be thankful for being American
While I know I do have the privileges
of being born within the walls of an empire,
I refuse to be thankful
I refuse to justify
that came before my family’s journey here and spans far after
And Your violence resides in my Heart a generation after
I am confident in who I am as a Vietnamese or Viet or Việt woman; It’s that
I resent that I’m Vietnamese American.
I am a daughter, granddaughter, and great granddaughter
of first wave Vietnamese refugees that resettled in the United States in April of 1975.
My upbringing recalls birthday parties, family vacations, playground friends
My ancestors had childhoods too, but they also recall
generations of fleeing everything they know
They say the explosions of bombs looked like fireworks
They say they had high school crushes on soldiers
War was — idyllic
There were so many fighting world powers
that came together
To make You.
You demolished my motherland
You erected the walls that trap my Heart
I have been to the motherland, but
I don’t know if I ever truly went back.
And then, during our time of desperation,
A time I do not have memory of but do inherit
The United States granted my family refugee status,
framed as an act of generosity — We were saved.
Generosity comes in a form of a gift
During those birthday parties in Our upbringings
Our mothers told us to send my friends
Thank you notes
Our refugee status is not a gift
as simple as dolls with yarn as hair
How am I supposed to be thankful for Your generosity, when
In my Heart, I hold:
The displacement that came with the “gift” of American
My relocation onto Your empire’s stolen land after You were the one who displaced us
I, We, were forced
to be Asian American
My family has made our own decisions
But that can’t change the fact that
We never chose to be here
Because there is no real choice when there were an absence of choices
I was never supposed to be here
I was never supposed to be
We had never wanted to be
Your generosity is not enough
To resolve my
Grade school bullies misconstrued my resentment
They crinkled their nose at the bánh bột lọc I brought for lunch
and convinced me to shave my black peach fuzz above my lip that they called a mustache. When I couldn’t sleep in my mismatched froggy pajamas
because I was questioning the Vietnamese
You played a great game of hide and seek, but
the sun eventually came up
I have now found You
I am Vietnamese American because You forced us to be
I am here because You had a Gun
But it wasn’t big enough
I survived —
Angrier than the walls You made to trap my Heart
For that exact reason, I don’t hate my resentment.
I resent that I’m Vietnamese American because
I reject myself as grateful
My resentment rejects the tale of our survival manufactured to justify
Your generous poison
My resentment is
here to stay,
and I actually quite love that.
I will always be Vietnamese American
And that’s Your fault
Jokes on You!
In fact, as You took so much away
But in Your quest for power
You couldn’t help but hurt yourself
Because you don’t have the power to make me love You
I resent the part of You that has become a part of me
I resent you
I resist you
Resentment is an artifact of how I exist
How I survive
How I fly
When I remember how You harmed.
It is ironic and
I resent because my caged Heart is still free
I don’t love being Vietnamese American
I resent that I’m Vietnamese American
I love that I resent that I’m Vietnamese American