My inspiration stems from this TEDTalk by Sarah Liberti. Her awkward yet compelling stance on discomfort in the mind blossoms from the idea that mental instability is just masked by a facade of “casually suicidal” humor. Liberti transitions from mild posts of humor such as, “I tomato-tally want to kill myself” to the deeper, darker aspects of the suicidal mind: “I’m not even dropping hints that I want to die anymore”. What resonates with me, however, is her willingness to force her audience into an uncomfortable position. Her straightforwardness when discussing suicide catches the audience off-guard, leaving a thought, even for a split second, that you being uncomfortable perpetuates her points even further as the truth.
It is because of this TEDTalk that I wish to shift my focus to a topic arguably even less discussed than suicide: the Asian-American struggle. I was presented with an argument from my friend a couple of days ago depicting how “good” it was to be stereotyped as smart or successful while he, an Iraqi, is always having bomb jokes or terrorist jokes directed at him, “but you don’t see me complaining!” Definitively, it is a fact that Asian-American stereotypes are for the most part positive rather than negative; however, it sets an irrational standard for them to fulfill specifically just for the purpose of upholding the idealistic view of others around them. It is my choice to utilize my freedom of speech to discuss these stereotypes as an issue, while it was indeed his choice to not complain about the injustice that settles upon him.
One of the prominent taboos of Asian-American culture (or even Asian culture in general) is definitely mental health. I have never been clinically depressed nor have I ever contemplated suicide due to any criterion other than the pure curiosity of what lies on the other side. I can never begin to fathom placing myself in the mind of a depressed Asian-American who can never quite fully discuss their issues with anyone else for fear of being misunderstood and ridiculed.
here you are,
too foreign for home,
too foreign for here.
Never enough for both.
Ijeoma Umebinyuo, Diaspora Blues
This excerpt from Diaspora Blues suggests the struggle of an individual who seemingly cannot fit in anywhere while dealing with a double identity. Delving into the Asian-American topic, we are often coined as the “model minority”, the one that does better than other minorities. While this is true, an everlasting effect is this: Asian-Americans are not considered among the minorities because they are better off. However, they also do not have the privilege or the advantage of the majority, namely the white people. And as history is being taught in classrooms and textbooks, I frequently came across the question of, “Well, where are the Asian-Americans in this narrative?”
As my teacher taught about segregation, the Little Rock Nine, Plessy v. Ferguson, the separation of whites and colors, I raised my hand.
“What about the Asians? Do they go with the whites or the colors?”
“Well… there weren’t a lot of Asians in America at this time.”
“But surely, there were some. And where did they go?”
“Asians were usually located on the West Coast due to the 1949 Gold Rush.”
But what did that mean? We’ve rewritten history into black and white, but in fact, there a lot more underneath the surface. My educators weren’t even educated on a topic so near and dear to me because they were not me.
They were not Asian-American.
How does this relate to being casually suicidal? Asians have been underrepresented on the spectrum for a long time. We’ve been taught to silence ourselves, our stance, our opinions. This can be seen in the consistently low voter turnout for Asian-Americans and specifically highlighted through a scene in The Joy Luck Club (1993) by Amy Tan.
Ying-ying, as a young girl, told that she should never tell anybody her wishes for then, they become desires. And so, a girl with much to say was automatically silenced against her will. Forever.
As our minds slowly lack the stability we so rightfully showcase in our academics and involvement in the community around us, we lose balance as well as ourselves. Rosy retrospection is the theory that for some reason, we, as humans, are able to recall the good and positive memories more vividly than the bad ones. But how come, once depression hits, it renders individuals to be physically incapable of the notion altogether? And so, here, we are… physically incapable of letting others know for fear of invalidation. For fear that our parents coming from the last generation don’t understand us, because not only is there a generational barrier, there is a cultural barrier. There is a language barrier. And there is an inexperience factor. Because we are not manually doing work, it is not considered work. And because a white-collar job involves a lot less manual labor than a blue-collar job, it is magically considered to be easier. No matter how bilingual an individual is growing up in America, they are always better at one language than the other. That language most of the time? English. And so, we reach this point where… no matter how close we are to each other, we will never fully understand one another.
And that leads us to believe we are alone.
So we cope with our stance the only way human beings know how: humor. We laugh things off, hide our sorrows, fake it until we make it. After all, if we laugh at ourselves, then we take the power away from whomever was tormenting us in the first place.
I’ve heard of mutuals who have committed suicide in the most atrocious ways, mirroring the level of horror that their demons have obsessed to haunt them over. Not only the Asian American race, but individuals of all backgrounds and ethnicities struggle to make themselves heard and wish for the topic of depression to be less taboo and uncomfortable.
So, perhaps that should get you wondering.
How serious is that ‘kms’?