the unbearable lightness of being yellow peril

By Alison Zheng

an unremarkable poster stapled to a pole was

spotted in brooklyn and then posted on instagram.

stern serif letters proclaimed:

The Chinese are destroying Bay Ridge.

Illegal home conversions ruining housing stock

resulting in a flight of middle class home owners.

in 2004, my parents bought a deliciously pink fixer

upper. being filial as fuck, they converted the bottom

into an in-law for my grandma.

when asked if it was illegal, papa beamed with

pride. “i have all my papers. do you want to see? i’m not

stupid! i know that our neighbors are white.”

Junk stores: massage parlors (prostitution); nail salons;

99 cent stores; dirty Chinese restaurants

in high school, someone vandalized the massage parlor by us

with red paint (i thought it was blood) screaming “Karen” all over

the facade. on bus rides,

i stared at the store front hoping karen was safe. i imagined a

lovesick john, you know the kind that writes hand job reviews on

backpage, lashing out when he realized

that karen did not earnestly and wholly want to love him long time.

Trashed up streets; bottle collecting; scavenging

a 70 year old man was brutalized in the bayview while collecting

cans. his wife was a home caretaker. i say was because we all know

she’s unemployed now.

when he was released from the hospital, he didn’t press charges.

he told the press that he just hoped for restorative justice. i remind

my parents: do not leave the house.

my neighbor left a note on our recycling advising we collectively

stop giving cans to those people. she asked my white boyfriend to

tell me to be careful when i park

because she has the assigned spot next to me. i fantasize about

defacing her mercedes with my collection of la croix

and white claw cans.

Corona Virus spread by Chinese immigrates. Must we isolate,

wear face masks and social distance forever?

in new york city, they have a special hotline to call if you’re the victim

of a covid-19 fueled hate crime. countless videos have spread on

social media. over and over, the world

watches as a freshman is dragged by her hair through her dorm,

as a man smokes a cigarette before someone punches him, as

someone’s grandmother is set on fire in broad daylight. a friend of

mine is attending grad school in michigan right now.

last week, someone at the park told me to go back to china. a month

ago, someone screamed corona at my friend from across the street.

we are the lucky ones.

Schools are closed / Dentists are closed /

Barber shops and hair salons are closed

hell hath no fury like a white person that isn’t allowed to get a haircut

whenever they want to. protest dakota access pipelines, protest

police brutality, protest for black lives matters,

protest for trayvon martin, protest for michael brown, protest for

breonna taylor, protest for freddie gray, protest for alton sterling,

protest for eric garner, protest for philando castile

and you’ll lose your eye to a rubber bullet. protest for the right to

get wasted at a bar during a health crisis while watching sports

that exploit black players? well, that’s american.

The USA won World War 2 and The Cold War. Are we to succumb to

these unhygienic people who spread this disease?

when we learned about the civil rights movement in fourth grade,

i learned that i’m a freak. being neither black or white, people that

look like me don’t exist in history books.

people that look like me contribute nothing but illegal home

conversions; junk stores: massage parlors (prostitution);

nail salons; 99 cent stores;

dirty Chinese restaurants; trashed up streets.


Alison Zheng (吴静山 )’s work is published in or forthcoming from Francis House, Rising Phoenix Review, giallo lit, The Westchester Review, Rabbit: A Journal For Non-Fiction Poetry, Rigorous Mag, and more. Alison (she/her) serves as a poetry reader for Non.Plus Lit. She is a Scorpio Sun/Pisces Moon. Follow her on Twitter @aliberryzheng.

This piece is a part of DISTANCED 3.0.

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