I remember going to those parties and seeing a lot of folks who looked like my cousins, my mom, and my Titos, and my Titas. Like, they all looked very familiar and that was nice, but I always felt like an outsider. I don’t know any Tagalog. I can’t speak any other language other than English, and it makes me feel very deficient. So, I was always left out of conversations when I was at those parties. I wasn’t really in the cultural know. Because all I know is growing up and being raised here. In elementary school I had maybe two Asian classmates, and one was from kindergarten until second grade and then the other one was from fourth grade until sixth grade.
It was really weird because I didn’t, I didn’t notice it as ‘I was different’, that my brother and I were so different. It did happen at some point in school where I had that moment of Oh, I really am different. I think it was a math lesson with how many kids have blue eyes versus how many had brown eyes. I looked around going, Wait, we’re the ones with brown eyes? This, this is telling.
When I was younger I used to say a lot of racist jokes because I thought that was what you had to do to assimilate and to make people feel comfortable. For so long, I catered to other people’s comforts. For a long time, I went by the nickname Remi in school because teachers, substitute teachers, other students had a hard time remembering my name. Just generally, “Remelisa is a mouthful,” and I thought, Is it?
…a very creative and thoughtful person who just wants everyone to be open to listening to other people’s stories but be able to share their stories too. And I think one of the most important ways to share stories is through a creative expression. Whether it’s stories or emotions. And crazy cat person.
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‘Indivisible’ is an ongoing portrait and interview project, sharing the stories of racism and identity formation.
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