Friday, March 29, 2013

My Name Is Pariah

Ping encourages me regularly to write down my story. It is the teacher, humanist, and warrior in her to support. But, with each silence, she says, "don't worry, your story will come. In the mean time, I will lend you my voice, my words." Our strongest weapon against the violent assaults in academia against women of color is our VOICE. Thank you Ping for lending yours through your writings! In solidarity and peace. Fortify!

My Name Is Pariah
by Ping Wang

“Ping,” said my colleagues when they learned my promotion denial, “just stay quiet till we have a new president, and you’ll have no problem to be promoted.”
“Ping,” said another, “if you make ‘noise,’ no college will ever want you, no matter how breathtaking your resume is.”
“Ping, don’t complain to the human rights department if you still want to teach here. It’s equivalent to taking poison and hoping that your enemy will die. It’s a suicide.”
Suicide: an act of taking one's own life…may stem from social and cultural pressures, such as isolation, bereavement or estrangement.
I know what they’re saying. That’s why I stay quiet since I started teaching in 1999. Quietly I taught MWF 8:30-3:30, three weeks after my surgical labor, still wobbling from a torn birth canal. Quietly I watched my colleagues got their early promotions with 1/7 of my publication while I was denied the promised opportunity. Quietly I complied when I was told I couldn’t teach poetry, or fiction, even though I was hired as a poet and fiction writer. Quietly I cut 1/5 of my salary to do service: create new curriculum, expand the writing program, establish the Chinese program, serve on different committees, organize conferences, bring visitors from China, curate permanent photo installations for the administrators...
For 13 years, I kept my mouth shut and worked. Creative Writing became the most popular major. I hired every single faculty in the department, and helped establish the Chinese department. I brought 45 visitors to the campus. I organized over 30 student readings, mentored and nurtured many students into great poets and writers. I published 10 books, won book awards, national fellowships and Distinct Alumna Award, gave hundreds of readings, lectures, key-note speeches, served on EPAG, Freeman Grant and ACTC committees, judging for NEA, PEN, Griffin…
For 13 years, I’m the first to arrive in my office, the last to leave. The security guard knows my blue Honda, parked 7 days a week outside the Old Main, even on New Year’s Day. My kids know it’s impossible to make me sit down on the couch. They no longer ask me to take them somewhere for a family vacation.
For 13 years, I have no time for my family. I give my bone marrow to the college.
For 13 years, I made hundreds of dinners for students and faculty, elaborate banquets that require weeks of preparations, food made for joy and peace.
My photos adorn the President and Admission’s Offices as symbols for harmony.
Everyday I endure pain: joints, muscles, stomach, TMJ, IBS, depression, loneliness…
For the dream that I’d be an equal, someday, if I keep quiet and work hard.
Until I was called into the office: “ Promotion denied. You’re not enough.”
Until my appeal was rejected. “You’re just not enough.”
Until the FPC chair pointed her pinky at me, “Ping, you’re nothing.”
Until they try everything to stop my Kinship of Rivers project.
Until they cut all my teaching fund.
Until they dismantled the Creative Writing major.
Until they ignored my pleas to stop the retaliation and let me teach in peace.
Until they hired a five-lawyer team to Shock & Awe me into dust.
Until lies run rampart about my demand for a “large sum of money,” my refusal to mediate.
Until I become the Pariah on the campus: nobody looks at me; nobody speaks to me, nobody knows me, nobody returns my email, including those I hired, sheltered, worked with, co-taught with, traveled with, shared meals with…
That’s when I realize I will never ever be an equal, no matter what I do, no matter how quiet and low, just because I’m a Chinese, a Chinese woman, a Chinese woman immigrant, a Chinese woman immigrant who dreams and speaks in America.
In fact, the more achievements I make, the deeper is my trouble, the more violence. It goes so deep it can no longer be explained with logic. The refusal to support the Kinship of Rivers project cost the college about $250,000 potential grants, and much coveted publicity. The dismantled writing major will cost thousands of dollars of potential tuition. The legal battle is costing the college thousands of dollars, its invaluable reputation.
The slander and estrangement are costing my life…
All because I ask to stand as an equal to my colleagues, to teach and research as an equal in an institution that relies so heavily on the principles of justice, diversity, internationalism, and academic freedom.
Academia has become a violent place, especially for women of colors, especially for those who dare to speak.
I watched the violence unleashed upon Soek-fang, Kieu Linh, Rosalie Tung, Sun, Feifei, Carmen, and many others. I watched my sisters flailing, writhing, dying alone. I stood by with my mouth shut hoping it wouldn’t be me next. I worked with my teeth clenched hoping I’d be spared. I endured waves of retaliations praying they might stop some day. I called and emailed begging for a face-to-face meeting to resolve the conflicts, NO MONEY NECESSARY. Finally, my attorney sent a sample complaint hoping for an internal resolution…
My private complaint was answered in court. It blasted me into the public arena for a “hunger game.”
That’s when I realize that my silence is a suicide that kills myself from inside, a homicide that killed Soek-fang, almost killed Kieu Linh, a genocide that is killing the entire group of women of colors in academia, one by one, thousands by thousands…
Read my story, our story, Soek-fang, Kieu Linh, women from Presumed Incompetent, every detail backed by emails and legal documents, every word soaked with tears, sweat, blood...Call EEOC, Human Rights Department, Chronicle of Higher Education, AAUP, NAS. They’ll tell you they’re overwhelmed by discrimination claims.
And if you dig, anywhere, you’ll unearth the skulls and bones of women of colors upon which the Great Wall of American academia is built.
Kieu Linh, assistant professor at UC Davis fighting for her tenure, described how she came back from her “90 minute clinical death:”

It was cold there, littered with bones. “Eat us, eat our bones,” they begged, “so that you’ll have strength to go back.” I held them, bones like roots that won’t die, brown, red, black, yellow…I cried, “No, I can’t you, sisters.” “But you must,” they ordered. “You must take us back to the living and tell them what they’ve done to us. Eat us so we can live, so you and your baby daughter can live. Eat us!” So I ate. Every bite I made, a sigh was released from the bone, as if she knew her story would have a chance to see light…

Genocide: a deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group… —Merriam -Webster

Before I spoke, I was dying slowly from exhaustion, shame, doubt, violence…
After I spoke, I’m dying from isolation, estrangement, retaliation, intimidation, terror and heartbreaks…at a much faster speed.

To speak or not speak, it’s no longer an option.

I am dying no matter what, being a woman of color, an immigrant who dares to dream for equality, justice and truth in American academia.

If I’m given a death sentence for this dream, then let me die with my mouth wide open. Let the public eye be my shield. Let the public conscience be my weapon.

Let me be the Pariah if it means no other women of colors will have to go through this again, if it means my children and sisters can live with some dignity.

Speak, if you don’t want to be the next in the “Hunger Game.”

In poetry, we seek truth. In poetry, we unite to stop this violence.

1 comment:

amazingafrogirl said...

Thank you for writing this. I am an African-American woman having my own struggle at my university. I have already suffered serious retaliation for speaking out against racist and gender discrimination (in a year I won't have a job, and in the meantime I won't be allowed to teach). I had started to feel a bit deflated, but this has rallied me. I will not be silent.