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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.