My American Lie
a poem by Chris Fong Chew
Dear Asian Youth,
I was born and raised in America
Taught the language, taught the laws
I was raised to believe in the ideals of this nation.
Liberty, and justice for all.
I was taught the history and the stories
Columbus, our founding fathers, and all
We fought against dictatorships and tyranny
And made the world a better place
Our nation was the gleaming light for a better world-- a better life.
We welcomed immigrants at our shore, gave them jobs, and helped the poor.
We built grand monuments of men like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson,
But somewhere along the line, what I believed to be true was full of lies.
The American veil was pulled away from my eyes.
We said “we have kids in cages,” but our government turned a blind eye.
We said, “Black lives matter” while the police continued to terrorize.
We said, “wear a mask” but that was politicized.
We reckon with a nation that was built on lies.
Freedom for the rich,
Liberty for the white,
The pursuit of happiness, only if you’re a man with a wife
“Form a more perfect union” but our society divides.
I question which America to believe: the one that brought my ancestors, or the one I see?
My family, who came for better opportunities, the American Dream
A better life, a job, and a chance to do more than just make ends meet.
Peasants in the motherland, they fled poverty.
America welcomed them, but not without hesitancy.
My great grandfather who sat in Angel Island, locked up for weeks,
My grandfather who came alone to provide for his family,
Who gave up so much for the future I seek.
To get an education, and pursue my dreams,
I can’t ignore the privilege I have to live in this country.
Yet that privilege I have is a sign that things aren't the way they should be
That by birth, my life was made easier than those around me.
By being straight, by being male, I have been given a pass
For being “normal” while others remain oppressed
The beauty of our nation isn’t found in our past.
It’s the past that we must reckon with to achieve change at last
The foundations we were built upon, weren’t all that great
When hidden between the lines, was a message to discriminate.
The eradicated history of the Blacks and Indigenous,
The suffering of thousands, written into our name.
America was never a place that was great.
It's a place of hope and in that,
- Chris Fong Chew