top of page

A History of Silence

A History of Silence
a poem by Ashley Lee

Growing up

I was told to never speak up.

I was told that voicing my opinions

would only begin a war of words

and violence


I learned at a young age that I hated pain,

tripping on undone shoelaces,

scraping elbows and knees,

needing bandages to

make the sting go away.

So I stayed silent.

Passed the time reading books:

fiction, mystery,


History books,

their pages filled with stories of

white men

stealing land without a second thought,

enslaving families and earning riches.

373 pages later,

a railroad is built

by hand

by hands of Chinese workers.

15,000 men,

15,000 buried stories

and for 6 years,


72 pages later,

My great-grandmother and her sisters

Have been enslaved

Kidnapped and forced to become comfort women

for Japanese soldiers

Living as objects, and nothing more-

I check the cover of the book again,

Because I thought I was reading history,

not horror

38 pages later,

The Boston Sunday Globe publishes a

“magazine of humor and stories,”

But I don’t find calling Filipinos barbaric humorous,

The White Man takes credit for turning

Barbarians into civilized men

When will this book tell me tales

That do not sound exactly the same?

How many pages do I keep reading

Of my people

Silenced, tossed around at others enjoyment,

Brushed under the rug until

our struggle becomes numbers,

Becomes normalized,

Becomes nothing?

When the stranger across the street yelled at me to go back to where I came from,

I stayed silent.

When friends mocked my culture’s traditional food,

I stayed silent.

When the president of this country replaced “corona” with “Chinese”

I stayed silent.

When the news showed videos of innocent Asians

violently beat and targeted,

I stayed silent.

Time and time again,

I have stayed silent.

We have stayed silent.

Bandaids don’t heal broken spirits, my people’s spirits,

this ache in my heart dripping, ringing our history.

121 years later,

a 92-year old Asian man is attacked,

shoved to the ground and tortured with racist slurs.

A young Asian girl is surrounded by ignorance,

punched in the back of the head-

they called her, “the virus.”

One page later,


It’s a blank slate.

My people, we have stayed silent

for too long.

So shout,








and never stay silent.

bottom of page