“It means white person in Moore,” Sabrina explained to me in Ouaga, when we first got in country.
“Foreigner,” our country director specified.
Either way, it’s my name.
It’s what all the children in my neighborhood chant as I bike by, a chorus of excited shrieks following me to the center. It’s the only recognizable word that fills a room whenever I walk in. It’s what the man hissed directly in my face as I walked by him at the market. It felt like acid in that moment.
I’m used to being an outsider. As a Taiwanese-American woman that has lived abroad, I’m used to being the perpetual foreigner, even when I’m home. Like many minority children, my childhood was spent trying to erase my origins, wanting more than anything to fit in with my white classmates. It has taken me a long time to get to this point, but my difference since has become an identity marker that I wear like a weapon, a reappropriated tool of oppression. I’ve grown to be fiercely proud of my heritage. From birth, I have had a claim on two different cultures and three languages. What do you have? One language? A muddy European mutt genealogy? Ha!
In France, I found myself secretly relishing when some fool would call me Japanese and Chinese, evaluating my appearances without even bothering to listen to my heavy American accent. I looked forward to challenging their casual racism and throwing their stereotypes back at them.
Once, in the market, someone asked me if I was Japanese, and my knee-jerk instinct was to aggressively assert my American identity, as I used to do. In that moment, I wasn’t sure if I was more relieved or disappointed that my Asian identity was not entirely erased here, that being American wasn’t enough.
To be the daughter of two cultures is to fully belong in neither—or any, for that matter.
I like that, from him, the hated term of unbelonging transforms into something almost like a term of endearment. For once, I can take it without completely overthinking the socioracial implications. It doesn’t matter right now.
Jerome hands me a cold Brakina and I brush aside any lingering thoughts about being a nassara as I sit down with my friends for a drink.