Writing and images from Kalani Van Meter

Peter Hristoff recently forwarded a piece of writing by VCS first-year student Kalani Van Meter that, I think, speaks to and for a lot of our students right now. She’s agreed to have it posted here.

 

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Lately I’ve been in a hole that I’ve dug for myself. For the first week of online classes I didn’t go. I didn’t feel the spark to do anything, or the urge to carry on. And for the classes that I didn’t care that much about to begin with, they were already gone in my mind. 

It’s ironic; you’d think that for a person who’s moved eighteen times change would be a breeze. Easy peasey! Another day, another move… pack up my shit in less than a day and go cross states. Again. On the same highway. Past the same trees. Over the same bridges. 

But that wasn’t the case this time. 

When I am sad and frustrated I write, and after going to the class for the first time I started typing on my computer. I felt the need to create, I felt it so bad that I started writing, not painting. 

* I’ve noticed that it feels better to read my writings aloud. Like giving myself a speech, trying to make myself feel something. 

Here’s what this google doc initially started with: 

Before shit hit the fan, my art had been focusing on the asian-american identity. Specifically Chinese american, because I felt like that was the most ignored part of me and the least I knew about. 

When things started getting bad, and when all everybody could talk about was coronavirus, I felt a change. 

Please enjoy this short thing (that I think is a poem, but didn’t intentionally make it rhyme) I wrote down while watching the movie “Bombshell”: 

White shirts white faces. The actors are in the country club scene. 

It’s something that I can’t ignore: they don’t look like me. 

… 

Knowing that eyes are looking is nothing new to me. Knowing that eyes are looking at my eyes, is also nothing new to me. I think there should be something said about noticing a thing like someone’s race. In the back of my mind all I’ve ever thought about is how many white people there are around me, I am watching them and they are watching me. 

But this time it’s different. I am different.

And for the first time, I didn’t feel safe.  

I consider it a privilege to feel safe. I am thankful because I don’t feel that kind of fear on a daily basis. 

But when your social media is bombarded by an elderly asian woman being chased with hand sanitizer and being told to sanitize herself, or an asian man having water thrown on him while being yelled profanities at, it made me wonder: what if I coughed right now?

Obviously it won’t happen to me, no no no. I’m a young asian girl. I’m mixed race and pretty. I’m exotic. I’m oriental but not one of those chinks with the Chinese virus. 

… 

When you’re struggling between two worlds, it can get difficult. On one hand you don’t fit in, but you look like you do, and on the other, you fluently understand the social norms but there’s still something about you that doesn’t quite fit in. It causes you to resent one world to get into another. It forces you to repress a part of your identity that you shouldn’t have to. 

Luckily coronavirus has single handedly destroyed the model minority stereotype! 

Instead of being good at math we have become the scapegoat of an entire pandemic. 

… 

Let’s use this as the catalyst for more positive asian representation in the media. A call for asian empowerment. A reason to put injustices against asian Americans in the spotlight. A spark to light the ocean of gasoline. An opportunity to educate people on the complexities of being asian and American. Our ethnicity is not a disease. This is a chance to strengthen our world community and empathize with one another. 

Because we’re all human… 

and viruses don’t care what race you are. 

 

On the topic of I miss you: 

I spend a lot of time at night scrolling through photos I’ve seen a handful of times. Internet stalking someone who already knows who I am, so what’s the point? 

And then I realize when this ends it will hurt a lot. 

On the topic of my AP Lit exam (and breaking asian stereotypes about academics since ‘01):

I got a 2 on that exam.

I am by all means not a good writer. 

I write things how I say them. And by doing so I have never, ever, done well in English. Especially when I moved from Arizona to Maryland. Going from one of the worst public high school education systems to the best, was pretty shocking. And shocking to my mother too:

My grade went from an A to a big ol’ C minus. 

I don’t regret that. I’m still here aren’t I? 

Visual & Critical Studies