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Alexa Fahlman


The Colour Yellow

Raised through binary systems

I am a product of westernized thought. 

Colour-coated labels, black and white

organized into aisles from left to right,

I buy them in packs at staples

as the colour yellow sits on the shelf


I was born in between white and yellow

with the contrast of privilege and oppression

initialled on my birth certificate.

Chinese mother, White father,

I have been told oil and water don’t mix,

but my birth was ambivalent to these polarities.

I grew up with Po Po and Gong Gong, 

who my cousins called MaMa and Yeh Yeh;

grandma and grandpa werenever our language of family.

White rice with soy saucefor lunch,

soups and stews fromfrozen chicken bones-

frugality is its base:

         “Popo grew up on a farm you know, 

         she never got to go to school, waste nothing”

I sigh in embarrassment as she pockets unused wooden chopsticks from western restaurants,

she says they’ll help her plants stay upright as they grow.

While they grew, so did I 

with black hair, 

and almond eyes too wide to be called quintessential, 

but slanted enough to becalled a chink


chink, chink, chink

is the background noise in my school hallway

is the background noise of plates and teacups at dim sum

is the tagline I had forced myself to laugh to 

is the word my mother winced to

is  the racism I internalized.



In Saussurean structuralist theory,

the binary opposition is the means by which units of language have value or meaning

I never learnt how to speak Cantonese.

Typically, one of the two opposites assumes a role of dominance over the other

I learnt to be ashamed of it instead.

When kids realized my last name wasn’t Lee or Chang

That I said hi, and not ni hao,

my Chinese was only an undertone in my skin,

envious of blonde hair and blue eyes,

and when I asked my mother if I could dye my hair she told me I’d be too white.

Too White. 


Not white enough.

I grew up in a binary

Believing I was living the inferior half;


But do you eat your pets? 
But are you only half smart?
But are you only half a bad driver?
But what are you? 
But where are you actually from?
But did your dad have yellow fever? 
(As if my mother was a china doll he picked out at a store)


I could never just be:

Typically one of the two opposites assumes a role of dominance over the other

Typically a role of dominance over the other

Typically, dominance, White dominance,

bleached my self conscious

until I finally felt my yellow stain had come out.

So with Eve, I danced with the devil,

and slept with gwailou

Who told me my eyes were big for an Asian girl; 

Who told me I’d look sexy in a cheongsam;

Who told me I wasn’t even Asian at all.

And when Eve recited

   ‘take them as compliments’

I realized that Eden isn’t as colourful as it’s pictured in the books.

The inside of the apple is painted white,

while my body unfolds like a red envelope.

So I dug out that serpent seed, the internalized myth of  ‘not good enough’

and bloomed with Po Po’s orchids, whose name I share,

福兰撒. I am not ashamed.

In Saussurean structuralist theory, binary relation is not contradictory

-I have never been one

nor have I ever been ‘other’-

It is structural and complementary.


So now, when you ask me what my favourite colour is,

I will tell you with pride, that I have always loved
the colour Yellow.