On “No Question” | Bao Phi

“No Question” was written when I thought of a random incident from my childhood. My dad had taken me to an Asian grocery in Saint Paul, and while he shopped I went to the front where there was a video game arcade cabinet. A young white boy was playing the game, and his older sister was standing there next to him. A bunch of us young kids went to watch him play, as kids did back then. And I remember clearly, the young white woman scoff and say, “These gooks are surrounding us.”

Thinking back on that incident, I remember how shocking it was. She and her brother were, in a way, on our turf. We outnumbered her. But even so, none of us were in any way threatening her or her brother. I remember looking around to see if any of us had threatened her or bumped into her, but I remember we were a silent mass – fascinated by a video game. And I thought to myself, what entitlement. What hatred, and racism. The fact that we had done nothing to her, and yet how easy it was for her to degrade us, vocally and publicly. And it made me think, what have we done to deserve that? This poem is, in a way, speaking up for the me that used to be. Wishing I had the words, and the brain, to talk back to her, and ask her who really surrounded whom, even when we were outnumbered – and when you looked at it, there really was no question who had fucked over whom.

Bao Phi’s poem “No Question” appeared in Asian American Literary Review’s Special Issue Commemorating the Tenth Anniversary of Sept. 11. This performance is captured on the DVD included in the issue, “Ten Years Later: Aian American Performers Reflect on 9/11”

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