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The Anti-Yellow Agenda

Exclusive tongues roll-off romantic ballads 

never try to twist lips into straight washboards 

to take on oriental knots–zi–becomes 

not our broken English but their broken Chinese. 

For some reason, they carry pride in their brokenness 

spew ching ching chong at my face as if 

I’m supposed to know what that means–qing qing chong– 

please, please, bug? Perhaps I underestimated them 

perhaps they are built to be smarter because in their broken 

Chinese they still managed to call me a bug, 

destined to be squashed. By whiteness, bless their mouths, 

unable to wrap around the zhengs, zhangs, zhongs, 

mangling butchering cutting in pieces my name and making it theirs. 

Their tongues, coated in white paint, were never meant to move in weird ways.



They break my taste buds. No seasoning on my 

tofu. This “ethnic” food of theirs never heard of 

peppercorn, hoisin sauce, five spice and the difference 

between short and long-grained rice and time and water 

it takes for porridge vs rice. 

I know they’ve tried because I’ve tried their attempts. 

I bought shields for my teeth against the piercing 

steel swords of “rice.” Sesame Chicken is not Chinese, 

no one back home knows what the hell I’m talking about, 

that shit’s too sweet for anyone, but I hear blonde hairs praising 

gentrification of my food. They better not touch my scrambled eggs with tomatoes 

fried dough, rice cakes, contaminating my breakfast with some brilliant 

fusion–put some bacon on it. 

Maybe they’re not anyone, they’re white. 

I was graced my first glimpse of snow peas in congee–zhou 

is the thicker flavored cousin of porridge, so why dress it up 

like how you dress up the idea of culture to satisfy 

weird voyeuristic desires hidden deep within porcelain bones 

unleashed by ingesting broccoli and beef from Panda Express.



There’s too much white and too little red 

because they don’t know red apart from blood–my red 

warms hearts at New Year’s, gives blessings at weddings, 

lights up the sky in fireworks at birthdays. Not like their 

fireworks only lit for the nation’s birthday, red, blue, white. 

Even their flag left seven red stripes for us, but their people didn’t



My eyes are slits, or maybe mine grew into the kind of slits 

that peeping toms try to look through because they 

started pulling back their perfectly proportioned eyes to mimic us, 

making me wonder if I’d fallen into their agendas. 

A kind of tribute to culture. 

My skin is a shade of theirs, 

but they don’t seem to know anything about art and insist 

yellow is ugly. 

But their hair is so yellow it stings my eyes. 


It still baffles me when I shrink in acquiescence among whiteness. 

Something about how they carry their body parts–arms and legs and chests 

are in places they decided–sends pheromones 

of predator to prey, ready to pounce, high on yellow fever. 

Museum visits become self-defense sessions, 

especially when they don’t see my body–parts in awkward places no one decided– 

in front of African artifacts and slide pass my invisibility with suave, 

claiming the whole display case to themselves 

with entire torsos covering cultural pieces. 

Like a natural.



Just because the way I do things 

was embraced by national audiences, 

they had a fit because I being recognized 

didn’t fit into their agenda. They can’t relate 

to yellow actions. Never have and will 

take off their filthy shoes when visiting a friend’s, 

never know that food is love and love 

is yelling at loved ones then forcing them to eat homecooked meals, 

never know, never understand, never relate to me. 

So they’d rather stick a sign 

“unworthy” “abomination” on my soil. 



I wonder if they’d ever sat in a room 

full of China, where they didn’t see blonde hair, blue eyes, white skin 

but black hair, black eyes, yellow skin 

didn’t hear fluent English but screams and rumbles of mixed dialects 

didn’t own the chairs they sit on, arms and legs taking up s p a c e they never claimed, 

didn’t have bland salmon and broccoli or mac n’ cheese or wings n’ burgers. 

I wonder if they’d ever feel an overwhelming presence 

of yellowness–borderline claustrophobic. 

Because I do. I always do. 

The amount of white suffocates shrinks slices into yellow, 

bleaching us. 




Karen Zheng

Dartmouth '22

I am an undergraduate student at Dartmouth College majoring in English and Creative Writing. I am a poet, but I'm trying to expand into prose a little bit more. Aside from writing and reading, I love watching movies, Asian TV shows, and fashion modeling. I am a Lesbian, Chinese-American, first-generation college student, so talk to me about any of the above! E-mail: karenzheng99@gmail.com IG: __k.z or mx_zheng
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