Campus Life wenbo’s walks

How a tiger bears its stripes

Words carry weight

9562 tiger v2
Even in the mountains, I see the eye of the tiger.
Phoebe Lee — The Tech

I. Orange, black, and white

At a moment’s notice, the train pulled up to Park Street. The man moved like the wind as he stepped off the platform into the rickety sodium-illuminated trolly, the doors sliding shut behind him. He did his best to eschew a glare toward the inebriated voice in front of him muttering about how “the Chinese kid should be let in first, like they always are.”

They were like echoes; his mind was aflame, a cavern with but a single orange candle flickering beneath a perilous, stalactic drip. He took a seat beside the doorway, concealed his face behind his hoodie, and buried his barren hands beneath the pockets of his black nylon coat.

He looked across the aisle and stared into the perpetrator’s suffocating blue eyes. They scarcely noticed him as a horrible laugh escaped from their possessor’s rib cage. The ocean has eyes, but its riptides have teeth, and he understood every word they tore away from shore.

His lips quivered. Words piled up behind them and formed a riotous mob, ready to storm the gates should they ever open. He looked to his companion sitting in the seat beside him. His companion peered into the distance and marveled at the orange of the sunset and of the seagulls’ bills. The seat was as good as barren; he never opened the gates, and the mob died down.

The effigies of time shattered into a fine white plaster that spilled into the streets. There, the dust settled like aged perfume, freezing more in the nights that succeeded. The bustling Bostonian city faded into the landscape of a quaint Massachusetts town.

With each breath he took, the smokers covered their faces. With each step forward, they took a step back. He couldn’t see their faces behind his fogged-up glasses, but he sensed their fervor to avoid him. His fingers fidgeted with his headphone wires in the pockets of his black nylon coat.

A meandering stream of consciousness transported him through a vacuous daze. The days grew longer as the plaster solidified to concrete. He walked with his friends on a clear spring day down Vassar Street. People in helmets sped past and screamed a word at them. High-fives were exchanged.

The three friends stood outside the power plant, shocked but not surprised. They averted their eyes and let the words sweep them like a howling zephyr. Go back to where you came from. You are not welcome. These were the words that they all knew by heart, and these were the words replaced by “coronavirus.” They didn’t say a thing, because nobody wanted to cause a scene. After all, is it not easier to ignore than to confront?

II. How a tiger bears its stripes

But let me tell you how a tiger bears its stripes. Everyone recognizes them; everyone understands their weight. Even so, a tiger does not shrug them off, for doing so is not an option. Rather, a tiger lives with them and understands their implications, taking advantage of the hues that streak across its coat.

Likewise, I live in my skin with my past, and I do not look upon them with regret or envy. I contemplate them for what they are, and I live with the voice I was given at birth and the positions I must hence take. Ever since I was young, I found my race conflated with a tiger (Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother). But that by no means constrains me.

As someone who has a platform to voice my thoughts, I find myself in a difficult position; as much as I would love to keep my column lighthearted and fun, making it an escape from reality, it’s impossible to write about walking without bringing readers into my shoes.

Biden’s America is still racist. This is far from an original take. However, it’s easy to forget that just because the faces of the government have changed, its underlying discriminatory infrastructure and institutions have not. The issues of 2020 still exist and must never be forgotten.

The U.S. donning a new mask does not fix its racism. The only difference nowadays is that many are not vocal about their prejudices. Regardless, we see their racist attitudes manifest themselves in almost any online discussion forum about any incident that could even remotely be linked to a person’s race. Recent remarks I’ve read concerning such articles in The Tech have made it impossible for me to stay silent.

I write a lot about the walks that make me think, and none makes one think more so than ones that provoke feelings of injury or injustice. Ironically, those are the ones I’ve historically avoided writing about, not because I don’t care about them, but in part because of the delicacy and difficulty I’ve found in encapsulating into words my experiences with xenophobia.

The other part is that I’ve not lived enough like a tiger: I’ve allowed cowardice to take over every time I had previously come close to initiating conversations around race or my experiences with it. I promise to strive for and do better; I will do that no longer.

It’s therefore crucial to recognize our, my own included, prejudices and confront them head-on. Specifically, being fearful of or avoiding conversations surrounding race does not make one a better person. Diversity is an asset. While it’s not possible to fully experience the range of experiences of another person, it is possible to learn about them through candid discussions of perspective.