The day before the election, Tinashe posted a picture half-smiling, baby blue fingernails, and candid with the caption “HAPPY cuz my new music is out & Donald Trump is finally gonna lose tomorrow.” The day after, my roommate corrected me, saying we were now post-Obama, not Trump’s America, because black presidents create whitelash, and whiny kids don’t invent countries so we should stop giving them all the credit. I listened to Nightride for the first time, which was spooky enough for the day. Pitchfork called it “strictly after-hours,” but the reviewer was probably a little too old and white to figure that being an ice-cold bitch is more of a lifestyle than an aesthetic choice.
On December 15, 2013, Dustin Friedland died in Millburn's Short Hills Mall parking deck defending his car during a carjacking, which was surprising to those of us who hung around there at least once a week. The carjacking was committed by Kevin Roberts of Newark, who defended himself during the trial. Newark was 15 minutes away by car and worlds from my house. I felt tied to it because my dad once lived there, and sometimes I helped him interview residents for his research, and I audited classes in the tech school. But I wasn’t kissing the surface of the good parts. Newark had a dioxin orange sunset. In 2015, according to Law Street Media, Newark was rated the ninth most dangerous city in the United States, jumping up ten spots since 2014 after a 23% increase in robberies and a 16% increase in murders. In 2014, the New York Times claimed that car thefts were going out of fashion, but after Friedland’s death, they published an article stating that carjacking rates were on a massive undeniable high. A Vice video on a major carjacking circle in Newark confirmed that car thefts were going down, but that didn’t mean they weren’t gonna take your car if they had families to feed.
So I am interested in youth and the special breed of it that exists in yellow Americans, which may or may not be the force that brings people in our motherland to Botox and surgeries and skin rejuvenations, but is definitely the force that drives Eddie Huang to dress like a teenager and listen to hip-hop forever; David Choe, a millionaire at age 40, to roll up peanut butter and Wonderbread in a ball so he could “glue [his] stomach together” in a hitchhiking show in honor of his teenagedom; and Wong-Fu Productions to keep making millennial cheesy romance videos. The way our public figures seem unapologetically young forever. The part of me seeded by nigahiga, kevjumba, JustKiddingNews, and all that YouTube. The memes and text-talk and colors that pervade Maggie Lee’s “Mommy.” That spring of gorgeous, insatiable language coming from Jenny Zhang’s poetry and essays, which can’t be traced to Morrison or Hemingway or Faulkner, but may possibly be traced to the way we talk to one another now, pop, contemporary and fleeting. Tech geeks and new money and fashionistas and foodies and Angry Asian Americans.
Love’s workings should be unrelated to those of politics. But at the same time, there’s nothing more political than deciding whom you mess with, whose experiences you take on as your own. It seems in every public context other than Asian-American activism, partnerships are factored unapologetically, essentially, into identity. Who did not point to Melania’s plagiarism as a display, also, of Trump’s inadequacy; her immigrant status as contradictory to his nativist rhetoric? Who does not view the Bill aspect to Clinton’s presidential run as significant, a contribution to her identity as an insider? We talk about the social significance of Michelle Obama’s skin color, darker than the president’s. There are sociologies and national histories and tropes that solely exist to define who cuffs you up, because there are white trophy wives to rich black men, skinny yellow boys to hallyu’d-up white girls, black girls to hip-hop posing yellow boys, and of course, white boys to yellow girls. There are forces beyond fluffiness and attraction that bring people together.
This summer I kept thinking about growing up. I went to the MoMA and watched Maggie Lee’s "Mommy," her autobiographical video in multiple parts. Lee also grew up in suburban New Jersey, yellow. I kept remembering her story’s colors, the neons, her long thick hair, the words she chose like “think” and “circus” and “daddy’s little girl.” I kept wondering which colors I’d pick, which moments. In what ways could I, like Lee, convey a life, show I was done but not over it, make each aspect as obviously falsifiable as I knew it to be, but breathless, intoxicating, cool.