Uh … Uh …
I’ve always been the token Tongan in the workplace. Since post-grad immersion into the American workforce, I’ve always been tokenized, either by others or by myself, to portray and capture the Tongan experience as a means of the ‘other’ relating to our community, understanding our issues, and/or advocating for our young folks. My lane has been built by the bricks of my identity, as both a social and cultural construction. I’ve carried various titles throughout my seven years of working throughout the state of California, and each one always attached to being ‘the’ Tongan.
However, what happens when my uniqueness of being the token Tongan has been stripped away and the only uniqueness is my hostility of being dubbed American? I have studied, unlearned and acknowledged the full weight of the ‘hyphen-American’ label, and for many years battled with the cultural suffix. I have come to terms with my name, the texture of my hair and the brownness of my skin, to now enter the workforce in the motherland, only to be called … foreigner. Damn.
As my lane thickens in purpose, the sudden bumps on the pavement have forced me to yield and process: who am I, fareo? Aside from everything else, who sits inside this body and manages this mind?
I have been transplanted. From a place of competence to a place of total discomfort. I have confronted all of my own insecurities (Tongan dress, Tongan language, social hierarchy, etc.) in three weeks time and my uniqueness I no longer can depend on. My experience thus far has ungrounded me from all I [thought I] knew, to which I will look back on and be grateful for, later.
Bitter, triggered, and still processing …
Photo: (2014) Souled Out Album, Jhene Aiko