Malaysia is one of the top producers of rubber. As I reflect on Asian Pacific Heritage month, I think about how my grandmother has tapped rubber for a living most of her life. The process of rubber tapping includes collecting latex from a rubber tree. Using a knife to peel back the tree’s bark, latex is harvested.
In my home country of Malaysia, my grandmother still rubber taps sometime, even though she no longer needs to. She would tell me how much a day of work is worth. I never paid attention to the global rubber market, but from our conversations, I would know how much rubber is at that moment, according to how much she gets paid for a bucket of rubber.
My grandmother has a third grade education, raised four children as a single mother, lived through British colonization and Japanese occupation. My story is the story of many immigrants, the story of many post-colonial children. My story is also of privileged migration. Even back in Malaysia, the American Dream beckons and I got a full ride scholarship to attempt to get that dream. Now here, my idea of the American Dream has been complicated through my understanding of race in America, and how all of that is connected to genocide, slavery, colonization and orientalism.
One of the values of our racial equity work is to “Work to understand history and ongoing legacy of racism.” My grandmother grounds me in my own history as I navigate this country filled with histories so connected to my own, in my own fight for our collective liberation.