Konch Magazine - “Banana Comrade Club” by Russell Leong


NOTE: On Feb. 28, 2014, Xinhua, the major Chinese government news service described in an editorial the departing American ambassador, Gary Locke, as a "rotten banana" among other racialized epithets.  Locke is a third generation Chinese-American, born and educated in America.  In this poem, I reclaim "banana" and re-use it as parody.  "Banana" (here a term coined by Asian American activists in the 1960s to refer to Asians who were "yellow on the outside" and colonized "white" on the inside), is used against Locke by the communist Chinese news agency. The other term in my poem, "tongzhi" is a pun--a play on the word "comrade" first used by Sun Yat-Sen in Republican China (1911), then in socialist China (after 1949), but also appropriated and used by contemporary gay and lesbian movement in Hong Kong to refer to sexual orientation (1990s+).  Please note that Locke is neither a Maoist nor gay: these terms are being used to question the use of language, epithets, etc. invoked by others--including media-- against Asian Americans.  The Chinese characters included in the poem are "Banana Comrades."
      (not BBC, but BCC) 
"Farewell, Gary Locke,"
US Ambassador to China
The Xinhua editorial said,
from Beijing, explaining that Gary
was a banana
Yellow-skinned outside but
white inside...a third generation 
American at that!  Further,
the editorial said, a banana
outside too long becomes rotten!
Well, I happened to be eating
a too-ripe banana when I heard
the news, and I have decided to
to form:
BCC  no, not BBC, but BCC
Whadda this mean?
The courage to be a person
in this world.  Yellow skin.
Brown skin. Red skin. 
Black skin. White skin.
Inside, no color but the color
of Spirit and Passion. 
Banana Membership:
Is free.  Because it supports
All the consequences of freedom.
And damn the states, East or West
Who don't.
Comrade. It once meant soldier
to soldier, linked arms, comrade
in the revolutionary sense.
Sun Yat-Sen, father of the Chinese Republic
used it first.  Then the communists.
Then gay and lesbian activists in Hong Kong
flipped the word on its head, using
it to mean LGBT. 
So Comrade has a long long history.
Let us extend this history, and embrace
All bananas.  
It ain't the Joy Luck Club
Folks playin' mah-jong till dawn
No, this is a new dawn
Bananas, of all stripes, generations
and orientations---
Move History Forward
To the soft yellow dawn 
Illuminating the South China Sea
May all the islands along 
the archipelago, from Okinawa
to Taiwan, from the Philippines
to Indonesia, place their boats into the sea
Changing the old latitudes of what was
and what we will become....
No longer banana republics
We found that we are old comrades 
in the Banana Comrade Club.