Safe Space

In the United States

I don’t feel accepted

in the crowds of white people

there’s only one place

I feel like I am one with

the crowd.

In the United States

these buildings are filled with




and years of history.

When I step into these buildings

The scent of wàn jīn yóu

         xiǎo dòu kòu

         là jiāo

fills your nostrils.

I know I am safe from

being called


          as a ch*nk




                                                covid carrier.

The dirty looks


                hatred seeping from their eyes.

When I step into these buildings

I see my favorite childhood snacks

excitement fills me

and I’m taken back to previous years.

When I step into these buildings

I am glanced over

as one of the other Asian customers

I am not one of the few people of color

in these supermarkets.

A white person enters the building

and they don’t

share the same feelings

they don’t feel like

Asian supermarkets

are a safety net.

A white person enters the building

and they are

one of the few

white people

they are given weird glances

they are not considered the usual customer.

We go here because

it’s one of the few places

that have what we need

má yóu

jiàng yóu

liào jiǔ

bā jiǎo

huā jiāo

là jiāo.

Here we don’t have to

code switch

we don’t have to

speak the language

of the colonizers

here we speak in our mother tongues




Here we don’t have to

be unimpressed with

the “Asian” section

of our local


When a white person enters the building

they take for granted

the ingredients

only found in Asian supermarkets.

Here they see




that seem so exotic

so foreign

they glance at the sauce aisles

filled with chili oil

banana ketchup


oyster sauce


intimidated by

shelves and shelves dedicated towards sauces.

We pass through the building

seeing aisles dedicated to

frozen dumplings

reminding us of the memories

        around the kitchen

        surrounded by family

        prepping the filling

        rolling out dough

        wrapping the symbols of money

        celebrating the new year



        pan fried

        we eat our family’s dumplings.

We pass through the building

seeing sections dedicated to

lunar new year

reminding us of the memories

        the paper

        soon to be burned

        in honor of the ancestors

        the crackles of the fireworks

        to scare away

        bad spirits

        red envelopes

        making you giddy

        money awaiting

        to bring smiles to children’s faces.

We stop at the cashier

a warm smile welcomes you

a face similar to yours

ringing you up

in comfortable silence

handing the change

and if you’re lucky

the cashier gives you a free candy.

We return home with

childhood snacks


little pandas

white rabbits

jello cups

enclosed in white plastic bags.

A white person stops at the cashier

ringing you up


unaccustomed to the lack of small talk

handing the change

you leave.

A white person leaves the building

after purchasing ingredients

they return home

carefully reading

and measuring to the recipe’s instructions

not having the confidence

to listen to their ancestors

advising them the perfect amount.

We return home

excited to have stocked up

on our favorite sauces



to recreate our favorite recipes

no need for any measuring cups

listening to our ancestors guiding us.

We go here

because it’s one of the few places

that has the essentials to recreate the memories of

prepping, folding, wrapping symbols of money

sitting around the table

next to loved ones

opening up our red envelopes

even if it means ten


thirty minutes

forgetting about

the dirty looks


hatred seeping from their eyes.

This is our safe space.

by Zabrina Richards