I am sad.
Today is January 19, 2017, and I don’t know what looms beyond tomorrow. I don’t know what the world will not be months from now.
“The problem is not that we don’t care about people who are not like us, the problem is that we don’t know people who are not like us.”
I watch you searching the world. Scanning. You reach out for me, thinking we are the same, and I smile inside. Another one bites the dust. Their hand closes over mine and I look up, how you do what they always do.
I hesitate to put this into words because I’ve put it into words so many times before. I don’t want to seem trite. I don’t want to seem…like I know all the things you don’t know.
I don’t know.
I’m finally learning to chew on that feeling of foreignness which has followed me around all this time. I spent my early years trying to swallow, swallowing with a dry mouth, choking. Unable to fully understand why I had this bit to work through. But I know now, how to poke it up in my cheek. Keep it in my lip. Hold it there and suck through. There is a strange nourishment it has to offer, and I keep it close. I remind myself to breathe, now.
Years of having my name mispronounced, years of being told my face is funny, my voice is funny, my words are funny. Too many reminders of my non, yet absolute whiteness. Too much time spent rolling tortillas and listening to southwestern lilts. Too many missteps, calling myself this, that or the other. Too many voices trying to be reassuring as they informed me of my, our sameness: “Your dad doesn’t look Mexican.” It’s okay. You are one of us. And that constant question: this is what you should want. You should want to be the same. I’ve watched them all slide down the drain of Whiteness. Be with us. Be like us. We are safe. We are alike.
We are not. We are the people that were. We were named and moved and told, to be this now. The borders were built around us. The names were given after us. Because we lived without. And now you tell us we don’t belong. Even though we followed all your rules. Even though we let you in. Even though. We have always moved over for you.
I am a native of the places.
And I watch Barack Obama leave the White House, and I watch our country divide in anger and fear. And I feel, I face that demon that has hung around me: difference. Don’t be different. But I find myself reaching for it now, embracing it now, more than ever. I am different and I will continue to be different, to live it out loud. I’m not going to apologize for it. I want to apologize for you–that you have been doomed to this sameness. That you drank the kool-aid. That you think all of this is right.
I don’t know. I cry tears of resolve.
I played with your sameness. My chameleon skin. I tried it on and took it off. My mask, my skin, my lines. I have learned how to be and not be. Pan in the woods. I wish the same for you. I have always wished the same for you. But you didn’t lend your ear to the other side of the fence. You weren’t interested in considering … You didn’t know there was anything else to consider. I was too good at doing you the favor of blending in. I should have been…I should have stood up maybe and screamed at you my difference, flashed it boldly, taken you along for the ride. I don’t know. Everything is disparate now. All the pieces I assembled, you destroyed. So much violence. So much backtracking.
I have come up through the ranks of challenge, and I stand here steadfast, somehow much calmer than you, who has never felt… Who has never been told…
You do not matter.
My mouth it tingles with the words. If only I could convince you.