trigger up: smallpox and other menaces


trigger warning for racist jokes and the craptitude of white supremacy culture.

de nada

I have very mixed feelings about this meme.

dear A:

let me proffer you my more immediate reaction when you posted the above.

it was Thanksgiving and we were all a little bit drunk. one of my best friends in the entire world (one i claim as brother, not blood but chosen) is laid back on the couch, tossing their head back emphatically as they speak.

do i even remember what they said? i don’t. not the whole thing, but the part that still triggers me a little.

“‘chu,” i can’t even remember the sentence it was strung in, and oh, that put-on accent, the el campesino mock-up, the one no white person should ever put on because it grazes so close to the n-word or lynching jokes.

how could they ever really get it?

i don’t even know if i could even explain, because in my privilege and my place of hiding i laughed uneasily and said, “ugh, stop it! you sound like one of my uncles!”

what i didn’t explain was, you sound like one of my uncles as he dismisses those other Mexicans, the ones we are supposed to be better than, the ones who replaced the Japanese as strawberry-pickers when they were interned into camps, the ones whose backs (and those of other undocumented laborers) carry the weight of this agrarian soon-to-be wasteland, tilling the earth to waste with forced abundance that doesn’t even get distributed but rots in silos like so many dollars in a Swiss bank account (so much waste, waste, waste). the ones whose lives are not even legitimized by the state to live in the US, despite USians’ dependency on their bodies for sustenance (blood, sweat, and toil, toil, toil).

every once in a while i replay this failure of mine to speak up, think of it as the mark of my privilege, passing as white most of the time except when i deem it the right time to call it.

race always comes to the table at Thanksgiving, it’s never forgotten. i keep my family’s many-hued faces in my pocket, rub them like a stone that pricks me with so much hidden.

sometimes i think that the real plague that wiped out so many lives was not smallpox but whitewashing, passing quietly shame that bleeds forgetfulness, pretend we’re better than them because we pass, achieved some measure of economic privilege beyond that of our peers born to other lives with different choices, or because our subset of the family tree has married into legitimacy in the eyes of the state. shame that kills me softly. it’s not true, but it feels sometimes, it feels.

i must do better next time, that’s all. no more blankets of convenience, no more letting  us to ignorance or carelessness.



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