Living Othered

This long silence in writing was dictated by a long silence in my life. Sometimes there is so much that there is no room for words. Yesterday I finally just cried, wordless. I kept trying to speak but nothing came out. It seems silly to me, this speechlessness, because I think that many people see me as an outspoken person, but there’s so much underneath that no one sees.

It’s raining here. Finally. I think that I feel like the rain that I’m watching slide down the window.

I feel that I have fractured and split into too many people. All the people I am are trying to jump up out of my gut to best express themselves. And I, whoever I am, am being suffocated in the process. This constant tightening of my throat, this fidgeting of my hands, is all the people I am, trying desperately to escape. Throughout the day I stifle dangerous laughs that feel like bile surging up my esophagus.

So, reader, how are you?

 

I am tired. It moved beyond weariness, beyond exhaustion, until I circled back home and became tired again.

I have been reading a lot. About the history of Native Peoples, about Black slavery in the U.S. and what one of our beloved founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, had to say about that very peculiar institution. I have been reading about late-1800s/early-1990s citizenship laws that restricted citizenship to “whites.” I have been ceaselessly attempting to understand what all of the –isms mean for accumulated wealth (which translates to power) in a capitalist society such as ours here in the good, old U.S.

And finally, finally, blessedly, I am beginning to see all of the connections.

Which is why I get so sad when I attend class.

At the beginning of the semester, I was talking with a classmate about a final project. She kept telling me that she wanted to write about race and contemporary covert racism. She kept telling me that as a blonde, blue-eyed woman she could not. I think that I looked at her as if I did not know her, because in that instance (and the several instances afterwards in which we had more or less the same conversation), I realized that I did not.

[I worry that once I move away from this strange place, I will not be able to be who I once was—that the lessons I have learned about the way of the world here will only serve to perpetuate this deep suspicion and distrust.]

I wish I could express the profound hurt I feel when I hear white people say that they cannot talk about race because they are white. I wonder, how, as a society, will we ever get anything done if we are trapped in such an individualistic mindset? I wonder, how can white women who rail against men who try to restrict women’s rights say that because they are white women they cannot talk about race? Can’t they see the symmetry? I wonder if these women know that they are leaving it up to a historically disenfranchised minority to speak for themselves or forever hold their peace? I wonder if they know that sexism is racism is classism is ageism is heteronormativeness is non-disability privilege…

One of the classes I am in is currently tackling the subject of environmental justice through a book that overtly claims to focus on cancer, but slyly, which a surgical dexterity, almost accidentally, slices out non-white people. Instead, secondary focus of the book seems to be white Illinois. The book is highly informative. It is loaded with great data concerning correlation, potential causation, carcinogenic chemical compounds and so on. It is also sprinkled with bizarre, offhand metaphors and analogies that compare carcinogenic toxins to undocumented immigrants and soybean plants to foreign invaders of the good, old U.S. farm. For me, these weird comments (which are possibly racist, and definitely xenophobic) degrade the book—not the evidence the author uses or the conclusions that she draws, but rather, I have stopped enjoying reading this particular tome. It is an unfortunate experience I am all too familiar with—reading a supposed classic that negatively portrays those who do not belong to the hegemony in stereotypical ways, and then being forced into a “discussion” about how wonderful said book is.

I have been trying to be vocal about my discomfort with this book.

I have been told that “including race” would have made the book too long. [To which I think, if you have the space to include a xenophobic comment, then you have the space to include one statistic about differential exposure to toxins based on race/ethnicity/color.]

It would have made the book unrelateable to people in rural, all-white towns. [To which I think, because as an Asian American woman raised in a fairly ethnically diverse suburb, I can always relate to every book I have ever read.]

That including race would have made the white, female author less credible. [To which I think, because women scientists are and have always been seen as credible by our society?]

And so on and so forth until a bile-laugh threatens to bubble up in my crowded throat because everyone who is speaking is speaking about whiteness as racelessness.

Whiteness as the norm.

“Color” as the other.

And I can see the social hierarchies in order, being enforced in a gender studies classroom, and I am right back where I was when I started my education in this strange place, being perceived as fighting these white women because I dare to criticize the large hole where consideration, where humanity should be.

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