Take My Yucca and Question My Legitimacy: A note on inclusion and exclusion

For further context, please see the bluestockings editors statement.

You silence me. You make me invisible. I question myself, my identity, my performance.

“Cry you a river?”

I hear it scrawl across my heart, forever imprinted—overlaying the words of wisdom I received from my cheí. What are my truths? What are your truths? Why must I defend myself on every front, trying to defend the one group on campus I am supposed to find solidarity with?

Your exclusionary acts force me to question who I am and where I stand. I am…. Back on the reservation… No, it is a dream… My dream, you inspired my dream… What power you hold. No, I will not give you or you the power… Power to influence, power to erase…

+++

I am back on the Diné reservation in Red Mesa, Arizona. I am in fifth grade and a short, scrawny boy with two small braids on either side of his boyish face has just denounced me as “white trash.” His face is that of a child, two large brown eyes set against brown skin, with only a few scars exposing—possibly asserting—his defiance and resilience. I do not see him as small at the time. He is angry and spits on me. I need to be small and white in his eyes, in everyone’s eyes it seems. I look around and see them staring at me, waiting for my response.

We are near the newly installed playground, standing on light wood chips used to cover the red dirt. Their impenetrable eyes stand out—no, blend in—with the red mesas and purple mountains in the distance. There is no white to be found that does not represent colonialism, stand to represent the loss and pain of these people who I am told are my people.

Accept me; please accept me. Damnit, it does not help that my voice is loud and my comments are snarky. Fuck, I need to be sweet, shy, cute. You and I both know that an obnoxious outsider is destined to be unwelcomed. Do I want to assimilate, integrate, or cry you a river? I cannot cry and show these people my pain and self-doubt.

+++

Back to the playground, to the little boy wearing a dirty white shirt and baggy, washed out jeans. He picks on me often. I suppose my inability to be quiet and submissive provides him an easy target. The hatred gives his eyes a shiny, bright edge, which almost adds to the boyish demeanor. Your—shit, our—sheep are white; pick on them. Make them the target of your anger towards a system designed to keep you oppressed.

You see me as an outsider don’t you? I see it in your eyes. I feel it in your gaze, which refuses to meet my own, to acknowledge my very existence; acknowledging me would mean you acknowledge I am one of you. I cannot be one of you because I do not care enough. I lack the insight, the knowledge, the experience to understand. Your time is precious and my laugh is too loud. Your passions need to be enacted and I cannot care enough.

You meet and I try to pick a close seat, but not too close. My laugh may just get me invited for the last time. Again, I will try to use your words to describe my pain—white supremacy, imperialism, capitalism, colonialism, ism, ism, heteronormative. These words are not my words, I was forced to learn these words too, you know. These words describe a system of oppression which I am learning to articulate but can still feel; feel in my core, in my pain, even in my emptiness. I am in the process of understanding, relearning, decolonizing… Erase me, censor me, make me safe.

So you meet and discuss and debate and acknowledge; I will watch and laugh and hope for acceptance. I will live out my existence and cover up my mistakes; yet, my white supremacy I hold dear…Those eyes that watched me and excluded me based upon expectation and assumption, they perpetuated white supremacy too, you know. That whiteness in my skin, in my words, ingrained in my thoughts is my window to understanding and seeing the invisible. I need to think it to know it and undo it. I need to feel “Other” among those considered “Other” to understand…

I am not your history. You cannot erase me, or my voice. I cannot erase those thoughts or hide my laugh.

I will cry you a river, because deep down we are not so different. I am just taking the time to unlearn and relearn and assimilate—no, integrate—into a body of people who should be—no are—me. So I am told.

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