what they said (and didn’t)


she’s visiting, blonde
she’s working on a documentary about caste
in india
and she tells us about it and then asks my coworker
do you work for ghetto film school?
(because you’re black)
my coworker’s boss
at her other job
sorry my dog barks at you
(but not the white people)
we rescued her from the LAPD
(wow! that is racist huh. but it’s not my fault!
I just adopted her.)
human resources guy
she’s from the south and she calls me sir
and it makes me uncomfortable
because she’s african-american and i’m white
and there’s the sad truth of how dangerous
interactions between whites & blacks in the south
are. for her. it makes me uncomfortable, the dynamic between us.
because of where she comes from. because of what it means
to be black, and subordinate. to be white, and in power.
(not here. not in los angeles. in the south, where she is from.)
my friend tells me about her grandmother
& watching bollywood like
those are the beautiful ones.
not you girl with your dark skin
(they’ll ask “what are you?” your whole life
and this question will haunt you.)
junot diaz says the dominican girls who pass
as black
gain more privilege
than the brown girls, the immigrants.
everyone knows americans are white or black.
(you win you lose you win, lose
the oppression olympics.)
i ask about gentrification
and we discuss police brutality.
i ask about colorism in the black community
and we talk about humor
and ta-nahesi coates
and whether what i read
is true.


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