Before Paula Deen was exposed for being racist and ignorant, I made tons of her recipes. One of my favorites was her homemade apple pie recipe (which included her recipe for a homemade crust). This is a classic southern recipe with shortening and butter. I tried to lighten it up and make it healthier by using wheat flour for the crust, but it just wasn’t as good. Serve it a la mode with vanilla ice cream on top.
the city I call home has
a terrible nickname: hotlanta.
like all slang, it was popularized
by white people who genuinely
thought it was cool long after it wasn’t.
the city I call home has
streets all named peachtree
which intersect a sprawling grid
that defies logic in its layout,
confusing drivers & bikers alike.
the city I call home has
the best parts of the deep south
(soul food, whiskey bars, & friendly residents)
without (as many) willfully ignorant people
outside the bourgey neighborhoods.
at age ten,
a weasel-faced blonde boy calls you fat
because you consistently get
better grades than him
& insists a brown girl doesn’t belong
at a school with (superior) white kids.
you quip that you live in
a nicer neighborhood than his,
but the real reason you’re better than him
is that he’ll always be a covetous jerk.
at age twelve,
a freckled ginger boy scrubs your arms
with a pool brush after swim practice
& claims that he thought the white splotches
(of sunburn) on your dark skin was dirt.
you shove him into the pool
& watch him sputter,
coughing water in surprise.
your coach’s punishment is that
you have to swim extra (victory) laps.
at age fourteen,
a thin brunette girl snidely snickers,
“you’re not pretty. you’re cute like hello kitty.”
you weren’t allowed to wear makeup
or dress like her eighteen-year-old sister.
after braces straighten your crooked teeth
& your only growth spurt sheds baby fat,
you decline her offer to be friends —
even then, you’d rather be alone than have
catty friends you didn’t like (& vice-versa).
at age sixteen,
(until almost a decade following)
a parade of basic white guys marvel
over the fact that you’re the first Asian girl
they’ve admired who defies stereotypes —
you’ve inherited your mother’s feistiness
& your father’s no bullshit attitude.
though your temperament mellows over the years,
you loudly continue to refuse to be fetishized
& mock white guys who should check their privilege.
at age twenty-three,
your handsome ivorian friend becomes more.
you’ll never look like models in magazines,
but you’ve learned to appreciate that
your black hair is unruly
& your skin’s base tone is deep tan.
the ways that you look different
no longer (solely) define you.
he knows all of you & loves you
because of (not in spite of) it.
don’t scream or reason.
all misogynists just
when someone says,
“I don’t see color.”
she asserts (colorblindness)
that she isn’t racist.
instead, she means,
a(n inherent) part of you
because I can’t relate.”
when someone says,
“I don’t see race.”
he insists he treats
everyone equally (regardless).
instead, he emphasizes
the fact that
he (purposely) ignores how
society favors people like him.
when you say,
“white people are clueless.”
don’t be surprised that
many get defensive &
wonder why you don’t
acknowledge their (imaginary) plight.
“Sometimes, I pretend to be retarded while in public.”
my hands curled to fists
ready to fight
“My little sister is autistic and mentally handicapped.
It’s really offensive for you to do that.”
don’t yell at this ignorant bitch —
you just met her; she’s your friend’s best friend.
surely she has hidden redeeming qualities.
“But I don’t do it to make fun of retards!
I love them — they’re hilarious!”
equally disgusted & incredulous,
i glanced at our mutual friend.
“Just watch — she’s so funny!”
i rolled my eyes & exited the room.
even at fourteen, i had no patience
for antagonistic bullies disguised as “cool kids.”
A childhood in Alabama
consisted of fielding
ignorant questions daily.
What are you?
I mean, where are you from?
Born in New York and lived here since third grade.
But where are your parents from?
Where is that?
Then why does your last name sound Spanish?
Spain colonized the Philippines for centuries.
A brown kid in Birmingham
is a novelty and source
Say something in your language.
You mean in Tagalog?
Whatever it is.
I don’t speak it well.
Didn’t your parents teach you?
They didn’t want us to sound fresh off the boat.
I would love to be bilingual.
You still can be — you just have to learn a foreign language.
Blending in is impossible,
but not lashing out is
the only option.
If I could’ve, I would’ve asked,
Are you pale during every season?
Since your grandparents are Irish, do you speak Gaelic?
Is your hair naturally blonde?
Are you actually one-sixteenth Cherokee?
If I could’ve, I would’ve said,
Your English is great,
for someone born in Bessemer.
Enjoy the rest of your life, thinking
Alabama is the center of the universe.
I’ve never been able to talk my way out of a ticket.
Cops sense my disdain for them. I can’t help it. The ones I’ve dealt with in the South have reinforced the fact that they profile people. Plus, I’m not smooth enough to bullshit reasons for why I was speeding or why I cut off incoming cars while making a left turn.
The only time I was able to avoid a ticket was last summer when a cop was posted by Ceddy’s old place near the Highlands. The cop pulled over every person who rolled this one stop sign, in an attempt to catch drunk drivers. I hadn’t drank a drop that night, so I just got a warning.
In college, Labor Day was a cursed holiday. Every time I’d drive to Alpharetta for the long weekend (or when I’d drive back to Athens), I’d get a ticket. That year, it was a particularly stressful weekend of dealing with our parents, so Raf and I wanted to get the hell out of Alpharetta and back to Athens as soon as possible.
Once traffic slowed, Raf fell asleep. After crawling down GA-316, I maneuvered around the wreck that had caused the delay and sped up the hill past The Georgia Club. From what I could tell, I was going with the flow of traffic…until a cop’s sirens blared and lights flashed in my rearview mirror. Groaning, I pulled to the side of the road and rolled my window down. Raf jerked awake.
“Sis, what happened?”
“I got pulled over.”
“Shit. Are you gonna get a ticket?”
The cop leaned onto my window.
“D’ya speak English?”
My eyebrows shot up in disbelief. “Yes.” Better than you, asshole.
“D’ya know how fast you were goin’?”
“Nope. 83. Gonna hafta write you a speeding ticket for that. Gimme your license and registration.”
I sighed and complied.
The cop squinted at my shoes. “Are you Native American?”
“You’re wearin’ moccasins.”
“They’re from Macy’s.”
“I didn’t know Native Americans sold their goods at Macy’s.”
Before I could reply, Raf coughed loudly and shot me a look. Don’t make it worse, sis!
Fine. But he’s a racist moron.
“Sorry for speeding.” I said flatly.
“Just watch it coming up that hill, next time.” The cop smiled, “Your English is great, by the way.”
“I was born in New York, but thanks.”
There have been countless articulate responses to the verdict from the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case that people have posted already, but I wanted to collect my thoughts (and not repeat what many have already said) before contributing my opinion.
There aren’t words to properly express the simultaneous outrage and incredulity that I felt when Zimmerman was found not guilty of all charges. The American court system has proven to be ineffective in other cases, but this is the most recent case that showed justice doesn’t exist for everyone. There are legal and political reasons for the system being broken, but I think it comes down to the perpetuity of racism, ignorance (and harmful stereotypes), as well as a lack of empathy.
My coworkers are mostly middle-aged (or older) white men. While the trial was going on, they would make comments like:
“What if Trayvon was a thug and Zimmerman was just protecting himself?”
“Trayvon sounded like he was acting suspicious and could’ve provoked Zimmerman to shoot.”
and my all-time favorite,
“I don’t think this is about race.”
There are too many white people who don’t have empathy. They’ve been insulated from prejudices and stereotypes that are inherently working against people of color. They believe that people deserve whatever their lot in life is, not that the system is designed to work against certain people. They can’t see outside their white privilege, because they don’t acknowledge that it exists.
A white young man doesn’t have to worry that if he’s wearing a hoodie and walking by himself, that he’ll get shot down by a neighborhood vigilante. He will not be pulled over by a policeman for driving “too nice” of a car. Or be followed around a store, if he’s just browsing. A white young woman wouldn’t be labeled as a hoodrat if she used slang or had long nails with intricate nail art. A white young woman wouldn’t be presumptuously asked if she has a baby daddy. (Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop” video is proof of this, but that’s another rant for another time.)
There are too many white people who don’t recognize these are things they have never dealt with, which people of color deal with everyday. The fact that Zimmerman’s attorneys tried to defame Trayvon’s character, by attempting to prove that he was a thug implies that “he deserved to be shot.” That Zimmerman was protecting himself from an eminent threat — an African-American teenage boy.
It’s not enough for people to claim that they’re not racist because they don’t use the n word. It’s not enough for people to have one token friend who’s a person of color. It’s not enough for people to be outraged at this court ruling, or others like it. People have to change their way of thinking. Neighborhoods that are mostly comprised of minority families shouldn’t be considered sketchy, just because of its residents. Poverty shouldn’t define a person’s life trajectory, nor should there be a stigma attached to one’s socioeconomic status.
This should be a wake-up call. It’s 2013 and the U.S. is still dealing with institutionalized racism. Change needs to happen.
During the break between second and third period, Gaby and I switched our books at our lockers and walked to class together. We rarely lingered for more than a few minutes. We weren’t eager to go to English class; we avoided the guys who had the adjacent lockers as much as possible.
Unfortunately, we had no such luck that morning. The Hunters descended. Gaby knew the two Hunters from middle school, but I could never tell them apart. Their Dixie Outfitter t-shirts and camo hats made them indistinguishable.
“Mornin’ Gaby. Mornin’ Samantha.” Hunter M. tipped his frayed cap.
Politely, we replied, “Good morning.”
Hunter D. leaned on his locker, blocking our path. “Say, Gaby — do you speak Mexican?”
“I’m from Peru. I speak Spanish.” Gaby rolled her eyes.
Hunter M. asked, “Is that near Afghanistan?”
“No, it’s in South America.”
Hunter D. turned to me. “How ’bout you, Samantha — do you speak Mexican?”
“My parents are from the Philippines, so they speak Tagalog. I’m taking a Spanish class now, though.”
Hunter M.’s brow furrowed. “Is the Philippines in the Middle East, too?”
“No, it’s in southeast Asia.” I exchanged irritated looks with Gaby. “We better get to class.”
“See y’all later — we’re gonna review for our quiz.”
One would think that sixteen-year-olds could correctly guess the regions where Peru and the Philippines were located. Then again, the Hunters’ lack of knowledge illustrated why Alabama was ranked the fifth worst state for education.