Dear White Family,
We haven’t spoken in a while and today I’m stepping out on this splintered, disease-ridden olive branch, to tell you why. Why I haven’t called, why I haven’t emailed, why I haven’t responded to your texts and DMs. Why I haven’t come home for the holidays and sat around the dinner table listening to your stories about the “Good Old Days” when things weren’t so “complicated,” your coded language a series of incessant bee stings that no salve in the world could keep from turning into scars.
This is what I’ve been doing in my time away–counting the scars and remembering every single person who gave them to me. But instead of going down the list of every microaggression, every racist act or comment I was subjected to as a brown child in your white family, I want to talk about a future hurt. I want to talk about November.
You love this country. You love the Republican party. You love your God. And you say…you love me.
Here are some other things you say:
“Racism doesn’t exist.”
“Mexicans are criminals and rapists.”
“Black Lives Matter is a terrorist group.”
“Immigrants are dirty.”
“Why can’t they just learn to speak English?”
“Build the wall.”
I have heard these things come out of your mouths. I have seen you post them in Meme form on Facebook. A version of reality that you claim is more real and more true than the one your brown grandaughter/niece/cousin lives in. Because when you say “racism doesn’t exist” you erase the harm that has been done to me and other BIPOC by white supremacists. And when you say “Mexicans are criminals and rapists” you are calling me, someone you claim to love, a criminal and a rapist. When you say “immigrants are dirty” you are declaring my immigrant ancestors sub-human and rewriting history as if your own immigrant ancestors did not exist, or if they did, that they were somehow superior. When you say “build the wall” you insinuate that I am taking up space I don’t deserve to be.
“But I’m not racist,” you argue. “I don’t think you should go back to Mexico. I love you.”
Because that would require seeing my whole self, accepting every part of who I am, and embracing my identity in its fullest expression. But you only want me in bits and pieces. In photographs you can show your friends and coworkers to prove you are a good person who values all people. But a photograph, like your “love” for me, is purely one-dimensional.
If you loved me, not only would you believe me when I tell you that racism exists, that I have been the victim of it, but you would be disgusted on my behalf. You would take action. You would attempt to use your white privilege to shield me from harm.
If you loved me you wouldn’t argue when I tell you that sometimes you were the perpetrator of this racism. You would feel ashamed. You would apologize. You would devote yourself to being anti-racist.
If you loved me, not only would you believe me when I tell you that the current president wants me dead, that he actively encourages white supremacists to take my life and the lives of other Black and brown people, but you would be enraged on my behalf. You would wrestle with the same fear and worry I do over the safety and wellbeing of my loved ones. You would reject this monster and the evil that he represents.
When I was still a teenager, many of you promised my father on his deathbed that you would take care of me. Then many of you disappeared as if I was the brown stain on the ivory family tapestry that could finally be scrubbed away. Some of you made a promise you knew you would break.
But some of you still think that you love me.
Honestly, I desperately wish it were true.
I wish you were willing to accept my reality as easily and wholeheartedly as you accept your own. I wish you ached every time the world disparaged me because of the color of my skin. I wish it sickened you to hear how people speak about my culture.
I wish it mattered to you that I’m in pain.
But if it did, you would be in pain too.
Except you’re not and that’s the real proof that you have never loved me. Because loving a brown child when you are not means taking on all the joys and pains of that child’s experiences. It means moving through life with them even when it’s full of thorns. Holding their hand as the two of you are pricked over and over and over again. Weathering storm after storm even though you could easily find shelter elsewhere.
Admit to yourself that you prefer to be sheltered. That your own comfort is paramount. That you would rather “love” me from a distance than step into the arena with me.
I don’t get to step out of the arena.
I don’t get to put down my armor.
I don’t get to rest.
Because the world is waiting to devour me and if you vote for Trump in November, you are no longer my family, but just another wide open mouth.