“The question, ‘Where are you from?’ in our current America is a slur disguised with a question mark, a passive-aggressive microaggression saying you are other, saying you are not from here, saying you are not nor will ever be one of us, saying go back to where you came from.”
By Button Poetry
Transcript provided by YouTube:
The man’s words to me are not offered, but flung.
“So, what are you?
Where are you from?”
“But your name is Carlos.
I mean, where are you really from?”
“Bueno, yo soy latino. Mi padre es colombiano.
Mi madre es estadounidense. Nací en New York City.
I lived in four countries. Moved 12 times.
Went to 12 schools before I graduated high school”
is not what I would say in 12,341 years
because I don’t owe a damn thing to anyone.
What am I?
What am I, a financial aid form? A vegan red-velvet cupcake recipe?
Dude discovers his first Latino with green eyes
and suddenly appoints himself the authority on Latinidad.
Like, “But you totally don’t look Mexican.”
“Oh, Colombian, but like what percentage are you?”
“You speak it, though? Fluently? Dance salsa well?”
“Oh, but not both parents.”
“You’ve been there, but not lived there, because you weren’t born there.”
I’m not a government questionnaire.
I’m not an anecdote for your homogeneous social gathering
of your homogeneous friends.
I know, everyone you hang out with looks like you,
has a name you’re able to pronounce and/or share,
and/or sounds pulled directly from an episode of Leave it to Beaver.
Here’s the deal.
Latin America is not just Mexico,
actually pronounced Méjico, pero whatever.
Central America is not part of South America,
and Mexican is still not a language.
The question “Where are you from?” in our current America
is a slur disguised with a question mark,
a passive-aggressive microaggression saying you are other,
saying you are not from here,
saying you are not nor will ever be one of us,
saying go back to where you came from.
But I… I am from a place beyond place,
a place where, once you’re from there, you can never leave,
because it exists beyond dirt and flesh,
beyond your linear and limited concept of time.
I am from bloodlines unkillable as water.
I am the return that is only earned
when absence has stretched its greedy void
across a passage as stoic and sacred as an abuela’s hard-edged love.
I am my black and Latina daughter’s grace,
chimeraed into the cobalt pulse of these once-too-often fists.
I am a boy without a word of English in his mouth
in a Catholic school classroom in South Florida,
his son on a stage 58 years later, tonight,
reading this poem for him.
I am the steady ray of light unlocking my mother’s teeth
tossed skyward in a laugh,
what hard-earned joy looks like,
carved from the wreckage of a lifetime’s worth of grief.
You are not ready for the answers to the questions you ask,
not ready for the worlds these words might shake free.
You could never understand what I am,
or where I am from.
(cheers and applause)
This post was previously published on YouTube.
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