so it turns out my poetry class is a flash point for racial tension. last week, in an exciting segment which i had to miss (i needed to take a shower before the medeski martin and wood concert, okay? that doesn’t mean i am not taking graduate school seriously), someone used a stereotypical asian accent in their poem and the one asian girl in class was apparently up in arms. this week’s episode of “politics, poetry and come on, is this seriously the way it’s going to be?” involved the mexican girl angrily bashing white people and mexican-americans. at first i didn’t have a problem with this because whatever, these are poems and a character in a poem can be racist and angry and the poem can still be powerful. the problem came when the girl decided to explain to the class why she thought it was true that all white people are ignorant which turned out mainly to be because they don’t say spanish words correctly most of the time and they do this because they are lazy and willfully stupid and don’t care about other people and other cultures.
now i understand that it is tough to be a minority and that it is frustrating when people mispronounce your name. i also know that i don’t speak spanish that well and that i can’t say “rolando” or “orlando” like a native speaker. yes. i get it. i am unclear however, on how this makes me evil. am i a bigot because i don’t speak chinese or german? am i being purposely mean when i say “a la mode” with an american accent? maybe i’m in flaming racist denial. this possibility has been suggested.
i wonder though, when this girl first moved to america, did she know how to speak english immediately with a perfect american accent or did it take a little while and some esl classes?
what if i was speaking spanish like i was from spain, would i be a racist then?
the best part of this whole thing was the reaction of my predominately white class. one boy said, “do think you should really group all white people like this?” and everyone else shut him down with a chorus of, “yes all white people do things like this all the time.”
all white people but you? what?
one girl did make an interesting point about a poem which basically said mexican-americans don’t know shit about shit and by shit i mean tacos (i’m not joking about that because that is what the poem is about). she said, “maybe you should talk about why mexicans speak spanish.”
the mexican girl said, “what do you mean?”
so the other girl said, “well, i mean the loss of indigenous languages is interesting. if this is all about being authentically ‘mexican’ than maybe you should talk about what is authentic. is spanish authentic?”
an interesting point, like i said. as in, what exactly are you getting so self-righteous about here? and why, i wonder (now i will take it too far), is the only part of yourself that you are celebrating the native indian part? you too are part pillager, just like i am. is white on brown rape worse than white on white or brown on brown? go far back enough and we are all part of some sort of hostile take over. some woman was forced to have sex with a man who was bigger and scarier than her (or maybe just controlled her food and shelter and total existence) and then her uterus got filled up with a baby. biology says that both people gave you dna.
don’t be disappointed, most babies aren’t made from true love anyway.
yes. i am getting away from my point which is: writing and creating art about stereotypes is an interesting way to expose them and deal with how ridiculous they are. the poems are not what bother me. the poems are actually pretty good. the problem with them is the poet behind them, who is also a person, first a person, and if that person is using anything to rationalize and justify their stereotypical ideas of people who are different from them, they are dangerous. a reader might be able to learn from the writing but the writer is not learning anything. the writer is just an ignorant person who refuses to be affected by the actual world and change their minds about things they have convinced themselves are true. these steadfastly uneducated people are what is wrong with america. even if they aren’t american at all.