the first time i was called a terrorist was in 5th grade
i remember my mother telling me that she didn’t
want me to go to school because
white people did not understand the difference between
a hindu and a muslim
to them we were all brown
and that was enough evidence for the american flags
that sprung up overnight like an allergic reaction
this is the story of a generation:
we who hit puberty the same time the
planes hit those towers
fumbling in the remains
inheriting an endless war as a bed time story
our bodies stolen
from us by the headlines that taught
us that we, man
one of grandma’s favorite stories she’d tell us growing up
was that when grandpa took her out for their first date
she refused to eat a single bite because the cook was muslim
after coming out i used to joke whether it would anger her
more if i married a man or a muslim woman.
there is a woman who looks like my grandmother weeping on a stage.
she tells the story of her son shahawar matin siraj
how the FBI paid native informants to spy on muslims after 9/11
to plant dissent and use it to justify the global war on terror.
one of them targeted her son.
over night he was abducted and taken to prison.
it has been over ten years.
i want to call my grandmother
tell her about him and the more than 1,000 brown men
who looked just like me growing up
that were kidnapped from the streets in 2001
and put in planes flying away from new york city
to be detained or deported
but i know that she will not believe me
because she believes in america
and will hear a muslim name
and what could be more
incriminating than that?
it will not matter that we speak the same language,
because our tongues are severed by a partition
silent and painful,
like a gaping wound
mistaken as mouth
a group of white liberals dress a puppet in a suit and paint him ‘brown’
call his college essay about growing up a minority ‘articulate’
give him a pat on the head every time he says something right
like: racism is in the south / racism is in the past / racism is prejudice
take photos of him for their view book
tell him his religious garb is ethnic and beautiful.
share him like an upworthy article.
give him extra points for using creative english like:
tell us how you were “wounded” by the slurs
(while we send a drone to pakistan)
tell us how “violent” it was for your classmates to mistake your identity
(while we stop & frisk them in jackson heights)
tell us how “militantly” you worked to get where you are today
(while we send officers with guns to break in their homes)
convince the puppet to run for political office
ghostwrite his speech about realizing the immigrant dream
watch him deport thousands back to the middle east
watch him send troops to follow them there
watch him kill his own
watch him not care.
what does it feel like to be a model minority victim?
what does it feel like to have a white man touch you
(even though he’s pulling all your strings)?
what does it feel to be brown and beautiful
for once in your goddamn life?
do you ever look back to where you came from?
do you ever look where they are taking you now?
you brown, when convenient
you brown, when resume
you brown, when you want white,
look white, do right, do white,
“what does it feel like to be a solution?”
seconds to tear out
all of the sutures in your skin
1 - white supremacy has always relied on the telling of certain victim narratives over others
2 - racism is not just a cultural attitude, it is an economy of violence
3 - hindu upper caste indians earn more income on average than whites in this country
4 - muslim south asians are now the poorest minority group in new york
5 - who profits from being vague? from solidarity for the sake of salary?
which means that i am sitting in an auditorium weeping
along with this mother who could have been mine
because i am thinking of all the ways that i am not her son.
thinking about the distance
between a bully and a bullet,
a slur and a sentencing,
a plane and a prison.
thinking about these two forms of class:
how one of us was sent to a private cage
and the other to a private college.
thinking about how so many of us have been taught to name the ways that we have been hurt,
but rarely take the time to name the ways we do harm.
how easy it is to wear words as shields like
call me brown
not brahmin, not bourgie, not bigot
so tonight i am calling my grandmother and all of
the rest of us in this country who
put american flags on our lawns,
english on our tongues,
put on islamophobia like a skin whitening cream
the same day they put you in jail
and called it justice
so i will keep calling her back when she hangs up
even though our people continue to be hanged
so i will keep calling until you are free.
until we are all free
from our own
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this is an original poem by alok of returnthegayze.com please continue supporting the artist