a spoken word piece by Teresa, who read this poem at the Candlelight Vigil on January 13th, 2016
My grandmother comes from England.
Her fading accent desperately clings to a voice preaching the idea of Americans:
A stubborn liberal, she is, pointing her opinions like guns.
She says to me, “Brown women are not treated well.”
And I agree –
When a foreign name is 50% less likely
To get a call back on a job,
When a white man with a criminal record is 3% more likely
To be hired than a black man without,
She says, “They should remove their head wraps.”
But after each attack, hijabs are taken off for women’s safety
To avoid words said such as bullets are shot; they’re intended to leave a wound.
Their religion says their armor can be taken off for protection.
For my grandmother to not know the name of these head wraps is oppression in itself,
But I don’t tell her this.
She’s been beat by her husband and son,
Raised herself before learning how to read a book.
My grandmother already knows hurt.
I don’t need to burden her with more.
But grandma, your color never stung,
Melanin wasn’t a toxin that poisoned your blood.
Brown women are oppressed because people who look like you
See them as muddy as their skin.
Brown women are oppressed by their husbands,
Who carve scars so deep persecution never lifts.
Brown women are oppressed because after each hateful act
They are blamed for it.
Racism pollutes the air we live in.
People who, like you, grandma, can only exhale it.
And to think that brown people have to choke on smoke
Each time another bomb goes off.
Each time another hijab is taken off.
Each time you to try to explain how someone else’s injuries feel, grandmother.
Be careful as to where you point your gun.
It is aimed at the wrong people, making victims feel at fault for their abuse.
Your mindset is not as old as you are, but it still needs work.
Your opinions singed my throat and would give others third degree burns,
But I won’t try to change that about you.
I’ve never met anyone so stubborn before
So that just means I’ll have my mouth sealed
And patch up cuts caused by words like daggers with kinder sounds.