Sophisti-Ratchet Open Mic: Damn It’s Hard to be a White Girl in an Ethnic Studies Class
Gethsemane Herron steps up to the mic and…
In my ethnic requirement class
the white girls shriek
and precious diamond leak from crystalline eyes
of blue and silver.
How hard this assignment is,
for they never have had to measure their identity
beyond borders of suburbia.
How hard this declaration must be,
these full of voice women whose faces
reflect each other.
My laughter is derisive, like
an angry punch to a mirror.
The blood leaks down my tongue and knuckle.
I fleck it in their eyeballs.
Poor you, girl,
who never has to walk past an apartment where
a dark doll was lynched everyday
just to lay your head down.
I watch this new weight settle on their shoulders
as they crumple like shards of glass
Fin. End. It’s a wrap. Done! I am a puddle of finished!
Let’s talk about privilege. In this age of false claims of post racial society and light skinneded (pronounced skin-id-did) Presidents, White privilege is running amuck. We see it all day on Fox News & other media outlets, we see it in Comedy when people deem it ok to call a 9 year old Black girl a cunt (and people who will benefit from that), we see it everywhere we cast our eyes upon. But here, at least someone is doing the work that is hard. Gethsemane does an amazing job in showing the power behind understanding privilege, these girls turning to glass under the weight of realizing how fragile we are when our privileges are called out. Gethsemane’s tone is how mine would be: slightly frustrated, but patient. It is indeed hard to wait on other people to figure out things about themselves that have always been a reality in your world. I don’t know how many times I had to go to the emergency room because of excessive eye rolling from white kids from small town and big city alike having epiphanies on how America is designed for them to succeed. But I also had to realize my own privilege (at least when amongst folks from small towns like ones here in WI) of being from a place where I had daily interactions with people from different backgrounds.
No one wants to think that there are any powers beyond themselves that make them as fabulous as they are, but the power of privilege (whether white, male, heterosexual, urban, class, size, educational or other kinds of privilege) will blind you if you aren’t willing to stare it in the face and call it by its name. Kudos to Gethsemane for writing this, and shout out to the women in these women for taking on the heavy and critical work that is understanding our identities and the advantages that come along with them.
(For those of you wondering what Gethsemane mean by the ‘apartment where/ a dark doll was lynched everyday’, check this out. http://www.capitalcityhues.com/061611PoetryDanezSmith.html)
About the Artist:
In 21 short years, Gethsemane Herron has been lucky enough to dine with U.S. poet laureates, make the Dean’s List a few times and repel off castle walls internationally. She is a playwright, poet and journalist studying Human Development Family Studies and Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has performed at the Wooly Mammoth Theater, Studio Theater, Shakespeare Theatre, Overture Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Her work has been featured in the women in redzine and hopefully whatever publication you are reading this biography! Her first collection of poems, “The Alphabet Series” will be released in March 2013. When not writing, you can find her in downward facing dog, stalking food blogs, reading comic books or wandering cities taking pictures of its flowers.
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