Friday, March 9, 2007
Your words were meant for someone else.
But they hurt just the same.
"I don't mean you," you say.
But sweeping generalizations cannot be minimized
by your personal wishes.
If you do not condemn me,
then you still condemn my children,
my aunts and uncles and
my still unconceived grandchildren.
You condemn my reality as I know it,
the circumscribed lines which delineate my existence.
"But it doesn't mean anything,
it's just a stereotype,
it's what people say," you indicate.
In my eyes, you have merged into the masses,
and I begin to grieve my loss
of what I had hoped would become a friendship.
We all search for uniformity,
to place people and events and things into boxes,
with little labels attached.
I thought you understood that humanity is complex,
that Americans are not all the same,
that a political system does not reflect
the depths of each individual's soul.
Not all Americans were raised with silver spoons in their mouths.
Some of us remember winter months
huddled before the fireplace with mother and brother
because we couldn't afford the cost of heat.
Kind friends having donated wood.
Not all of us had the privilege of free time while
attending high school and college.
We worked low-paying jobs during our off hours
to help ensure our family could buy food and pay the bills.
Not all of us know what it is like to dine in fancy restaurants.
But we do know what it is like to stand in line for food
at the food bank,
and to feel the embarrassment of
paying for groceries with food stamps.
We worked hard to earn the right to dream,
to delight in our successes.
So when you think you are being funny,
are making a well-accepted statement,
are saying something that is deserved,
instead you are condemning me.
You are encapsulating my existence
into your limited ability for compassion,
Despite all of this,
I do understand you.
And I wish you well.
I hope someday you will be able to broaden your mind,
to avoid sweeping generalizations about other cultures.
Despite what you tell yourself,
despite your justification for the lack of carefully chosen words,
despite the fact that you attack me for not being more understanding,
for simply accepting,
despite all of this,
I am still American.