September 3, 2019

Where are you from, originally?

Saffron Roberts, 21

My poem explores the liminality of ethnic ambiguity, and how this contributes to the way you are expected to, and allow yourself to, be situated within society. Being mixed race and pale offers an interesting, and regularly depressing, perspective on racism and white privilege. Because of my middle-eastern heritage I am painfully aware that my being white-passing has gained me certain opportunities that I would not have had, were I darker. However, it has also brought to light the rhetoric used in circles that are exclusively white; I have suffered through vile conversations about immigrants, ‘dirty’ skin, backwards values, ‘archaic’ Islam, all because I am not obviously ethnic. Immediately though, when I point out that I am mixed, the conversations happening around me change. Either people feel bad, and take more seriously the opinions I have on the subjects with which they have hurt me, they joke about my ability to tan, or they are made uncomfortable, and proceed to avoid me. This is not a fair way to live. I am extremely lucky in the sense that I have received less overt racism, and yet the experience of the ethnically ambiguous is unique, and troubling for one’s identity.

Where are you from, originally?, 2019Poetry