On White Privilege: A Poem

Colonialism: its perpetuation
is really just a failure of imagination.

And every time
someone of African Ancestry announces:
“You’re white,
but that’s not really how you act,”
it’s an expression of the limitation
being placed upon the potential
of what it means to be black …
and what it means to be white,
what it means to be mixed, right?

And god help you
if you’re mixed
and/or red, yellow or brown,
and other people’s imaginations are bound
by the belief that your curry
of curry in this town.

I can recount with empathy
endless accounts of racial oppression,
but it’s a possession
my body can never comprehend,
no matter how many people of color
I call my “friend,”
No matter how many times
I have to be that person
to upend the dominant paradigm
(and I don’t mean 20 cents).

Only a person of color can explain
the embodied experience of racism,
its own unique pathology of pain.

But make no mistake:

It takes a white person
to explain the embodied experience
that illuminates the system’s arrangement
and dictates who does and doesn’t get an arraignment.

I am perfectly poised (or poisoned)
to explain white privilege
because I am white,
and I know what it feels like
to be allowed into any gated community
if I smile, wave, and dress right.

I don’t just have white privilege,
I PRACTICE white privilege–
it’s performative.
With statistically significant social science,
I deliver data
that quantifies and qualifies coloniality
as normative.

So to say
I shouldn’t teach about race
just because I’m white
perpetuates white normativity
as if only one way can be right.
It ignores the differential
that I might have the potential
to offer a different voice
because I’m aware
that, unlike a lot of people,
I have a choice.

I imagine different spaces
where meaning shifts
and ideology rifts—tactically,
materially, and practically.

Colonialism: its perpetuation
is really just a failure of imagination;

but “decolonization
is not a metaphor”.
It’s a visceral sensation
that’ll rock you to the core
til you can’t take it anymore.
Some say it’s a process of de-linking
but I keep on thinking
that word doesn’t explain
the utter destruction
that comes with the pain.
Remembering so that you can forget
so that you can imagine something new
like “I have a [dream” time]
and the signifier signifies the sign
because la conciencia de la mestiza
means that people aren’t meant to be streamlined


Published by: hilaryb130

I am an artist, scientist and explorer who facilitates healing and liberation in the minds, bodies and spirits of people and planet through creative and spiritual practice, food and Earth-based medicine. I am devoted to bringing about a more peaceful and just world through my research, healing practice and art. Environmental Studies PhD.

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