Ariana Brown – “Dear White Girls in my Spanish Class” @WANPOETRY
Dear white girls in my Spanish class: I see you. Stumbling so hard you laugh through entire sentences because my ancestors are a punchline, and everything that comes out of your mouth is funny. Funny. Guess I’m used to being a joke, a brown body splayed and smoldering at the corner of your lip. I just wanna know, when you hold the sacred sounds on your tongue, do you feel less holy? Why are you here? I bet you thought this class would be easy, since Spanish is what poor brown people speak, right? Not something you actually have to try to understand, not fancy or sophisticated, not like French. The language you love overpronouncing as if compensating for your basic American whiteness. You are not special. You are the reason my grandmother feared her children would speak with accents. So afraid, she buried her first language in the space between blood and bone because your grandparents wouldn’t let her make a home outside her body. Did your ancestors protect you from pain by withholding what they knew of a country before this one? Let me be clear: Spanish was given to my people at the end of a sword, forced in our throats gory, sharpened under the colonizer’s constant eye. Each rolled R is a red, wet fingerprint pointing me back to this. Spanish is not my native tongue. English is not my native tongue. The languages I speak are bursting with blood, but they are all I have. I own only my hot mouth, speeding against assimilation’s clock and a colonial legacy you won’t even try to pronounce. So I’ll ask again. Why are you here? Do you think my grandmother’s accent a sickness? One so volatile, you call yourself “gringa” at every chance, so I won’t make fun of you when you make fun of the way my language sounds to you. Don’t you know I had to fight for this? For each scrap of culture I could get my hands on, even if its lineage is as European as yours. My father, a Black American man, is descended from slaves. I’m not sure if you understand what that means. I am descended from slaves. I wanna know where I come from, but I can only trace my history in one direction. So I am here, in yet another Spanish class, desperately reaching for language I hope will choose me back someday. What is it like to be a tourist in the halls of my shame? To not be expected to speak better than you do? To visit Mexico, and not care that people mistake you for being from somewhere else? How does it feel to take a foreign language for fun? To owe your history nothing?