I am a non-sensical being, an insensible individual. Now, now, I know those are some pretty big words for such a small person, like myself, (I’m only 5’ 6’’ after all) but I promise I am in fact those things, for I have been told that I am non-sensical and insensible while wandering expensive streets of these United States. Walking and roaming aimlessly down Michigan Ave, I wonder: Are they truly united, these…United States? United in their resolve to welcome the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free”; united in their willingness to celebrate each and every voice that is free regardless of race, class, gender, sex, sexual orientation, hair color, skin color, religious affiliation, and so on and so on; united in their ability and desire to protect those voices from the tyrannical remnants of a time that succeeds the oppressional legacies of decolonization and precedes the need for all humans to come together, love one another, understand one another, acknowledge one another’s differences, and cherish those differences that make us and our home on this Earth unique. After I wandered Michigan Avenue, I returned home to Cicero, insensibly.
You see, I grew up on the privileged side of minority. I was the upper lower class, the class that yearns for more because more is just out of reach; The class that cherishes the American Dream while also despising America; the class that fights other minorities for a chance at the spotlight of that lower middle or middle class; the class that never went to class and is now struggling to keep food on the table so that their kids CAN go to class.
I went to a “good school” with a “good music program” and I was able to break free and go to University to continue my education and make it to that middle class. I grew up in nine different homes and a few hotel rooms along the way. We bounced around from apartment to apartment, from town to town, furthering the distance from Chicago and us. I grew up not understanding why we moved so much or why I received free lunch in school or why I was able to get my textbooks for free when my friends had to pay four hundred and fifty dollars for their textbooks or why I was embarrassed to walk into school registration afraid someone I knew would see me get my textbooks for free while they had to pay that four hundred and fifty dollars for those textbooks.
I didn’t know that we couldn’t afford those basic necessities while those friends’ families had enough money to pay for their textbooks and help to subsidize mine. (I want to sincerely thank them for that now, for those textbooks, and for what I now know. As a matter of fact, I am here today because of them. So, thank you.). I grew up in a world that wasn’t mine and wasn’t for me, so I did my best to fit in. It wasn’t that I couldn’t speak English or that my skin tone set me apart. More often than not I passed and still pass for white AND Hispanic, but it depends on who you talk to. I was in a world I couldn’t afford and a place where I was ignored: invisible. That’s what it was. Invisibility. I wasn’t understood but misunderstood. Weird. Different. Different…oh that word…
I am only non-sensical because they say that I am. Like Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, and Ralph Ellison before me, I fully understand what it means to be invisible and what it means to not own your own identity. While I am not black, I am a minority without much except my eyes and need to rise up against the majority and hark against our inferiority and their superiority that have shadowed my people, all peoples of color, and forced them into the margins of history textbooks. I am only non-sensical because I have no say in my identity. Call me a criminal and so I am branded as a person who begs, steals, borrows, and thieves; call me a rapist and I become a thing that is feared and hated; call me different and I become different. I become different but confused as to why difference is bad. “Isn’t indifference the bad thing?” I asked, but no, it’s difference that’s the bad thing because difference is different and different is bad.
So, yo puedo usar español para comunicarme con mi familia y mis amigos. Y, que? So what? Just because I can speak Spanish doesn’t mean you should ask me for my “papeles” and my documents that reflect my citizenship when I reflect my desire to celebrar the beautiful differences of everyone I meet. Isn’t that what America is supposed to be about? Lady liberty shines her light on those who are different, welcoming them to a land that I know realize was taken away from natives, founded by immigrants and refugees only to now want to continue to kick out natives and reject those very same immigrants and refugees that helped to establish these very United States of America. So yes, I am a bit confused about the indifference towards difference because isn’t difference and the fight against tyrannical indifference what got us here: 1776, 1787, 1863, 1865, 1964, 2016, 2020.
Rage. Rage and anger on both sides of the aisle. Liberals rage about inequality and inequity while conservatives rage financially. I Rage against the dying of the light because there never was a light that rained down upon us in the first place. Yet we still rage without a light and are criticized when all we want to do is see. Which is why I am confused…isn’t the right to see protected under the might of the Bill of Rights.? I guess it’s alright for a store to reject a trans-person but when that very same store rejects them because they’re not wearing a mask, it is an “infringement upon your first amendment rights”?
Get the fuck out of here. This is a declaration against the incarcerations of those freedoms so that we can have a light shine down upon us; so that we can have our voices heard and become a main chapter of that history textbook; so that we can do what we wanna do and be who we wanna be without getting arrested, getting beaten, getting shot, getting asked for identification for speaking Spanish, getting stepped on while trying to breathe; so that we can also take part in the first ten articles of the “greatest living document ever made” and so that we can actually be a part of this “American Experiment” without becoming a byproduct of the reacting chemicals in the Melting Pot or the croutons no one wants and discards after eating from the Salad Bowl.
I am insensible because they call me a criminal, a rapist, a murderer, a Mexican. “Mexican: n. def.: a criminal, rapist, murderer; synonym: different.”
They remove my humanity by calling me those things. Those things I have never done or those things I never was. They remove my humanity, my identity, and brand me as an item that is undesirable and an item that can be disposed of in the nearest Department of Corrections facility. It’s the same thing for undocumented peoples and citizens. They’re called “illegals,” but here is the thing: people can’t be illegal. Actions are. And if their act of coming into the country not in accordance to the legal way to gain citizen ship is illegal, then fine their actions are illegal. Just don’t call them illegal. Their existing is not illegal so don’t make them feel less human. I feel their pain even though I was born here and have the documentation to prove it. I feel that pain. I feel that sadness. I feel disavowed, a heart broken and left behind to suffocate with George Floyd, to run with Ahmaud Arbery, and to hide my face with Elijah McClain. I feel left behind to die on the corner of 26th and California because I have been redlined to stay inside, remain silenced, and not share my pain, my voice, my skin. I have been sile-…
I am insensible because when I look in the mirror, I do not see myself. I see nothing. A Vampire. The wall behind me. The mirror is empty and yet I stand there alone because no one else is going to see through my invisibility and tell my story, our story, the true History Channel’s America, The Story of Us, the real “American Pageant” textbook that talks about the history of the Constitution but doesn’t talk about the shit the Constitution doesn’t even wanna talk about. An insensible being in a sensical world, a world where I am University educated but at the low price of one hundred and twenty thousand dollars. A world where the American Dream is all around me, but that’s all it will ever be: a dream that surrounds me. To them, I will only be a dream and never be an American. And for that, I have a story for you.
I was once asked “what are you?” I was in college, in my early twenties and by that point aware of the racial injustices that were all around me. Now, per that question, we need an entirely different manifesto to unravel the racist, ignorant, and indifferent undertones to that question. (There it is again: that word indifferent). Anyway, I played along, and I played their game and I answered that question.
I was once asked “what are you,” because yes, I have an olive skin color and yes, I am a bit harrier than the rest and yes, I have thick brown hair that no, you cannot touch because yes, I am an insensible being that does actually feel pain and I can feel the pain every time you race your fingers through my hair. I can feel the pain every time you deforest the rainforest that is on my head and it does, in fact, hurt even though I am an insensible being.
I was once asked “what are you,” to which my response was “Mexican-American,” to which their response was “Oooo, what part of Mexico, I love Cancun,” to which my response was “Near North Lawndale and Little Village in Chicago,” to which they said “Wait, you’re American?” to which I said, “Yes, I actually said that in the fir-” to which they interrupted “No, when I originally asked you what you were, you said you were Mexican,” to which I corrected “No, I actually said that I am Mexican-American,” to which they said, “Well wait just one second, you can’t be both,” to which I questioned “Why not?”