I wrote a version of this a few weeks ago while driving back to Los Angeles from Arizona. I pulled off the highway to write it. The whole drive until that point, from the Grand Canyon to Williams to Kingman to Ludlow, I couldn’t stop wrestling with how I felt when I was in Arizona and why. It was the first time I spent real time in the state – meaning “not holed up at a business conference” – since I was a kid, since I realized how some people look at me and people who look like me, since I learned what that 7th grader meant when he called 6th-grade me a “spic.”
I wrote it on the side of the highway, then I put it away. It felt too angry, too unfair, too personal. Then tonight happened, and I feel too angry because this feels too unfair, too personal. To me and people who look like me and other people who don’t look like him. So here’s my anger. Here’s how unfair it feels. How personal.
To the white in the “The 2nd Amendment is my Homeland Security” shirt.
To the white who smiled at my white girlfriend but didn’t look at brown me.
To the white in the bright orange vest and bushy mustache.
To the white in the UNC hat with the sunburnt neck.
To the whites wearing biker cuts into the Kingman Cracker Barrel.
I don’t know you. Who you are, what you believe, how you see me. I could hardly see you. I saw around you.
I couldn’t see if yours was a racist’s face because I couldn’t see past this place.
I couldn’t see what you saw in my face. If you saw my face. If you saw what I saw in you, even if it wasn’t in you.
And then I looked away. I didn’t want to see it, even if it was in you. I didn’t want to give it life.
And then I crossed the border into California.
And then, two minutes across the border, I saw a Trump billboard.
And then, three-and-a-half hours outside of LA, surrounded by a desert that turned brown or always was, I saw a big rig in my rear window, its grill coated in the confederate flag.