I’m sorry this is not ethnic studies
I apologize for speaking Latino,
I forgot it was perhaps a little too foreign
For the mainstream palette, I’m sorry
For not remaining invisible, for
dreaming of houses in colors
to bright or exotic for your eyes
I’m sorry for forgetting
That my life, my people, my gente
My image, my walk, my food
My favorite smells, my history,
My yearnings aren’t the
Typical fare offered on
the menu of your usual
Curriculum, Lo siento
That you didn’t expect to
Walk around the corner
And find me, find us here
Walk in to this room,
And find that the farm hands
Had made it into the classroom
to open your mind to
new chapters in America
old chapters, really
turning yellow and leathery
under the long, beating sun
I’m sorry that you didn’t expect to
walk into the bookstore to buy
your books for American Studies
and find out that Americans
Came in brown, too
That along the long haul
of history, they’ve been muting
talk of Mexican speak
of Latino yearning, of
dreaming and desiring
to be a part of the American
story, part of the American
landscape outside the fields,
outside kitchen and lawns,
and hotels, beyond toilet cleaning-
We are tired of this crap, of this trap
That sees us as a sub-category, different
areas of study, as if putting us in ghettos
and barrios wasn’t enough, you want to
ghetto-eyes us in a particular branch of study
ghettoize the study of ethnicity
I’m sorry your eyes start to roll, like,
“Oh my god, this is not Ethnic Studies,”
I’m sorry your eyes can only see Americans
In black and white, I’m sorry your mind has
Not been able to afford-or perhaps hasn’t heard of
Color TVs, of 3D, that there are more colors
Than your mind can handle, that we aren’t
So turned on by sleek cars, Victoria Secret
Pimple-reducing crèmes and red meat
Charbroiled and grilled and smothered
With cheese, generic, processed, American
Cheese, without any chilies, hot peppers,
Cilantro, aguacates, tongue, or tripe,
What is it lie for everything to always be
So cheesy, so dead, so devoid of spice,
So sanitized, so prim, so proper
Do you really only want to see America/
American as red, white and blue
Doesn’t it make you blue, or see red?
To see so much white, and only the things
That remind you of you, to not see me,
and I quote you, here
to not “see color,” to be color blind
to which I respond, I know exactly what you mean
I don’t see gender, I don’t see queer,
You see, seeing color ain’t such a bad thing
It can be a beautiful thing
Cause take a good, long, look, I’m brown, and I think,
It’s hella beautiful and cool, too
Do you need a new mirror?
Do you need to dis-guise yourself?
If we are going to study America,
Can you please tell me what counts
as American and what doesn’t, because
I’m sorry, I’ve been dreaming, thinking,
Speaking, traveling and imagining in America
As a brown man, as a Latino, as a Mexican,
as an American, as an American Mexican,
in Spanish and in English, in Spanglish
since I was born, I’ve been hearing,
and grooving and chanqulando, to
Vicente Fernandez and Elvis Presley
El ultimo beso in My blue-suede shoes
Frank Sinatra and Pedro Infante
Let’s Fall in Love, Amorcito Corazon (my heart’s love)
Madonna and Selena
Justify my Love, Amor prohibido (Prohibited Love)
Shakira and Lada Gaga
Hips don’t lie, Poker Face
Santana and the Beatles
Maria, Maria is my Michelle
the Shins and Enanitos Verdes
New Slang, Por el Resto de to Vida (for the rest of your life)
Pit Bull and Tupac,
I know you want me, Until the end of time
Johnny Cash may have walked the line
But we have been living it for centuries
A beautiful dazzling existential dance of
Ni de aqui, ni de alla, not from here or there
Pero por todos lados hay venimos,
Siempre hemos estado. Here we come,
We have always been here.
Que sera, sera.
Que onda? Post Modern,
Polylingual, polyglot mariachis
New wave banditos for justice, for peace
Cranking out corridos for millennia
Corridos and classic rock and rapeando
Somos mas Americanos, American Woman
All my life, Mexicano and American
Like two sides of a coin, flipping,
Flipping, both sides streaming in the air
I’ve been dreaming of beauty in all colors
Selma Hayek, Halle Berry, Kumiko Kunishi, January Jones, Moon Bloodgood,
I’m sorry I’ve fallen in love with your daughters, your sisters, and your mothers
That my look seems too ethnic, indio or dark for your pre-filled family portraitures
I’m sorry that you didn’t realize all this time I’ve been paying my taxes in dollars, not pesos
I’m sorry that I don’t sign off with XO, XO but with abrazos and bezos
I’m sorry that you didn’t realize that your country was mine too, our country,
I’m sorry if inside that saintly whit church steeple there isn’t a peephole
Big enough for you to see the amazing kaleidoscope of colors that stream
Across sky, across generations, across classes and masses, across these streets
In so many beautiful ways, so many difficult ways, so many hard to deal with ways
I’m sorry if it’s complicated, I’m sorry that you don’t get it, I’m sorry that
I’m not really sorry, that I love it, that I hope it gets uncomfortable and unbearable
So that lightness in being becomes coupled with the heaviness that’s been weighing
Us down, the weight that’s been strapped to our backs, that’s made for struggle,
That beautiful struggle for freedom, for fairness, for justice, for our brothers and sisters,
So that you can help take a load off Annie, cause we’ve been carrying this separation
Between communities, colors, families, and country for too long
Cause this is our America to study, our American studies, our American family
If you could just stop pretending that we don’t belong long enough to listen you may hear
That we may be speaking many tongues be we are speaking with the same tongues,
Stories that we all know and love, stories that embrace us, stories that tell our dreams
And the best and worst secretos, American stories wrapped in tortillas, tamales, nan, pita, calzones
Whatever you call Ethiopian sponge bread, & yes, even straight up white bread, too.
And, when we’re done we can have some pan dulce, Mexican sweet bread,
With a little bit of café and chocolate, and maybe we can start seeing our different selves
As more American than ever, as American as we want to be, to see America through
Each others eyes, to see America far enough to know the stretch its continents
Begins with you not being so impertinent as to define what’s apropos for this course
and it’s content, to try and make the American market solely on of your own making?
This is not a consumer’s survey, a consumer’s paradise.
We are not here to shop, to go for an exotic excursion.
I am not here to be exotic, to help you get your diversity on.
But I am here to ask, Are you so into yourself, you can’t get outside yourself?
Are you so blind you can’t see that there are so many others that area part of this American body,
This American polity, this American dream, as if there were only one American dream.
Is it not possible that there are many ways of dreaming this American dream?
Of speaking American? Of being American? Or is it that what’s bugging and offending you
The fact that you’re being asked to imagine American differently?
That American might not mean what you’ve always thought it means.
That you don’t even want to be asked that?
Does asking you to consider what America means to us
seem to go so far as to ask you feel like America is changing?
Like you just want your America back? Does it hurt your brain to think that
American was never the way it was? Or, to paraphrase a writer on the American family,
The way we never were. That the American dream is just that, a dream.
That every day we wake up to find out America outside of our reach,
Somewhere in our past, somewhere in our future, somewhere out on the road,
Somewhere between two destinations of airport gates, somewhere on an American sitcom,
Or a photography exhibit, a history class. But not here. Not right now.
And, not in what we are currently studying. Because perhaps what it means to be
American, how we have gone about making ourselves American, is by defining it in terms of
everything it is not. By defining it and sensing it in terms of who is not American, or a part of
the American experience.
And yet, we must ask if we are here to talk “American” why are we speaking Latino?
Perhaps because we’re tired hearing in the midst of talking about our American experience,
That there’s something essentially different from American values.
That it can’t be a variation on the dream, of our ambitions, of our desires, our plans.
As if somehow we’ve grown up and come of age here and we’ve escaped an American stamp
Or essence to our being, As if you could pick us, drop us off in Mexico, Paris, Germany,
Saudi Arabia, or Spain and they wouldn’t notice our American-ness
Rolling of our tongues, wrapped in dreams and scar tissue of our heart
My fellow Americans may generations ago
Your families came to America and my forefathers and foremothers
Welcomed you with generosity
We shared our land, our resources and our knowledge
Now it is time for you to return the kindness
It is time to recognize that we are a part of the same family
I am just wondering if we’re a part of the family nobody wants to claim
If you’re the uppity cousins who think you’re too good for the rest of us
America, I am just wondering if I could call you my own, f you would call me yours
If we could just call it even,
America, I just called to say, I love you
Because it’s been more than 500 years
And you’re all that I know.