Poem: Decline to State

mb37-Decline1 Black, Native American, Latino, White, Asian Declined to state What is your ethnicity? A little box in front of me fails To see the complexity of my identity

In the face of this bureaucracy The confusion of my whole life Follows me And it bothers me It really bothers me That only one category is acceptable

Anger, shame and sadness come up As the complexity of my identity stares me in the face Challenging me from behind the linear lines One box to represent the multiplicity of my history Check one and only one And it’s there’s only one right answer And you are not it “Half breed, mongrel, mixed girl” “You don’t exist You shouldn’t exist” There’s no room for you on this piece of paper

Decline to state Black, Native American, Latino, White, Asian What is your race?

Well I was Conceived of colonization father India married his fate to Royal mother England Creating me Part British part Indian Wholly human Yet the ancestry of my motherland Claims I should not be born While in India I was the half hidden little secret My father kept from his family Were they ashamed of me?

His mother died on her way from India to Britain Coming to see me And I’ve held the guilt of responsibility for her death Believing my blood hold divisions she could not bear to see. So we moved to the United States The land of hope, equality & opportunity Seeking inclusion, prosperity And respite from firebombs little British boys were dropping in living rooms Of mixed raced families

What is your race? Black, Native American, Latino, White, Asian Declined to state

Well, I am Indian, and now I am an American, but Somehow, the American Indian box just isn’t quite right And Asian isn’t right Because Indians are barely Asians, And I being half Indian, well it’s just to far to stretch

And no way in a million years would I check the white box Submit under this form to the same Annihilation of my identity? You must be joking

Too many years of wishing Too many years of thinking White was what I desperately wanted to be Only

None of the other boxes apply And even if they give me an “other” option What kind of race is “other” anyway? And decline to state feels like a cop out Two minutes too late I know like you know that you have already locked me down & judged me based on what you think you see

Black, Native American, Latino, White, Asian Declined to state

Pen shaking in my hand, angry; What’s your race? Declined to state Black, Native American, Latino, White, Asian & the inadequacy of my identity is the reality of my privilege guilt comes rolling up like waves washing British ships upon Indian shores The story of my family tree bringing me Closest to the Asian category

Asian? How can I benefit from 400 years of oppression I barely feel the taste of? How can I claim a history my Indian father taught me to disown? What’s your race? Declined to state They’ll let you blend in if you Don’t state They’ll let you be a normal part of this state Of affairs

I am inclined now to think outside the box to redefine this narrow history and tell a different story on this piece of paper in front of me pull the box wide open ‘cos these racial categories intend to conveniently erase my identity perpetrate colonization on me again and again every time I

Black, Native American, Latino, White, Asian Decline to state What’s your race? & I decline to submit to this state of affairs and proudly, as thee mixed girl I am I check off, quickly, Every single box on the page Black, Native American, Latino, White, Asian I state ‘em all, even the “other” box Watch me & if there’s a space to write in my race I fill in “human” Declaring unity & equality for all to see

I leave no trace of my identity Make if harder to process me Into neat little categories Since love, life, family, my ancestry Are much deeper than the space One little box can afford me

It’s about time we set ourselves, humanity & the little boxes free about times we take the matter of the complexity of identity into our own hands

‘cos where I want to be it’s all about interconnection & unity all of us connected one blood one people one love humanity no distinctions necessary

‘cos the way I see it tho' we may mix like apples & oranges or appear to be different fruits totally, we all grown from the same family tree & that’s human, completely, you see?

—Susanna Barkataki

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