After Jasmin Roberts, when the white girl
is called up to present next in my political science tutorial,
she is still excited. I can tell whatever her paper topic is
does not affect her directly. I can tell she made it
through this assignment unbothered, alive. White girl talks about race
and economic inequality in the third world: “Words, words, words, capitalism. Words, words, words, unfair.” Calls India a third world country. Calls Africa a third world country. Inequality, a word she has just been
introduced to at the party. Too drunk to make its way
out of her mouth. The smell of cheap vodka
dusts everything in the room. She goes, “Wow, like look
at all this injustice.” Puts her hand out, show and tell. The word sits sparkling
and bedazzled on her palm, and she wraps up her assignment: “Words, words, words,
big businesses are like so totally bad. Words, words, words, I think
Eastern countries are disadvantaged.” And she sits down. Helps herself to my classmates’ applause. Helps herself to a 90%
on the presentation. And I get up and present about borders
in a globalizing world. Talk about how borders
tore my family apart. How religious nationalism
slaughtered Sikhs I will not have the chance to love. How they labeled my great grandfather
an illegal body in the ’60s. How borders tear
my mother’s heart in half. Her family unable
to get into this country, how they send her postcards
from Punja. And the white teaching assistant
says this does not count as a primary source, so I provide plenty
of peer-reviewed articles written by white authors in its place. I connect the freckles of privilege
on the white girl’s face. I sit down, accept my 60%
on the presentation, say thank you through my teeth
to the white teaching assistant, smile and nod as she says
I missed key themes and concepts. And class is over, I gather my things. I hear the white girl talk
about her trip to India that inspired her paper. Hear her say India is dirty. Hear her say Indians are dirty. And I want her to see my dirty,
soil-like hands sprout out from my side, plant themselves in her face, bloom through the bones in her nose, blast them out of the side of her ears, and I want fertilizer
to erupt from her eye sockets, soil to bury her still breathing. But it does not, and I do not let my tree trunk hands
blow away from my body in the breeze. Instead, I lock eyes with the only
other person of color in the room. His eyes say, “Do not.” His eyes say, “Be still.” His eyes say, “You know what
will happen to you if you speak up. These white people will make of you tree, chop you down, set fire to your roots, they will make a picnic table
of your bones, feast off an angry
brown girl’s experience.” His eyes say, “Do not worry.” His eyes say, “She cannot privilege
her way through the exam.” His eyes say, “She probably
will not pass this class anyways.” (cheers and applause)