Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Reader reacts to intolerance with poetic license

Editor’s note: The writer responds to an item in the July 30 edition of the Independent with a poem.
From “Statement on Hacking Incident at Middlebury Selectboard Meeting” July 28:
“For the second time in as many weeks the Town has been confronted with the ugly reality of racism. As leaders of this community, we stand with them and with one voice denounce all such acts of intolerance and the malicious persons who commit them.”

The ugly reality of racism
 
is your asking me where I’m from and not taking New York for an answer
is the foreigner status bank form you unquestioningly asked me to complete
is the way I walk on edge, in case you decide
based on the slant of my eyes that I’m a viral threat
 
is the “Mexican” costume you wear for a sales stunt,
the $15 “al pastor” plate at the trendy place
while Luz’s stand only charges 3 bucks for far more flavor
 
is a COVID outbreak in Winooski when you didn’t think far enough past English outreach
 
is Kat being 10+ times more likely to be infected than you
despite Black folks’ making up less than 3% of the population
 
is Kenneth Johnson choking slowly to death in prison because you didn’t believe him
is 40% of voters who in February thought racism wasn’t much a problem in this state
 
you didn’t see 
you didn’t hear
you didn’t know
 
slurs and graffiti are but the tip of the hateberg
some folks must survive deeper in the depths
than others
but all of us underwater
need you to pay attention
to what’s below the surface
 
(do you see now?)
(do you hear now?)
(do you know now?)
 
is this reality for your condemnation
or for your (un)doing?
 
As a recent transplant, I was struck by the discrepancy between the type of racist incidents that the Middlebury selectboard found notable enough to denounce, and those that I’ve experienced or observed in the year since I moved to Vermont.
HaQuyen Pham
Middlebury

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