There were two white women. One questioning my Bangladeshi friend about why she wears the hijab, wondering if Kolkatta and Bangladesh are two separate countries. Told her to use the Google machine. Upon one of my classmate's insistence, another hijabi, I explained the Partition of '47, the War of '71. Tired, I thought, if I did not make the deliberate decision to educate myself on my country’s history, I would be spouting out the accounts that my family has put together over the years – an invaluable inheritance, but a limited one all the same. Although I am looked to as a reference for Indian history, no one, no education system, equips me with the knowledge I need to educate myself and others. This is how the system inflicts violence on third world and colored bodies. We are brought in, in times of fascination, as points of reference and just as quickly, we are ignored, shoved back into the shadows. We are left trapped in a maze, like mice, looking at only what is in front of us and nothing more. Lost. Education allows us to rise above the tricky alleyways and illusionary dead ends—it gives us the words we need to articulate and understand how history has betrayed us and how we continue to betray history. Though I am still working to escape the confines of this trap, to know that white prodding is also a form of injustice and a tentacle of the overarching system for the Otherized student means my hands have discovered and are slowly unraveling one dimension of this artificial maze.
The other white woman’s laptop brandished a laptop sticker, “Well behaved women rarely make history,” but in reality, it is only ever well-behaved cunning white women who make history, because history is written by them and their white associates. Everyone else is treated as accessories, as condiments, to be put in or to be left out when stirring the white history soup. When and if we are included, we melt into whiteness, like salt in water, we become invisible, disappear, look just like them. You can taste us, but only to the degree that the white scholar wants to taste us. Anything beyond that, we are trashed, dumped out, offered to the vultures. The same ones circling over our hearts and minds. Watching our actions and our words. Any swift movements. Waiting to pick apart anything worth eating, so that we are forced to keep secret anything we believe is worth knowing. We cannot brandish it or speak on it, with the fear that if we are found out, our vulture friends and colleagues will surely consume us. Without warning.
I am struggling to understand the idea of a safe space, when even when we rip out our hearts and offer them to our kinfolk, we still risk the possibility of being trampled over for the sake of white validation. This trauma and this vulnerability indicate that we must look beyond skin politics. Though whiteness is stripping us and though our home is with our racial community, oftentimes, we find these lines violate one another – and we find that even in the arms of our Brown sisters and brothers, there are traps and cages set up to clamp down on our skin. To leave us exposed. It leaves me wondering, where can I go? To be understood and to be the authentic me. To move beyond my skin, but to also be liberated by it. Where I can find a mazeless land, untroubled by vultures.
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