The Reason I Don’t Date White Men
my eyes are “chocolate brown”
and my skin is all
smooth creamy “mocha”
and my freckles are like
little gifts tucked into the hollows of my bones
little gifts for you to find, and taste, and suck.
and oh, you do.
you suck me—
you speak of me—
like i am something to eat.
but when you’re done with the feasting,
when we’re sitting up and clothed,
when we are arguing about money
or the remote i don’t want to fetch–
when we get into an argument tonight about
trump supporters and the fate of the republic—
when you want me to back down
and i don’t, i don’t, i won’t—
then suddenly the warmth evaporates right out of you.
i have fingernail marks,
angry and red,
digging into my skin,
and you almost shimmer,
your knuckles even whiter
with the force you deploy to hold me.
you are the image of angels
in old european artwork–
blonde and blue and sweet lamb white,
and i am the image of inferiority
shrinking underneath that gaze of yours.
i am as dark as the shit you think i am.
you spit me out—
you dismiss me—
like i am something to excrete.
your mouth moves in the shape of
“have some fucking respect” and
“america the beautiful”—
red as your republican membership,
blue as your blazing eyes,
white as your palms around my wrists—
and all i can think about
is how i’ve lived my whole life
next to people who look like you,
but i come from and look like
the “savages” you aren’t defending.
you were supposed to be forever.
this place was supposed to be home.
but i pack my things while you hover around me screaming
about how “politics is no reason to end a relationship!”
and i wonder, how do i even begin to explain
to your complacent whiteness
how it’s never just abstract “politics,”
that your principles should never be
more important than my personhood,
that if i ever again spread my chocolatemochacreampie legs for you,
it would be an act of violence against myself.
i don’t look like you.
i look like them.
i pick them.
i pick myself.
to keep living in this country,
where brown still means consumption
and appropriation and excretion,
where a storebought tan is pretty
and real melanin is reason to get away with murder—
to stubbornly insist that brown is just brown,
brown is even beautiful
on its own terms
without the rhetorical assistance of foodstuffs—
to live here, and breathe,
and write these words,
and love myself,
and imagine that one day these things will change
and the war will end—
i am the real patriot.
red, like the blood in my veins,
blue, like the tears i wipe away,
white, like the power structure i seek to dismantle—
and brown like the ancestors who built the dream.
the ones who rebel, raise hell.
strong, and stubborn,
By Zaynab Quadri
Zaynab Quadri is a first-year PhD student in American Studies who dabbles in poetry and fiction whenever she’s not wrestling with research papers. She thanks you for your time.