For one of my classes this semester, I was asked to sit down, and write about a time I had to deal with racial prejudice. It could be any moment when prejudice occurred. My professor wanted me to write based on my senses...like poetry, she said, but it doesn't have to rhyme.
Well, I am not a poet. I am not even particularly articulate when it comes to things like this. I just thought this was an interesting exercise.
You don't have to be impressed. It's 100% fine with me if you think this is meaningless, self-righteous drivel. But this IS what I wrote:
Sounds like… a stupid joke. Then abrupt silence: I didn’t find it funny. Checking in on the conversations of the campers around me--candy, campfire, sports--to make sure that none of them heard what was said. A murmured reproof. An abrasive moment of quiet. A change of subject…a fizzling conversation.
Smells like… the lunch table’s familiar kitchen scents: sulfur bricks, metal pots, table varnish, and ketchup. Until the embarrassment renders the air around me insignificant, and I do not remember my senses until several minutes later.
Tastes like…canned green beans--salty with a metallic aftertaste. Green beans and disappointment and a chicken sandwich that doesn’t look so appetizing anymore.
Looks like…the face of a friend, flushed and grinning, turned upside down in your minds eye. Suddenly, they seem smaller, more ridiculous, more helpless. Suddenly, I can see right through them. The way their smile tightens in defiance to my frown. The way their face turns red, but they keep that smile cemented in place long past the time the pale joke warranted. They look like they need that smile now, like that smile is a shield. But from the looks of it, the shield isn’t really working.
Feels like…a surprising loss. Like they snatched something valuable out from under my nose. My picture of them has changed, because the person I thought they were wouldn’t think things like that…wouldn’t joke about things like that…wouldn’t expose the campers to that sort of vile talk. And I feel angry with that bolted-on smile, however desperate I may realize it to be. I wish for his sake for a retraction…or at least a decent subject change…and I feel cheated when all I get is another round of that artificial smirk. I hate racist jokes.