Another New American

December 19, 2009
By Alexis Richards BRONZE, Morristown, New Jersey
Alexis Richards BRONZE, Morristown, New Jersey
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

I am indescribable without complexity, but for your benefit I can find an adequate descriptor. I am, by definition, connotation, abbreviation, expansion, and simplification the ground on which you walk that I walk as well. I am the new American. Centuries ago, far down South, my mother’s family put my father’s in one room cabins, in fields of cotton, and in a body with no future. And yet, you know me as you do because Abraham Lincoln (from Nebraska, wore a top hat, honest) said my one half was just as free and equal and special and et cetera as my other. But if you can keep a secret, I can tell you that even I don’t always believe him. If the thigh on this side is looking wider than the one on that side, I have a whole mind (not half a mind) to blame it on the chunk of me that my dad gave over. (please note, the same goes for if my nose is too wide, my lips too big, or my hair too obnoxious.) However, please do excuse me, I’m a teenager (loud, rebellious, obsessive).

As I am my mother, I read everything I can find written down on paper, with almost as much dedication as my Grandmother and her’s. I find another place on pages where I can lie in warm definite articles and conjunctions (and, or, but) and dream with floating onomatopoeia and hyperbole. It’s in this half that I bask in the scent of pencil shavings and raspberry tea, discussing Charles and Jane and pretending I’m mature (well-read, big words, politically aware). I want to save the animals and the people and the rainforest all at once but I could never tell you what I’ve done about it. I go to church on Sundays at eleven and then I shake the hand of the old Priest (short, Irish, distant) before a late lunch at Olive Garden. I wear a skirt to my knees and listen to U2 and I like it just fine.

And as I am my father I know what it is to be Third World and I’ve been called Jamaican/Dominican/Hispanic (stereotypical, false, not me) more times than I have fingers. I know that ‘wine’ is not really a drink but a manner in which one circles her hips at holiday parties. And it’s in this half that I spend hours in a humid kitchen with my hair braided (painful, professional, necessary) as I stir pots of pepper and ox tail and sing Granny’s favorite hymns. I spend every weekend back in Guyana with Jim Jones and kool-aid (cult, the temple, mass suicide) and I laugh, child, laugh at the spectacle. I can play rum shop domino better than the patriarchs and I eat Black Cake and I like it just fine.

So I’ve got two halves and one-half plus one-half equals one (fractions, addition, grade five) so it looks like I’m turning out okay. I am only the new American in that I am also the old American and the foreign American and they happened to want one of me. I, like most, tend to obsess on the past and avoid the future and am never satisfied with the present. I exist in my head amongst memories and jokes and last night’s unfinished chemistry homework with constantly forming plans for tomorrow and for yesterday and for today and for Me.

The author's comments:
I'm a Mulatto, Mixed, Biracial, whatever you'd like to call me. My mom is Caucasian and my dad is Guyanese (from Guyana, the only english-speaking country in South America). I wrote this in class in emulation of Whitman's Song of Myself. Of everything I've ever written about myself and race, this is the one I'm the most proud of.

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