Color in My Lines
I hate that question. Squirm when people ask me. Even when I ask
myself. The question I must ask because if I turn from it, it tracks me
down in the fading light of dusk. The color line. Who am I between all
these worlds?
Who am I and why am I writing this book?
Who are you when your ancestors have convinced the world of their
I come from such a long line of vendidas that somewhere along the
way someone forgot what, or who, was being bought and sold. Not the
kind of forgetting where something is just not important enough to
remember, so it slips your mind. This kind of forgetting is more active,
even strategic. It is the kind of forgetting that comes from knowing
more about what you are trying to become than who you are leaving
behind. Its power is that it comes with a wage that compels you to
devalue what’s lost because you believe that you need to belong to a
certain kind of future—the wages of whiteness: economic, cultural, and
psychological well-being.
The privilege of belonging to this future comes at the price of betrayal
to that past. It is the kind of forgetting you do to recover from trauma,
memories too painful or shameful to be of value, so you push them
away. It’s the kind of forgetting not remedied by little interventions—
string on your finger, Post-it on the refrigerator, note pinned to your
To remedy this kind of forgetting, you have to drop into the worst of
the wound. Like the vulture, you learn to find nourishment among the
blood and tissue and debris, reckoning with a body misshapen and
contorted by the messy work of forgetting. You learn to dwell among
the disorderly bodies swept to the side of the road. There you learn to
That which can be bought can also be returned, rejected, found by the
buyer to be inadequate to the task for which it was purchased. There, in
the worst of the wound, la vendida becomes la devuelta.
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