By Margaret Dickerson
The story behind the poem...
My name is Margaret Dickerson. My pronouns are she, her, hers. I am the daughter of Carmen & Julio Velazquez of Humacao, Puerto Rico. I was raised in the South Bronx of New York City. I now live in Austin, Texas and am the director of a Montessori school.
Austin, Texas is the land of the White Moderate. They who “prefer a negative peace...and the absence of tension” as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said. They are liberal. They are progressive. They are “good” White people. And so I wrote this poem, “Ode to White Liberals” for you, Austin, Texas.
Global Majority, I want you to know that it’s ok to refuse to be the bridge for White moderates. No one has any business making us their highway to absolution. We have agency. We have a voice. We are speaking for ourselves.
Ode to White Liberals
You are lukewarm
Neither hot nor cold
You speak of democracy
You vote for progressiveness
But you live at the intersection of “All Lives Matter Avenue” and “Bernie Bros Road” while you silence the Black and Brown voices that dare interrupt your White righteousness
Save the Earth!
But you will not save me
I am too Latina
So, you reduce me with your words
You will not save me
I am too successful
So, you reuse me with your glass ceilings
You will not save me
I am too original
So, you recycle my Puerto Rican dopeness to reinvent your mediocre Whiteness
You will not save me
Pero escuchame, Gringos
I AM MY OWN MESSIAH
You are angry
Angry because my fair skin tricked you
My college degree disarmed you
My White husband satisfied you
Now you see my Trojan Horses gave me access to your table
so, guess who’s coming over to dinner tonight!
All of ME
Puerto Rican ME
Taino Indian, Humacao Puerto Rico, South Bronx projects, Nuyorican, Ridin’ the 6 train ME
To interrupt you
To resist you
To lick my lips and swing my hips when I fight you
I am who I’ve been waiting for.
Margaret Dickerson Bio:
My name is Margaret Dickerson. I was born in the South Bronx of New York City and raised in the Mitchell projects on 137th Street. 20 stories. 10 apartments on every floor. Walls made of cement. It was an indestructible vertical ghetto of pestilence, crime, graffiti and drugs. AKA: Home.
I am a pale-faced Puerto Rican. My apparent melanin deficiency gave me my education in colorism. I was too white to be embraced by “the true” Puertorriquenos and too Hispanic to be accepted by the Gringos. My Spanish was too broken for my abuela to be proud. My English had too much of an accent for me to be invited over to Becky’s house in Long Island. I quickly learned how to adapt to different spaces and expectations. By the age of nine, code-switching had become my new native tongue. It was the only way to belong. It was the only way to feel less alone.
I now live in Austin, Texas and am married to a cisgendered White man that had no idea what he was getting into when he said, “Yes”, to a Puerto Rican, bi-sexual, feminist that has yet to find a line she won’t cross in the cause for equity...say a prayer for that man! He’s also my safe place, my biggest supporter, and willing collateral damage when my “me-ness” causes the sh*t to hit the fan in the White spaces we occupy. You gotta keep it exciting on date night when you live in Trump Country!
I work in a school where I’m finding people that are willing to show up every day for courageous conversations. They are not afraid to hear the hard things and to do the hard work. Together, we refuse to go backwards. United, we refuse to stand still.
For the native ancestors of the lands we took and now occupy, we push forward. For the people we colonized and commodified, we push forward. For our children today who need us to be better, we push forward.
I also recognize that I am limited. So very limited. I can’t be all I expect myself to be. I can’t change all the things I wish to change. I can’t exist in all the places I’ve never felt I belonged in. But in my limitations, I find that my pale face, my “good” English, my college degree, my White husband, my professional position, all grants me privilege and with that privilege, I will raise all kinds of hell. My existence is my activism and I stand with the Global Majority as we practice the work of speaking for ourselves.