Izzi Lynn

history

i. the air i breathe in tastes like the ashes of all the civilizations we've ruthlessly crushed beneath our steel boots. these hands, these lily-white hands, carry the blood of their ancestors like the sky on atlas's back. i cannot be unaware of what these hands hold. it seems that makes me part of the minority. the majority are content to wash the blood from their hands in warm water and ignore the stains left behind. (you cannot wash away history). 

ii. i dream about the faces of all the native americans, the tragic cries torn from their mouths as they mourn their fallen siblings. the warpaint being put on as they prepare to avenge the dead. instead, they are forced into submission and crushed beneath a white man's foot. they are shoved into reservations of land that keep shrinking and shrinking and shrinking until they are forced to walk, barefoot and dead tired, across the country in an aptly named "trail of tears." their history is reduced to pocahontas and john smith and sacagawea. their history is reduced to their slaughter at the white man's hands. i dream about halloween costumes mocking their culture and about the absolute genocide of their proudful race. soap kills 99.9% of the germs, it does not erase the history we have wraught. 

iii. i close my eyes and the image of an african boy, ten years old and being loaded into the hull of a slaving ship, haunts me. his identity will be stolen from him, will be torn from him, will be scrubbed from his skin. and his sons and daughters and their children and their children's children, they will never know their origin. they will look into the mirror and wonder, where did we come from, what language did we speak, what gods did we believe in? the only answer they will receive is that they are "african." that is not an answer. they came from somewhere. they came from more than a continent, they came from a country, they came from a family. but they will never get the chance to know. while i know that i am a quarter norwegian and part swedish, they will never know more than "african." they will look into the mirror with their great grandfather's eyes and their great grandmother's lips and their great great granduncle's hands and they will never know because all of their history has been stripped from their bones and reduced to africa. i close my eyes and i see antwon rose- 17 years old and dead. shot three times by the cops during a routine traffic stop. i close my eyes and i see little black girls without fathers and black fathers without daughters because the cops shot them. i close my eyes and i see- 

iv. this country is built on the bones of the native americans, on the bones of the slaves, on the bones of the hispanics, on the bones of those who had to fight just to be able to speak. and we don't talk about it. we reduce them down to numbers and we reduce their history to a single page in the history of the americas. those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. those who do not know history- 

v. there are children being torn from their mothers and fathers, there are children being denied their very humanity. i hear their screams every night, begging, ¡mama, papa, tengo miedo, por favor sálvarme! ¡mama, papa, estoy asustado! ¿dondé estás? my hands are not getting any cleaner. they are being bathed in the blood of more innocents. 

vi. let's go back to the beginning. history in the americas starts with migrants making their way to north america and begin to build their own empires. the aztecs and the incans and the mayans. the mayans leave the first written records in the western hemisphere. the culture is growing and growing and growing like forests twisting their way to the sky. history flips itself over like a page in the wind. christopher columbus sails to the caribbean, thinks he's found india and learns to exploit the compassionate nature of the indigenous people there. lies about his savage treatment of the native peoples. news makes it back to europe. history flips itself over like a page in the wind. hernan cortés orchestrates the fall of the aztec empire, bringing them to their knees in a brutal slaughter. pizarro sets out to conquer the incan empire, executes the last inca emperor. vázquez de coronado "discovers" the mississippi river and in the process slaughters as many natives as he can. history flips itself over like a page in the wind. the mayflower sets out, lands at plymouth rock and founds jamestown on the land of the powhatan. the settlers eagerly antagonize the natives and are attacked in turn. the settlers turn it into a narrative about being victims to the savages. the settlers spread disease to the natives, the settlers kill the natives. history flips itself over like a page in the wind. africans are stolen from their lands by slaving ships and sent to the americas to suffer beneath their masters' cruelty. their identities are erased and they are forced into what will become a three hundred year period of abuse and slavery. history flips itself over like a page in the wind. the hispanics are ruthlessly trodden over and brutally beaten into submission, their cultures decimated, their economies destroyed, and their history erased. history flips itself over like a page in the wind. the native americans are forced to walk across the nation in the trail of tears and thousands die. history flips itself over like a page in the wind. have we really changed at all? 



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