You are not an ugly person day to day. From day to day, you are a nice person. From day to day, all the people who are supposed to love you on the whole do. From day to day, as you walk down a busy street in the large and modern and prosperous city in which you work and lie, dismayed and puzzled at how alone you can feel in this crowd, how awful it is to go unnoticed, how awful it is to go unloved, even as you are surrounded by more people than you could possibly get to know in a lifetime that lasted for millennia and then out of the corner of your eye you see someone looking at you and absolute pleasure is written all over the person’s face, and then you realize that you are not as revolting a presence as you think you are. And so, ordinarily, you are a nice person, an attractive person, a person capable of drawing to yourself the affection of other people, a person at home in your own skin: a person at home in your own house, with its nice backyard, at home on your street, your church, in community activities, your job, at home with your family, your relatives, your friends - you are a whole person.
By Jamaica Kincaid, A Small Place (via larmoyante)
The first time I heard her I didn’t hear her at all. My parents did not prepare me. (The natural thing in these situations is to blame the parents.) She was nowhere to be found on their four-foot-tall wood-veneer hi-fi. Given the variety of voices you got to hear on that contraption, her absence was a little strange. Burning Spear and the Beatles; Marley, naturally, and Chaka Khan; Bix Beiderbecke, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and James Taylor; Luther Vandross, Anita Baker, Alexander O’Neal. And Dylan, always Dylan. Yet nothing of the Canadian with the open-tuned guitar. I don’t see how she could have been unknown to them—it was her peculiar curse to never really be unknown. Though maybe they had heard her and simply misunderstood.
But what if we acknowledged those fears, regardless of how awful or shameful they are? What if we acknowledged this country’s terrible and ongoing history of imagining its own citizens — indigenous, black, Japanese American, Arab American, Latino — as monsters? What if we acknowledged the drug war, and the resulting mass incarceration of African Americans, and the myriad intermediate crimes against citizens and communities as a product of our fears? And what if we thereby had to reevaluate our sense of justice and the laws and procedures and beliefs that constitute it? What if we honestly assessed what we have come to believe about ourselves and each other, and how those beliefs shape our lives? And what if we did it with generosity and forgiveness? What if we did it with mercy?