Gadje, I want us to talk.
I want to talk to you because you are my mother and my mother’s parents and my maternal aunt and uncle, and you are my friends and colleagues, you are my ex-lovers and you are my husband.
I do a lot of contract work in my field. Until a few months ago I worked with a bunch of you. It seemed like it was all going well with you - with my gadje co-workers. I liked everyone I was working with, I liked the environment I was working in, I was doing good work. You asked me about my racial and cultural background and, feeling good about things, I told you: I’m Rroma, I’m diddikai…
Months later when my contract ended, you withheld my final pay, while you accused me of stealing from you. Thieving gypsy. You, so pro-Palestinian, so sure you couldn’t be racist because you had Black friends, you said I was a thief.
I still do not know if you fully understand the implications of what you accused me of, knowing that I am Rroma.
I get asked - by you, gadje - what race I am a lot. You would come up to me in laundromats and in libraries, in bars and bookstores —
Gadje: So, where are you from?
Me: Well, I was born here [in North America]…
Gadje: Oh, but where are you REALLY from? Be honest now! Where is your family from?
Me: I’m not sure what you mean… [I always knew exactly what you meant, gadje, but we mixed race people, we gypsies, we know how to lie and we know why it’s necessary. I hope you will forgive me my dishonesty.]
Gadje: You’re so… exotic looking. Are you from Brazil? Are you middle Eastern? Are you Jewish?
Gadje, I was raised not to trust you. My grandparents suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder at your hands. My eldest aunt was born on a freight train, fleeing your violence, your hatred. This is what my family - half of my family - taught me: to appease you. To get along with you. But never to trust you.
I think about this particularly when it’s hot. It’s June right now. It’s been sunny for weeks, where I am. I walk around outside and my skin, normally pale, absorbs the sun, darkens fast, and suddenly I am bombarded with your curiosity, your entitlement. Who am I? You never care when you think I’m one of you. Winter-white, I contemplate tanning salons. I wear eyeshadow that brings out the brown undertones of my complexion, I read poems by Leah Samarasina and quote her in my mind when you make offhand racist remarks to me, assuming I am one of you:
Brown is the color
Of an unlived land
Whose dust I scatter
Wherever I go
You have no idea.
I made this blog for you.
I know many of you are upset with me, because I tell you to shut the fuck up.
You fight with me, like my own mother. She says: I love your curly black hair. You’re so lucky, it’s so thick. Your olive skin, it’s so pretty, you have that exotic look. I know you were bullied as a child, but I always knew that when you were an adult, you’d be appreciated for the exotic beauty you are. She says, it makes sense you’ve married a [Native] man. After all, I fell for your father! I always loved colored men the most. I wonder what color my grandchildren will be!!
My father purses his lips and does not say much. He smokes his cigarettes and reads his books. He’s glad I found a husband. He wishes I’d married a Rroma man, but he will make do. He always has. He says, why make such a problem of things? Tell people you are white! They’ll never know, so what’s the harm? You can just say you are Italian, or maybe Jewish, or Greek, or Spanish. There are so many things I could be for you, gadje.
My husband says, I think of myself as something new. He is Native and white. Our skin tones match almost exactly. He says there’s no word for what he is, but there are words for what I am, in many dialects. Diddikai. Pharnavi. Light skinned. Mixed race.
He says our children will be unique. They will be 1/4th Rroma, 1/4th Indigenous Turtle Islander. 1/2 white, settler. They may be dark skinned, like some of their relatives, but more likely they will be light skinned. I am afraid they will not be able to relate to me, my light skinned children, my something new.
(Or perhaps just my white children.)
Gadje, you may be my grandchildren someday.
I want you to know that I do not hate you.
You outsiders, who deem me other, often while implicitly including me in my own othering.
What am I to do with you, gadje? When you say you want to be a “gypsy”. When I tell you who - what - I am, and you laugh, and spend the next hour telling me about how you hopped trains as a teenager, thinking that I’ll be able to relate to that because I must have grown up like that, right?
I am often angry with you, gadje.
I do not know how to make you understand this anger! I do not think you can ever really understand. And I’m sad for that, I really am, because I WANT you to understand, gadje! I really do. I wish I could make you understand.
But I know you cannot.
And so I write these things. I shout into this void, a void I straddle when I think about my own parents.
I write things like this. I spend weeks on these writings and post them in fits of boldness.
Dear gadje, I wish you could just make it easier to love you.
Dear gadje, I wish I could hate you without feeling as though I am hating a part of myself, and most of my friends and many of my loved ones.
what am I to do with you?
STFU Gadje, a woman who is half you, half Gypsy, and so often torn between the two.
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