What’s Your Ethnic Make Up?

She says, “Ethnic makeup?”
She says, “First of all, makeup’s just an Anglicized, colonized, commodified utility
that my sisters have been programmed to consume,
forcing them to cover up their natural state
in order to imitate what another sister looks like in her natural state
because people keep telling her
that the other sister’s natural state is more beautiful
than the first sister’s natural state.
At the same time,
the other sister isn’t even in her natural state,
because she’s trying to imitate yet another sister,
so in actuality, the natural state that the first sister’s trying to imitate
wasn’t even natural in the first place.”

Now I’m thinking, “Damn, this girl’s kicking knowledge!”
But, meanwhile, she keeps spitting on it like,
“Fine. I’ll tell you bout my ‘ethnic makeup.’
I wear foundation,
not that powdery stuff,
I wear the foundation laid by my indigenous people.
It’s that foundation that makes it so that past being globalized,
I can still vocalize with confidence that I know where my roots are.
I wear this foundation not upon my face, but within my soul,
and I take this from my ancestors
because I’ll be damned if I’d ever let an American or European corporation
tell me what my foundation
should look like.”

I wear lipstick,
for my lips stick to the ears of men,
so they can experience in surround sound my screams of agony
with each lash of rulers, measuring tape, and scales,
as if my waistline and weight are inversely proportional to my value as a human being.
See my lips, they stick, but not together.
Rather, they flail open with flames to burn down this culture that once kept them shut.
Now, I mess with eye shadow,
but my eyes shadow over this time where you’ve gone at ends to keep me blind.
But you can’t cover my eyes, look into them.
My eyes foreshadow change.
My eyes foreshadow light.
and I’m not into hair dyeing.
but I’m here, dying, because this oppression won’t get out of my hair.
I have these highlights.
They are highlights of my past atrocities,
they form this oppression I can’t wash off.
It tangles around my mind and twists and braids me in layers,
this oppression manifests,
it’s stressing me so that even though I don’t color my hair,
in a couple of years it’ll look like I dyed it gray.
So what’s my ethnic makeup?
I don’t have any.
Because your ethnicity isn’t something you can just make up.
And as for that shit my sisters paint on their faces, that’s not makeup, it’s make-believe.

Directed by Karen Lum

Poem written and perform by Adriel Luis

Full transcript of Slip of the Tongue

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