Turning the corner

Turning the corner
is a tribute to “Cornered” by Adrian Piper

I am white
Maybe you wonder why
I’m bringing up my whiteness in the first place
because basically « we humans are all the same »
and in general
and anyway
My insisting on being white
is the proof that I want to distance myself
from those « others »
yes, that I’d rather belong to the white-club
in order to get privileges
if you think that, you have a problem
you presuppose that it is inherently better to be white
you recognize that there is such a thing as white privilege
does that make you feel uncomfortable?
I’m sorry
I really would prefer not to have to disturb you
but unfortunately I have no choice
if I do not tell you what I am,
then I will certainly pass as non-white
and why should I let you in this belief?

I’ll tell you briefly the story of the sweet little tea room
where I used to go for am herbal rose-hip tea
when I was living as a woman

once upon a time there was a sweet little tea room
with a beautiful book corner and sunny tables outside in the sun
one day I go back there for the first time since I pass as a man
the tea room owner does not recognize me which I find quite flattering
as I walk in I notice that the window has been pelted with pebbles and is cracked
it looks really nice, like a crystal-clear, hanging-in-the-air puzzle, with the sun in the middle
while I am admiring the scenery the owner asks me suspicious:
« Is that your work you’re looking at?  »

end of quote

if I wasn’t me
I would also look at me and turn up my nose
why not?
and had I been born the way I look like now I would think
mistrust is normal
c’est la vie
But this is exactly the point:
I was used to something else
therefore I can compare

let us speak plainly:
in France I was a quite average brunette
but in Germany I became
suddenly
a top model
men in this country undressed me with their gaze
« You come from Paris! How charming! »
this is the story
„How I went from a white top-model to an immigrant hooligan“.
Without any hooliganism or immigration.

maybe I was actually never read as white in Germany
not even when I was living as a woman
the top model, that was not me
the sexbomb was my skin
my eyes were horny sluts
and my hair, my accent …
before my body was seen as “exotic” and sexy
today my body is “exotic” and dangerous
I am not mad at you for that
I believe, yes, that we white people are racist
that would be incredible if we weren’t
growing up in such unquestioned white supremacy and ending up without prejudices would be a miracle
in fact I even admire you because you’re just a little bit racist
and under the circumstances that’s quite an achievement

actually the one I’m mad at is myself
in the sweet little tea room after the owner suspected me
guess what I did?
I ordered an herbal tea
I smiled nicely to the owner and then I picked out a book from the book corner and sat outside in the sun
I tried to show this woman that she didn’t need to be afraid of me
she shouldn’t be afraid
of someone like me who is interested in literature
how do you prove that you’re not dangerous?

before I left the tea room, I tried to show this woman that I was putting the book back properly in the book corner
yes, that I didn’t want to steal it
I think this woman was certainly smart
and intelligent
the kind of person I would ask without any doubt to take care of my cat
I am mad at myself
when I try to prove that I am a good person
I’m mad at myself every time I try to prove that I am a human being
I’m mad at myself when I answer to your question « Where are you from? » and I’m mad at you when you’re delighted because I say « France »
as if I’m giving you the solution to a thorny issue
or one ticket for a free guided tour of the Eiffel Tower
« Paris, the city of love! »
even though everyone there hates each other

I guess now you would like to smile at me nicely
in order to show that you wouldn’t have treated me like the owner of the tea room
look
if your behavior remains the same, whether I’m a person of color or not, then my letting you know I’m white should not cause you any problem at all
then you have no reason to feel uncomfortable
then we can all feel comfortable
what do you think?
I know that you would like it too
you also wish that everybody would be treated equally and in a human way

maybe the problem is
if someone like me is white
then it can happen to anyone
Turks, Arabs, Black people
can be white
and even worse:
how can you be sure that you are white?
just think about it
even Ludwig von Beethoven was Black

can you remember the day you understood that you’re actually benefiting from racism?
I was in 5th grade.
I saw how our white teacher mistreated my French-Algerian class-mate.
I felt dehumanized.
Of course I didn’t call it like that back then.
« Dehumanization » – I’m not even able to pronounce the word.
But I felt that something was wrong.
It was a deep, painful feeling of helplessness.
That was shocking.

Then, the psychological processes are easy to reconstruct:
In order not to feel powerless, I would rather be on the side of the powerfull.
And in order to make that injustice feel bearable,
I have unconsciously explained to myself that this injustice
was maybe not so unfair
yes,
that there was maybe a « good » reason for it.

When I understood that I contribute to this disaster,
I felt ashamed.
Voilà.
so I can stay arrogant
after all I was brought up in the belief that I’m superior, didn’t I?
therefore it’s not an option for me to proclaim
that I experience racism as well in everyday life
just not to belong to the “perpetrators”

the whole thing is not a theory
Dehumanization began for me in 5th grade.
When was it for you?
And it keeps growing
until one day I will maybe not be a human being anymore
this has very concrete effects on my daily life
on your daily life
on our daily lives
so,
how do you propose we handle that together?

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