Microaggression (In Response to Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen”)

He is one of many.
He doesn’t know your name.
He is your brother.
He is your friend.
He is your uncle.
He is someone you walk past on your way to work.

You are also one of many.
This is not the first, second, last time this will happen to you.
It is not the last, second, first time this will happen to someone else
someone else you know,
someone else you barely know.
Your mother,
the girl who sits across from you in class,
someone who lives five hundred miles away from where you are standing
right now.

You are working, standing behind a cash register, walking into a store, waiting in line.
You are sitting across from him on the train,
on the bus,
you sit next to him at the dinner table.

He approaches you
on a good day,
on a bad day,
when you are in the middle of a phone conversation.
He tells you that you should smile more,
he says come on, life isn’t so bad, give me a smile.
It does not matter how he says this to you.
It does not matter your response,
he sees you as a function.
As something that is simply meant to entertain him.
Something he can look at up close, far away
and become upset, enraged that you are staring
directly at him, not smiling
in his direction because he forgets
that you do not exist to be looked at.

You tell him no thank you,
you tell him you are having a fine day
you ask him why.

That is not what you are meant to do,
you are not supposed to talk back to someone
who is only worried about your wellbeing.

He’ll say something under his breath
about your attitude.

He’ll clear his throat,
call you a fucking bitch,
that you should be nicer.
that maybe someone (him)
should show you what happens
when you don’t respond well
to compliments, to constructive criticism,
to his blatant threat(s) of violence against you
for forgetting that you are useful only
when you are willing to get on your knees
the moment he throws his unwanted attention
in your direction.

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