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Sight Unseen

January 14, 2009

Wow.  This piece filled my heart up.  And the Hafez he quotes is one of my favorite poems.

From Konch Magazine, where my boy Jose was recently published (¡!).

The End of Racism

By Siamak Vossoughi

———

The end of racism that I have seen has been a piece of paper and a group of white men in suits announcing that the end of racism is hereby decreed. The end of racism that I haven’t seen has been those same white men looking at each other with tears in their eyes.

The end of racism that I have seen has been let me tell you about the end of racism. The end of racism that I haven’t seen has been let me listen to the years and years of it.

The end of racism that I have seen has been Martin Luther King Day. The end of racism that I haven’t seen has been, what in the hell is really happening? I mean really happening, and why does one more child have to be born into this day.

The end of racism that I have seen has been a million places to go -museums, exhibits, art galleries, conferences, seminars, foundations, charities, scholarship funds, political parties, book clubs, literature, music, God. The end of racism that I haven’t seen has been nowhere to go – river on one side, dogs on the other.

The end of racism that I have seen has been a smile. The end of racism that I haven’t seen has been tears too lost to be tears. The end of racism that I have seen has been we gain a lot by not talking about it, there’s nothing that goes as far as not talking about it, what would we want to talk about it for anyway? The end of racism that I haven’t seen has been sit down, because we are going to talk about it for a long time.

The end of racism that I have seen has been an end of racism that came overthe land with lightness and ease, that came over individuals with fierceness and strife, but came over the land with lightness and ease. The end of racism that I haven’t seen has been an end of racism that came over the land with fierceness and strife, with a collective fierceness and strife in individuals that was reflected back at them everywhere they turned, in which their own was reflected in their neighbor’s, such that the reflection was their only respite from fierceness and strife, but it was a magnificent respite, a respite that opened up what a new land could be.

The end of racism that I have seen has still viewed fire as a bad and dangerous thing. The end of racism that I haven’t seen has viewed fire as a beautiful thing and the highest that a human being can aspire to. The end of racism that I have seen has exulted in caution. The end ofracism that I haven’t seen has been cautious not to exult.

The end of racism that I have seen has been made of old newsreels. The end of racism that I haven’t seen has been made of stepping outside and looking at the street.

The end of racism that I have seen has been an assumption that things likeracism end imperceptibly, the main force behind it being the passage of time. The end of racism that I haven’t seen has been an assumption that nothing canend imperceptibly that was begun so perceptibly, and an acknowledgment that its beginning as racism was not perceived, that oceans of pain and misery were not perceived, that they went unperceived by founding fathers, who were men of their time, who did not hear cries and wails of their time. The end of racism that I have seen has been an end that came along the way of other things, of the pursuit of other things, which is the same pursuit that has always accompanied racism. The end of racism that I haven’t seen has been an end that came by itself, along the way of nothing but life.

The end of racism that I have seen has been silence, and it has been noise. The end of racism that I haven’t seen has been a whole different silence and a whole different noise. The end of racism that I have seen has been focused on the moment before one’s eyes. As long as the focus is there, the racism of the moment will go unseen, because it is connected to all the other moments. The end of racism that I haven’t seen has been focused on presuming that everyone is a genius who can hold all of time inside themselves, who already has been, whether they’ve known it or not.

The end of racism that I have seen has believed that the job of music is to add to what a human being is. The end of racism that I haven’t seen has believed that the job of music is to match what a human being is. The end of racism that I have seen wants something but does not know what it is. The end of racism that I haven’t seen does not want something so much as it feels something. Whatever comes from that can come. Even after all this time, the sun does not say to the earth: You owe me. (Hafez).

The end of racism that I have seen says to racism: you are bad. The end of racism that I haven’t seen says to racism: you are I. The end of racism that I have seen wants to be a child, wants to be the child it was before racism, and in wanting that, it is right and just that it was once a child before racism, but that child was too far back before memory, before any conscious memory at least, and anyway, a child is not a hiding place, because the end of racism that I haven’t seen acknowledges the child inside of a man and inside of a woman, provided that they also acknowledge that that child is gone, and that the important thing now is the next child, and how they can best be brought up to face the world and not need to use childhood as a hiding place. The end of racism that I have seen tells itself things without knowing what it is saying. The end of racism that I haven’t seen tells itself things and knows exactly what it is saying.

The end of racism that I have seen thinks hoping to be wishing. The end of racism that I haven’t seen thinks hoping to be breathing. The end of racism that I have seen has been either as hard as a brick or as soft as a drop of water. The end of racism that I haven’t seen has been both at the same time. The end of racism that I have seen says, how can that be, a brick is a brick and a drop of water is a drop of water? The end of racism that I haven’t seen laughs and says, you do know that you’re already on a tightrope, don’t you? That’s what gives you your bounce. Hard and soft are just one more thing to be on a tightrope between.

The end of racism that I have seen lives on a pinpoint and calls it the ground. The end of racism that I haven’t seen lives on the ground and calls it a pinpoint. The end of racism that I have seen is what is there. The end of racism that I haven’t seen is what is not there, it is seeing what is not there as clearly as what is there, it is a million ends of racism being carried in a million hearts, waking up in the morning with those hearts and going to sleep with them at night.

The end of racism that I have seen hesitates before speaking on its own existence. The end of racism that I haven’t seen is certain at least, one way or another. The end of racism that I have seen has turned to something other than sadness. The end of racism that I haven’t seen has been sad so many times that sadness has been like an old friend, like a coin in a pocket, like a whistle in the street.

The end of racism that I have seen depends on quantity but not community. The end of racism that I haven’t seen knows that two honest people make as big a community as the world has ever seen. The end of racism that I have seen looks a hundred different directions where it once looked down. The end of racism that I haven’t seen looks up where it once looked down. The end of racism that I have seen is at war with looking up where it once looked down. The end of racism that I haven’t seen is at peace with it. The end of racism that I have seen does not keep tabs on itself. The end of racism that I haven’t seen is a tab itself.

The end of racism that I have seen has defined its own capacity as human capacity for so long that steps on the road are seen as brick walls, and if a thing is seen as a brick wall long enough, then whatever is on the other side of it becomes secondary to maintaining the wall. The end of racism that I haven’t seen knows that there is something there on the other side of it. Even when the steps seem like brick walls, it knows that there is something there. The end of racism that I have seen loves the end of racism, but it is a strange kind of love. It is unexpressed and not discussed. The end of racism that I haven’t seen does not love anything it cannot name. The end of racism that I have seen has not changed men’s faces, has not changed something in black and white faces from many years ago, and a real end of racism, the one I haven’t seen, would have changed it. Instead of changing the amounts and frequencies of the faces, it would have changed something in them.

The end of racism that I have seen has been better at two-dimensional equality than the three-dimensional kind, and the end of racism that I haven’t seen knows it, because it looks at the world. The end of racism that I have seen does not even know what it is ending. It is because the racism that is ending is seen as the end of what happened. But racism is what happened and what didn’t happen and what could have happened and what would have happened, and the end of racism that I haven’t seen knows that it has to be responsible for all of those.

The end of racism that I have seen wants to fight racism with the same weapons that set it up in the first place. The end of racism that I haven’t seen wants to find some new weapons, and is ready to think of them as something other than weapons.

The end of racism that I have seen does not believe that you have to change everything in order to change one man. The end of racism that I haven’t seen says okay, maybe so, but a change in one man does change everything. The end of racism that I have seen has managed to put on different clothes without being naked in between. The end of racism that I haven’t seen knows that however cold nakedness can be, it matters that we are born naked. The end of racism that I have seen believes that a man’s racism-ending efforts are his and his alone. The end of racism that I haven’t seen knows that there is no privacy from eyes and thoughts on the street.

The end of racism that I have seen has been an island. The end of racism that I haven’t seen has been the sea.

———

My name is Siamak Vossoughi and I am an Iranian-American writer. I grew up in Seattle and I now work part-time at a school in San Francisco.

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