So there we were, eating frozen yogurt in a perky, neon shop on the main street in our Connecticut shoreline town. My husband, strewn across a bright green sofa, and myself, legs akimbo on a vinyl orange dot, shoveling a mixture of crushed Oreos, gummy sharks, and frozen berries into our mouths while we stared at the two white men on the screen. One was the discerning, well-tailored Tribal Art appraiser and the other a heavy set, sexagenarian farmer-type from the Midwest with a collection of beaded Navajo belts passed down from his father. I mocked their seemingly stereotypical-ness out loud to my husband as I shoved the frozen, non-fat, extra tart meal substitute into my mouth in an expression of faux healthiness.
“Look at how white this situation is.” I said to Jay, using the word as a label to convey my frustration with disregard and dominance within White America. “It figures! Two old white guys debating the price over another culture’s finery, unaware of their colonial position. So freakin’ colonial and white! One expert dude is in charge of knowing the value of some shit he probably doesn’t fully understand, on a show about white people selling things that belong to people they colonized and hoping for a buck!” Jay let out an empathetic snicker as he is frequently both spectator and stakeholder in my obstinate rants and analysis of contemporary culture.
And then it hit me! There I was in a snow globe of my own critique, a middle-aged, mostly white “yuppy”, so terrifyingly at ease with pointing the finger on society. I looked around at my space, my satisfied posture, the pleather decor, the chance to be idle in a yogurt shop. I was comfortable. I was educated. I was as feminist as my trite reading of a bathroom copy of Bitch magazine would allow. I was as white as anyone I’d judged, standing on my postcolonial fro-yo soapbox, totally caught out by my own surveillance cameras.
So there I was again, a mere beginner, looking at myself in the mirror with a mirror in hand, a point of view that makes it appear as if I’m looking into infinity. It’s small moments like these that pierce through my “self discourse” and wake me up to unlearning my routinized scripts. Tiny observations that disrupt my bitterness and remind me how long I’ve felt disconnected from my guts, my passions, and my fears. Such tiny moments, so many ripples. And often times what follows these subtle movements is a stronger urge “to do”. I feel the colonizer, and the family man, and the art dealer simmering inside me to find a quick resolution, “I must do, I must understand, I must know the price, I must cash in the bead belt to secure my savings.” I couldn’t help but notice that shit too. When those “colonizers of consciousness” roll in to train my mind back into submission, the only thing left to do is… nothing.
We are so trained to have a place in the world, to be a somebody, to be safe. I am none of these things, and part of me glimpses that from time to time. I appreciate that about life, being blindsided, blindsided by self-ignorance. It’s like swimming in the ocean when the waves are over your head and a satisfying undertow reminds you, it can kill you. From time to time, I am able to remember how so many of the human distractions and hegemonic constructions in place, the ones keeping me tired, bored, and critical, are really an overrun ruse blockading a realization of my own fragility and unimportance. But this time, I want to stay awake.
* COPYRIGHT: (c) 2015 Jennifer Dauphinais, All Rights Reserved, Image: jcdauphinais, 2009