75,000 words and counting

September 4, 2008 § 1 Comment

a month ago a mother asked me, as our kids were playing outside, how many words did my kid ‘have’.  i was kinda dumbstruck by the question since it is not the kind of thing that i count.  ummm….5, i guess.  how many words does your kid have?  75.

in my head i am wondering: wtf kind of question is that?

our daughters are 1 month apart.

i have now spent the past month counting the number of words my kid has: 75,000…i underestimated.

now, most of her words i dont understand.  but she seems quite insistent that she is speaking a fully formed language and looks and yells at me exasperate that i dont understand all of the nuances of her language.  so i have to trust her on this.

since i dont understand all of her words i have to rely on her: tone.  and sometimes i misinterpret her tone as well.  well, she might as well get used to it.  she is a woman of color, people are going to spend alot of her life misinterpreting her tone to fit their own fear based stereotypes.

she spends alot of time explaining the world to me. gesturing.  running in circles.  miming.  and i still dont get it.  i feel her frustration though.  she is being so immaculate and concise and precise and i cant figure out if she wants some juice or another cracker.

i hate being misinterpreted.

and i look at michelle obama and how easy it is for no one to give her the benefit of the doubt.

and i read of the amazing woc bloggers and how easy it is for white women to just call them: angry and unproductive and then just dismiss them…

and i look at my daughter and wonder wtf does it matter how many words she has?

cuz the people who have power and by that i mean white folks and men and the upperclass etc. are not interested in what she has to say.

and i remember the lil lecture i got about cross-cultural communication a month ago.  the implication of the lecture:  if i just assimilate a bit more, ppl would be more welcoming and understanding.   well that is not true.  what is true is that i would spend all my time constantly convincing white folks that i am not a threat.  the minute that i stopped convincing them that i was not threat they would go back to thinking that really i am a threat.

a threat to what?

cuz if michelle obama threatens white folks, then what are the rest of us woc supposed to do?  how the fuck could she be a threat?

a threat to what?

how can she evoke all of these scary images in the minds of white folks?  and why does she have to work so hard to convince white folks that she is not angry?

lets just admit it:  white folks think that all woc are angry unless proven otherwise…

of course woc are angry, white folks think, wouldnt anyone be angry if they were treated the way woc are?

i want to give up.

i dont ever want my child to give up her language to learn ours.

cuz in her language she is free of all this.  in her language there is no color for her race that means evil-black.  in her language there is no word for her gender that means second-class.  in her language she can desire what and who she desires just because.   in her language there is a measure of freedom, that our language can never provide.

but of course she will learn our language as well…and she will feel the straightjacket of this culture binding her inside of its words.

and she will learn that the only tone that others want to hear from her is apologetic. grateful.  and subservient.  the only good woc is on her knees, hands clasped, begging for the scraps.

see, you can always find something wrong with something someone says if you are looking for it.  and ppl will constantly be looking for it from her.  i want to believe the world that she grows up in will be different in this respect but i am doubting it.  i am not seeing much hope tonight.  where is the benefit of the doubt?  and why is it when the powerful and by powerful i mean the rich and white and male (or some combination thereof) offer the benefit of the doubt to a woc they offer it like it is a gift.  and not something deserved for being alive?

fuck it.  my kid speaks 75,000 words.  each one sublime spontaneous and pure.  she will grow up multi-lingual.  and i hope that she always retains her own speech.  her words may come across as caustic and searing sweet and soulful divine and mammalian but always always her, no matter how others interpret it.  that is the path of the poet.

and the honesty of tone.

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