The Incident on the Plane

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2016 Barrett Winner

2nd Place Ayat AL-Tamimi

I walk into a bar and everyone ducks for cover
9/11 is the punchline here
Except
No one is laughing
Not me, not the bartender who won’t look me in the eyes, not the collection of sweaty bodies, too drunk to hold their heads up
Misunderstanding is the punchline here
Misunderstanding, miscommunication, misinterpretation
All these misses that we have allowed to seduce our hearts
Fear is the punchline here
Fear is the tool used to isolate, used to
Burn down bridges that were never built, homes that were never filled, children that were never loved
I sidle up to the bar and, with an apologetic smile, ask for a glass of water
The bartender relaxes when the syllables that come out of my mouth are ones he understands, when the vowels I use to string my words together are the same ones he spent his childhood learning
Privilege is the punchline here
Privilege is not having to disarm yourself with a smile as an apology for the color of your skin, or
The shape of your eyes, or
The foreign sounds that leave your mouth when you say your name
Privilege is not having to fold yourself up to fit the allotted space
Privilege is not having to pretend molds are progress
Privilege is learning about racism, not living it