There’s a way to tie a mitpachat that is commonly called a regal wrap. You cross the scarf at the nape of your neck, the soft caress of material making a crown around your head, your hair. It’s easy and comfortable and it’s typically my tie of choice.
So when you, random stranger at the Dunkin Donuts turned around and started yelling at me for being a, “white person who I ain’t never gonna f***ing bow down to you ever,” I wanted to tell you that I would never want anyone to bow down to me: white people have been forcing my people to bow down to them for a very long time. And just like Mordechai of Shushan or you, I would never bow down to anyone.
I wondered if you were angry because to you, what I call a mitpachat, a part of my heritage, is a sign of me trying to be culturally appropriative. And I would have corrected you if you weren’t so angry at me, the white girl in the Dunkin Donuts.
And when you, stranger in the Dunkin Donuts kept yelling at me, “the white people,” I desperately wanted to tell you about how my family has never lived anywhere near Europe. How I come from a long line of proud Yemenite Jews, how I can date my family back to hot deserts and desserts of sunflower seeds and centuries of oppression. How I can go back even further and tell you about the time my great great great (great great great great…) Savta and Saba were enslaved into building the wonders of Egypt. How they were run down and beaten generation after generation and now I’m here.
As you told me that you wanted me to die, I hoped I could talk to you about how other Jews make fun of me for where I’m from. How they’ve called me bad names and refused my family work and education. How they tried stealing my aunt away when she was just a baby; because these dark strange “Jews” from Yemen are undereducated and couldn’t possibly make good members of society. How my grandparents gave up all of their (albeit few) possessions to be free of the harsh reality of being a Jew in Yemen. I wanted to tell you that I also often hate “white people” because white people hate me. They’ve always hated me.
And yeah, my skin is white. White like the snow of the Alps. And that I am very privileged- until I open my mouth.
I’m not European.
I’m not Ashkanaz. I’m Yemenite.
You’re not a “normal Jew.”
You must be so happy you married an Ashkanaz guy so that you can be a part of (normal) Judaism, (real) Judaism.
I want to tell you about how much I hate all of these rules that I have been told. Wear a wig to interviews and work, it’s not “professional” to look “they way you do.” Do not mention that you might have to leave early sometimes on Fridays.
Do not mention you’re Jewish if you can help it.
Don’t mention your ethnicity.
Don’t mention you.
Hide the parts of yourself that you care about the most, so that you are a presentable human being, because the core of who you are, your neshama, isn’t appropriate for public consumption… it doesn’t align with success.
So while you yell at my white girl face I have so much to say. How I understand with what is happening in the world, you are angry. How I feel angry too, for different reasons, but I’m angry. And I’m sorry.
When you were escorted out and all of the black employees rushed to me to apologize, I didn’t want them to. I wanted to tell them that I too had so much to yell about. How I am also brimming with anger and disappointment with how the world wants me to be.
But I didn’t say anything at all.
I was silent.
Because to everyone else I’m just the white girl in the Dunkin Donuts. And that’s all the world wants me to be.