Poetry On Odyssey: October 31st

Poetry On Odyssey: October 31st

A poem about Halloween.
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Trust me, I'm not one to share poetry. I'm not really one to write poetry if I'm going to be honest. But this poem is kind of special and important to me because it's about being an Indian American woman in Michigan and what that means, especially when you're a kid.

I've always known that I'm Indian, but I didn't ever really think that that was something to make me different. I didn't really understand what it meant to be a race other than white in this country. Slowly, though, it became more and obvious to me that I am different. At first, this difference is crippling, because you feel inadequate, you feel less than. Until you begin to realize that it's a strength, not a weakness.

So, with much courage, here's a poem that I would like to share with you.

October 31st

The best day of the year

When you’re 10 years old

Graduation from Bumble Bee

Lady Bug, Minnie Mouse

Costumes

And a trip to big kid world

With make up

Complexity to design-

For looks more than cold-weather coverage


With fancy shoes

With my head held high,

I was Jodha

The Mughal Empress of India,

The beauty of the land, sharp, bright,

A swordswoman, forced into marriage

But never a coward.


I was beautiful, strong. I looked like a queen

Golden long, flowing skirt

Drapes over my shoulder

Heavy, plastic, jewelry

A face caked in brown foundation

Thanks mom, for the 6 AM

Dressing room session before the school parade


I walked into school,

Through big double doors

Heads turning, I imagined

Camera flashing.

There were spidermans and

Cinderellas brown bags and spongebobs

There were crayons and ninja turtles and power rangers

supermans and bumblebees

And Minnie mouses and mickeys

But I

I was different

I was elegant

I was brown, fundamentally Indian

Even on the one day that I could be anything I wanted

Anything


I paraded, my payals chun chun chunning

Through the hallways

I smiled, lipstick turning my mouth much bigger than it really was

Turning my smile much bigger

Than it really was


I won Best Girls Costume!

Thanks mom

But

I won

As a

Gypsy.

“Put your hands together for the young girl in the

GYPSY costume! What a great job!”

A panel of judges, bright light white

I explained, I’m Jodha

“Hush, hush, go back to your place now.”


Hush

Hush

Go back

To your place now


A bone hand on my shoulder

Hush hush

Back to my place now


But kids are resilient

They bounce back

Faster than sponges

I bounced back off the roof

My usual

I swayed my skirts around and

Hummed my songs

On the playground I was the queen

This was my kingdom


The kids looked at me weird

They asked

What are you

They asked it like

Why are you


I told them

But kids are resistant

They don’t get the things they don’t get

They said that’s weird who’s that

They said is that what a gypsy is

They said why didn’t you be jasmine

They said

They said

I explained

But they said


I’m tired


I went trick or treating

I had my coat

I had my pumpkin candy bag

I had my skirt

My drapes

My jewels

And I chun chun chunned through the streets

White moon over my shoulder


The first door I knocked on

Was Italian Mrs. Humphrey

Tall, dressed in black

Like ink on a fresh clear page

Cat ears barely visible

Cat eyes staring deep into my

Brown

Brown

Pools


“And what are you dressed as tonight?”

a sigh

“A gypsy.”

Cover Image Credit: Smrita Gupta

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20 Things That Happen When A Jersey Person Leaves Jersey

Hoagies, pizza, and bagels will never be the same.
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Ah, the "armpit of America." Whether you traveled far for college, moved away, or even just went on vacation--you know these things to be true about leaving New Jersey. It turns out to be quite a unique state, and leaving will definitely take some lifestyle adjustment.

1. You discover an accent you swore you never had.

Suddenly, people start calling you out on your pronunciation of "cawfee," "wooter," "begel," and a lot more words you totally thought you were saying normal.

2. Pork Roll will never exist again.

Say goodbye to the beautiful luxury that is pork roll, egg, and cheese on a bagel. In fact, say goodbye to high-quality breakfast sandwiches completely.

3. Dealing with people who use Papa Johns, Pizza Hut, or Dominos as their go-to pizza.

It's weird learning that a lot of the country considers chain pizza to be good pizza. You're forever wishing you could expose them to a real, local, family-style, Italian-owned pizza shop. It's also a super hard adjustment to not have a pizza place on every single block anymore.

4. You probably encounter people that are genuinely friendly.

Sure Jersey contains its fair share of friendly people, but as a whole, it's a huge difference from somewhere like the South. People will honestly, genuinely smile and converse with strangers, and it takes some time to not find it sketchy.

5. People drive way slower and calmer.

You start to become embarrassed by the road rage that has been implanted in your soul. You'll get cut off, flipped off, and honked at way less. In fact, no one even honks, almost ever.

6. You realize that not everyone lives an hour from the shore.

Being able to wake up and text your friends for a quick beach trip on your day off is a thing of the past. No one should have to live this way.

7. You almost speak a different language.

The lingo and slang used in the Jersey area is... unique. It's totally normal until you leave, but then you find yourself receiving funny looks for your jargon and way fewer people relating to your humor. People don't say "jawn" in place of every noun.

8. Hoagies are never the same.

Or as others would say, "subs." There is nothing even close in comparison.

9. Needing Wawa more than life, and there's no one to relate.

When you complain to your friends about missing Wawa, they have no reaction. Their only response is to ask what it is, but there's no rightful explanation that can capture why it is so much better than just some convenient store.

10. You have to learn to pump gas. Eventually.

After a long period of avoidance and reluctance, I can now pump gas. The days of pulling up, rolling down your window, handing over your card and yelling "Fill it up regular please!" are over. When it's raining or cold, you miss this the most.

11. Your average pace of walking is suddenly very above-average.

Your friends will complain that you're walking too fast - when in reality - that was probably your slow-paced walk. Getting stuck behind painfully slow people is your utmost inconvenience.

12. You're asked about "Jersey Shore" way too often.

No, I don't know Snooki. No, our whole state and shore is not actually like that. We have 130 miles of some of the best beach towns in the country.

13. You can't casually mention NYC without people idealizing some magical, beautiful city.

Someone who has never been there has way too perfect an image of it. The place is quite average and dirty. Don't get me wrong, I love a good NYC day trip as much as the next person, but that's all it is to you... a day trip.

14. The lack of swearing is almost uncomfortable.

Jerseyans are known for their foul mouths, and going somewhere that isn't as aggressive as us is quite a culture adjustment.

15. No more jughandles.

No longer do you have to get in the far right lane to make a left turn.

16. You realize that other states are not nearly as extreme about their North/South division.

We literally consider them two different states. There are constant arguments and debates about it. The only thing that North and South Jersey can agree on is that a "Central Jersey" does not exist.

17. Most places also are not in a war over meat.

"Pork roll" or "taylor ham"... The most famous debate amongst North and South Jersey. It's quite a stupid argument, however, considering it is definitely pork roll.

18. You realize you were spoiled with fresh produce.

After all, it's called the "Garden State" for a reason. Your mouth may water just by thinking about some fresh Jersey corn.

19. You'll regret taking advantage of your proximity to everything.

Super short ride to the beach and a super short ride to Philly or NYC. Why was I ever bored?

20. Lastly, you realize how much pride you actually have in the "armpit of America," even if you claimed to dislike it before.

After all, there aren't many places with quite as much pride. You find yourself defending your state at all necessary moments, even if you never thought that would be the case.

Cover Image Credit: Travel Channel

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Yes, White Privilege Exists, And Yes, There's A Way To Fix It

Racist policies of the past continue to trickle problems into the present, but we can help fix it.

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Recently, a friend and I were having a debate about white privilege and the extent to which it continues to exist in America. I was defending the position that white privilege continues to cause economic divisions in America, while my friend posited that white privilege should be reframed as an "upper-class privilege." One of the most profound points that he made during his argument was "I don't want to be inadvertently racist. If there is a minority that will do a job better, cheaper, and more efficient than me, I'd want them to get the job over me any day."

I believe that this point sums up the position that most people have towards white privilege. White privilege can be a hard concept to accept if, like most rational people, you are personally not racist and believe that the majority of business owners, politicians, and everyday people are also not racist. However, white privilege does not necessarily originate from modern racism alone. Rather, white privilege has more to do with the after-effects of racist policies of the past creating economic disparities that continue to this day.

Let me begin by conceding one point: white privilege is not nearly as vast as it was 100 years ago. It is not even as wide as it was 50 years ago. At the time, there was a matrix of systemic racism and oppression that created a noticeable white privilege in the past, most noticeably in the Pre-Civil War and Jim Crow-era South.

However, these racist policies created impacts which have outlasted the policies themselves but continue to cause economic divisions among racial lines in society. This is especially true in regards to how much faster and easier social momentum is for whites than for blacks, meaning that it is easier for a white family to rise through social classes than a black family.

Wealth accumulation is the cornerstone of social momentum. True wealth accumulation comes from practical investments that can be passed through generations and grow wealth exponentially. Wealth begets wealth. When you already start with an advantage, it becomes that much easier to increase your wealth and thus increase the advantage that your future generations will have.

The two main investments that have demonstrable impacts on improving the lives of a person's children are investments in education and property. The more educated the parents, the higher the quality of life for the child and the higher the likelihood that the children will achieve a higher education. Property is an asset that generally appreciates and generates wealth and a line of credit for future generations.

Racist policies of yesteryear have thus stalled the chances of minorities to generate transferable wealth to future generations in the form of accumulated assets. Jim Crow regulations generally impacted the rights of blacks to make investments in areas that would improve their lives and the lives of their children. Policies which restricted minority rights to education and investment constricted the ability to minority families to accumulate wealth that would then lift their future generations to higher social classes.

This problem is then exasperated by modern policies which favor investment over-taxed income, subsidize mortgages, and prioritize private sector developers over workers. Because minorities have only had the ability to truly accumulate wealth for two or three generations while whites have been able to do this since the beginning of America, these policies have created noticeable economic divisions that straddle racial divides.

However, this does not mean that lifting up minorities out of poverty and overcoming white privilege is impossible. Far from it. White privilege has been shrinking as minorities have won more and more rights and racial divides have become less and less formal. Increasing minority access to education, loans, and investment opportunities can help overcome the divisions created by the past.

In addition, recognizing the historical causes of white privilege and admitting that it still has an impact on society will help overcome the inherent bias and allow policymakers to recognize how their policies could impact the divides that already exist in America. By working together, we can continue to strive for an America that is free, fair, and open to all. After all, isn't that what the American dream is really about?

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