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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

It's a Modern Day Trial

“Show me how it ends it's alright
Show me how defenseless you really are
satisfied and empty inside
Well, that's alright, let's give this another try”
--“So Cold” Breaking Benjamin


Persecuted by your neighbors. By the woman that sells you your bread every morning. By the man who had told you he loved you the day before. Persecuted by the very child you gave birth to.

Perhaps it was because you said something to offend them. Or maybe they cheated you (or vice-versa) and they did not want you to find out, let alone have you accuse them of anything. Or maybe you were speaking a tongue that used to be native to you and your family but sounded “devilish” to those around you. Maybe you were a little eccentric compared to your peers; or the opposite was true—you didn’t talk at all. In short, maybe you were just different.

It never ceases to amaze me just how much a single difference can be the catalyst to being ostracized. I’m light-skinned. I speak English as fluently as any other expected American. But my tongue is also trained in a lighter language: one of musicality and romance that more than half of this nation knows to some extent. Yet, you throw me back to the seventeenth century and I would have been accused of being a witch in Salem. Just because mi cultura, is different; one that is a combination of European descent and the indigenous people of Mexico. Yes, this notion of a Mexican—a mestiza—in colonial New England is a stretch, but with the changes in names, we cannot say for sure if there were not any enslaved Mexicans in the colonies. The Puritans did not see the difference in dark-skin tones.

All they see is black. Not white.

Recently, in my Chicano/a literature class we read Calligraphy of the Witch, a book that depicts the very same situation I have described above. We even had the author, Alicia Gaspar de Alba come and speak to us. In her discussion, she mentioned this very same concept that I have laid out: the lack of an in-between; a subtle suppression of something that is meant to be seen as a source of empowerment. By grouping various ethnicities into one generalization, you weaken them by telling them that they have to assimilate in order to have any sort of power or to even be considered as part of a society. And it is not as if this is only done with one particular group. No, this type of ethnic repression as not only been a trend in history (take the Irish, for example, a group of immigrants that came to this country out of necessity yet were ostracized for their religion, accents, and appearance).

Latinos of all kinds are known as “Mexican.” Asians are seen as “Chinese.” Blacks are characterized as just that “blacks” or “African-Americans.” The list goes on. This sort of ignorance that rings through the nation may have just been the spark of the Salem Witch Trials. Yes, there were other political uncertainties that led to the rise in accusations, but behind it all lay a fear in the unknown. Fear in something that was different. Fear in something that could lead to change. When one gets comfortable they do not seek change, they stray from it. They do anything they can to ensure that their way of thinking is protected. Hence, the Trials were a method of that protection, by attempting to turn that fear away from the majority and into the minority. By making being the accuser, you claim yourself to be the authority; people see you as the one starting a trend that must be followed while the one being accused is merely constructing lies to protect themselves.

This is a method still used in today’s society against ethnicities, or any suppressed group. Gone are the public hangings and accusations, but long live the hate crimes against any group that dares to break the status quo. Long live an underlying hatred towards those who embrace who they are and live to celebrate their heritage or ways of being. All because to the group that has deemed “normalcy” cannot handle this difference.

The Trials live on; they just live in a different form, under a different façade. I guess we can even try calling them the American Dream. 


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