Coloring Borders

Some of us are born with the memory of a border. Long before we ever see one on a map. It makes me think Hinduism would have done well in Palestine. Reincarnation could explain it. A past life as reason for the memory at birth. Instead, we settle for inheritance as an explanation. But I don’t buy it. Maybe some fathers whispered the square mileage of Palestine into their baby’s ear instead of the adhan, but how many were those really?

No no, the memory is there before they speak to us, before they pass it down. You know how I know? Because I saw it in dreams. And the first time I heard a story, I already knew the ending. Explain that, nurture. Explain that.

Let’s be real. Borders are weird. But white folk, no they’re not born with the memory of a border. They’re born with the memory of moving lines. For them, that shit is like play-dough. Fuck if I ever understood it. We’d sit in class and color in a map and the whole world would be one damn color. One.


map 1 top

“Dude, what about the different countries?”
“So what? I like orange. I’m gonna color everything orange.”
“But everything isn’t the same orange place.”
“What do you know?”

Yeah, ok. Fair point. What did I know? But places seemed different. And there were these lines. And I couldn’t picture getting to go everywhere. So coloring everything orange seemed…well, it just seemed stupid. But there they were…coloring everything however they felt.

map 1 middle

And I’ll be damned if I didn’t look around and realize – it was only the white kids. Everybody else was using every crayon in the box.

Can you believe that? Every single color.

Well that settled it for me. There had to be a reason, right?

And then you “grow up.” And you learn histories and wars and passports. And you start to buy the inheritance argument. Yes, it must be that entitlement. Must be that passport. Must be that legacy. It’s all nurture, they tell you.

map 1 bottom

But you know what? I still think I was born with the memory of a border. And I saw it in a dream. Before my mother sang me a lullaby or I ever left the country or town I was in. I knew what one was.

Maybe us brown folk are never reincarnated as white people. I don’t know. I’m ok with that. But I sure do hope white people occasionally get reincarnated as brown folk.

Maybe some do. Maybe those are the confused ones.

4 responses to “Coloring Borders

  1. not all ‘white people’ are middle to upper class US citizens. what purpose does collapsing / reducing a racial identity with the privileges of nationality and class serve here? plenty of ‘white people’ for whom borders exist too

    • I don’t really think you understood what is meant by white people in this context. The writer said, “But white folk, no they’re not born with the memory of a border. They’re born with the memory of moving lines,” I believe it’s obvious what kind of whiteness is talked about here.

      I honestly do not see where the class assumption came from. however, even if that’s not what is meant here, reality tells us that whiteness as a social construct and also as a race comes with privileges, regardless of the socioeconomic class.

      and for the record no white person is born confused about their nationality, while others are.

      • my point was that the experience of a borderless world doesn’t hold true for all ‘white people’ – not in the US and not in the world. and i’m asking what point is intended by this reduction?

        & @ ‘and for the record no white person is born confused about their nationality, while others are.’

        what, seriously? just in modern history —
        east / west Germany, balkanization, breakup of Yugoslavia & the dissolution of the USSR
        military occupation of Ireland

    • first of all — this isn’t an academic manifesto. it’s a memoir-inspired short short (story). you’re making a lot of assumptions about what i’m trying to say. and that’s fine bc it’s a creative piece. but it seems to me you’re not really aware of that given your reaction.

      there is nothing in this that assumes all white people are middle to upper class US citizens. even so, whiteness does not have to fall in to that specific category to imply being born with privilege of nationality, or freedom of movement, or encouragement of imagination to said movement.

      also re: your comment below — the point isn’t that a borderless world actually exists for white people or for *anyone*… if anything this is a complication of how we as children felt free enough or inhibited in how we “knew” borders.

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