LISA SUHAIR MAJAJ
So much goes along with us
on the border of vision,
orphans when we have no names
to bring them before our eyes.
—David Williams, Traveling Mercies
Beyond this world there are twenty other worlds.
—Naomi Shihab Nye, Texas Poets in Concert
One evening a number of years ago, at a workshop on racism, I became aware—in one of those moments of realization that is not a definitive falling into place, but instead a slow groundswell of understanding—of the ways in which I experience my identity as not merely complex, but rather an uninterpretable excess.
Workshop participants were asked to group ourselves in the center of the room. As the facilitator called out a series of categories, we crossed to one side of the room or the other, according to our self-identification: white or person of color, heterosexual or lesbian/bisexual, middle/upper-class or working-class, bom in the United States or in another country, at least one college-educated parent or parents with no higher education, English as a native language or a second language. Although I am used to thinking of myself in terms of marginality and difference, I found myself, time after time, on the mainstream side of the room. White (as I called myself for lack of a more appropriate category), heterosexual, middle-class, bom in the United States to a college-educated parent, a native speaker of English, I seemed to be part of America's presumed majority.
I learned a great deal that night about how much I take for granted those aspects of my life which locate me in a privileged