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Hiding in America 

Sept 5, 2021

By Moonoka Begay

 

My poem ‘Hiding in America’ discusses my own personal sense of visibility as an indigenous woman, opening with a description of an experience I had a couple of years ago, after I bleached all of my hair. After discovering my heritage, a white woman in a tattoo shop in San Francisco aggressively begged me to dye my hair back to black. I use this experience as a catalyst to interrogate what it means and what it takes for a woman of color to be seen. As a biracial native person, my existence has always felt like towing the line between token and exception. Attending an institution like Dartmouth, has in many ways exacerbated that experience, certainly making me more aware of my indigenous identity as a metric; that which works both for and against me at will. The theme of being visible is fundamentally inescapable, and ‘Hiding in America’ attempts to meet visibility at the intersection of un-belonging. 

But you have blonde hair! She said in protest

Proving to me that the bleach I used to fry the melanin 

Out of my charcoal roots 

Is the only feature making my existence 

Visible

Valuable

I’ve always felt the need to be seen at all costs

Perhaps to attack the perpetual threat of cultural extinction 

Or the insularity of the Bay Area’s neoliberal fog

To reassure both you and I of my existence

A Native woman in an Anglo-romance

The bloody irony

Of

Being the simultaneous exception and credit to my race

Like some type of modern Pocahontas love story that I unfortunately get off on

Except I don’t possess the colors of the wind

Or my grandmother’s pitch black eyes for that matter

When silence becomes deafening

You’ll realize

That there are more important things than hiding in America

 

The Dartmouth Radical