I love airports.
The quick curbside drop-off kisses
like moths bumping together outside of a window;
the satisfaction of selecting ‘No! I am not carrying knives,
aerosols, cocaine, children, explosive liquids, or knitting needles,'
on the check-in kiosk;
the literal relinquishing of literal baggage to a literal stranger
so all I have to worry about is trusting my life and limb
to someone I have never met as they fly
a metal telescope tube that quickly becomes a kaleidoscope
if we all come crashing down.
It still feels like a trip to the amusement park—
complete with swoopy stomach and crappy security.
Did you know:
the TSA have never foiled a terrorist plot! Not one!
You’d think, at this point, statistically, they’d have had to, but,
at DIA, I have only been asked to go through security once—
every other time, they look at me,
and they run through a mental list of people who are not dangerous—
woman, washed hair, white—
they decide it is safe to assume
that nothing is ticking under my clothes,
that there’s nothing noxious in my bag,
and they stamp me TSA pre-checked:
I fit into the box, so they mark me off.
My color still gets me to the front of the airbus
in 2015 'post-racial’ America.
Flying from Boston to Dallas, walking through the airport with
two other graduate school candidates—
only one of us will be offered an assistantship,
and it is not going to be me—
but in security
the beautiful black tennis player from Wisconsin and
the Hispanic master’s graduate from Oregon,
are held back as I am waved through, and I want to shout:
'We just interviewed at Harvard!’
Those brilliant young people
had nothing hiding in their backpacks
other than resignation to racial micro-aggressions and
twenty-two years of working twice as hard
just to be branded three times as dangerous.
White people are so scared of brown people on white planes,
that they’ve forgotten:
during Nixon’s term, there was an epidemic of hijackings–
over 100 flights were stolen at gunpoint—
(mostly by white Americans).
At the time, airlines fought against security,
so as not to alienate passengers,
but tell that to the TSA, because
it’s been so long since I took off my shoes and jacket,
since I removed liquids and laptops from my bags,
since I was treated with anything other than respect at an airport:
that now all I unpack in security is my own white guilt.
Frequently, when travelling with my lover
I find myself wishing that my white-ness
could pull him to the front of the line,
instead of his black-ness leaving us both at the back of the queue.
It’s a trick of the light:
standing next to me, he must look darker by comparison;
standing next to him, I must look darker by association.
In the TSA’s race-tinted glasses,
9/11 plays on repeat:
the windows blow out with tongues of flame,
screaming metal caves into itself like a swallowed apology,
says, 'never forget…
…how we got here’
says, 'don’t actually remember what came before’
says, 'can’t let even one slip by’
says, 'what about him? He looks suspicious. Next.’
— Flight 6505 Denver to Tuscon | emryse