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The Elephants

From Cruel Work

Wendy Trevino

12.

By the time Bomb published that interview
J had written many emails & I’d
Either read or had to hear about them.
There had been three conferences. When all was
Said & done, a lot of people were no
Longer friends. I wasn’t interested in
Calling anyone—let alone comrades—
Out on the gender, racial or ethnic
Composition of a conference. I’d been
Saying things like this a long time. Any-
Way it was such bullshit. As S said, when
She & L heard J had called the Bay “scene”
“Toxic” & said she’d been mistreated, “She
Was the birthday princess at that party!”

13.

‘Intersectionality’ continues
“To treat identity categories
As coherent communities with shared
Values & ways of knowing the world. No
[Person] or organization can speak
For people of color, women, the world’s
Colonized populations, workers, or
Any demographic category
As a whole—[though] activists of color
Female & queer activists & labor
Activists…routinely[,] arrogantly
Claim this right.” That’s how the feminists I
Met talked. & They didn’t think writing was
Activism & they weren’t activists.

14.

OK. Not all the feminists I met
Talked like that. & many of the people
I was getting to know around that time
Were saying those kinds of things—things I’d been
Waiting to hear a long time. I didn’t
Care that a lot of the feminists were
White. I’d been completely disillusioned
By representational politics
By then. It’s not like I wasn’t seeking
Out other non-white people, but I knew
Identity & solidarity
Were entirely different things. Also
The nonwhite feminists around me weren’t
Talking about “white feminism” yet.

15.

My friend Brandon once said that only white
People get to be individuals.
Some people are told & then constantly
Reminded of who they’re with. This is what
The politics of representation
Depends on & retrofits. & by “this”
I also mean hierarchy—hier-
Archies that determine so much about
How you live & die, which is to say it’s
Not necessarily the case that there’s
No basis for associational
Logic that puts you with certain others.
That’s why you might come to want to be there
How who you’re with becomes political.

16.

Still, representational politics
Is about the imposition, about
The identity imposed, which is why
Questions about the “authenticity”
Of “representatives” always figure
So prominently wherever it’s used.
Who you’re with doesn’t even need to have
Become political, meaning you don’t
Have to care about the people you’ve been
Chosen—often by some white people—to
Represent. Marginalized peoples are
Treated like they’re all the same, which is to
Say these politics are first & foremost
Still most beneficial to white people.

17.

Someone could always argue…. It’s a shit
Show often enough. Nonprofits avoid
This, if they’re well-funded & have power.
Nothing new. If the point is to improve
Conditions for marginalized peoples
Representational politics does
Not just fail—it doesn’t even try &
Instead depends on the wrong impressions
It gives about populations comprised
Of people, who don’t always see themselves
As with each other, as a “community”
To make an extremely limited way
Of measuring “progress” appear somewhat
Legitimate. It won’t stop the riots.

Wendy Trevino was born & raised in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. She now lives and works in San Francisco. Her chapbook 128-131 was published by Perfect Lovers Press in 2013. Her chapbook Brazilian Is Not a Race was published by Commune Editions in 2016. Her poems have appeared in various print and online journals, including Abraham Lincoln, Armed Cell, The Capilano Review, LIES, Macaroni Necklace, Mondo Bummer, ELDERLY, and Open House. Wendy is not an experimental writer.