The New Passing
By: Erin I. Falker
I like to learn and knowledge is my passion. It pleases me in a way that nothing else can or ever has. There is no other feeling like discovering something new, or coming to the right conclusion, it is an indescribable joy. But where I’m from it is not cool to be smart. It is acceptable to have no ideas or creativity and it is admissible to be ambitionless. So in order to survive I split myself in two.
At home my parents support me. I am their light, their hope for the future, their success story. I am encouraged, loved, and valued. At home I take pains to speak the king’s english because it makes my parents happy. At home I am free to strive, and achieve; I am constantly told that the world can be mine.
At school I stay quiet and try my hardest to disappear. I have perfected hiding in plain sight. In the streets I keep my smart mouth shut for fear that a few thees and thous might escape my lips and give me away. I play deaf and dumb. Out in the world I stay in my place with my feet firmly planted on the ground. I can fly, but I won’t. So I don’t.
At home I play the intelligentsia, in the world I play the rabble. I look in the mirror and I don’t recognize myself or the two faces that have come to represent me. I am lost within my duality.
We black folk live by utterly backwards standards. We applaud ignorance and look down upon intelligence. We uphold vice, grift, and stupidity rather than uplifting honest achievement. As a result our daughters and sons, who never wanted to act, are growing up actors. They must play two roles when they should only ever be expected to perfect one, themselves. This is the new passing.
Erin Imena Falker received her undergraduate degrees in Art History and Studio Art from Stanford University and has recently completed her Masters of Fine Arts from Washington University in St. Louis. She currently works as a practicing artist, writer, and scholar.