Kayla Pica Williams (Towards Visibility)

Kayla Pica Williams

I desire to debate white privilege when I am benefiting from its clutch. I desire to debate my racial heritage in a classroom with students who are more Latina than I am. Facing them, mouth open, mind alert, I draw a blank as to what can capture the problem.  Where one of my African American students writes a memoir about being shot in the eye while where my white students write about football. My African American students call African American vernacular “slang” and none of them know what code switching is, but do it naturally. I am aware I am meant to mentor their racial awareness but when one of my students starts trapped for five weeks in China while another grew up in rural Aurora, the starting points are in separate oceans. Neither one of them answers my questions about positionality, nor answer when I ask what they call a highway. Pulling teeth for easy answers means silence for ones on racial theory, in the end I am the one left toothless without the ability to say the problem anymore. 




 On the “objective” side, race is often regarded as an essence, as something fixed and concrete. (Omi and Winant 109)


Pretend that you have tape across your lips,

except you try but you can’t get it off,

to speak or sing or eat or breathe or cough

you try but you are stuck from tip to tip.

You have to cut a hole across the strip.

So everything you do is sort of scoffed

by edge that strip of tape that lays across.

No matter what you do it is eclipsed


by tape that’s stuck across your mouth

smashes pieces of your smile, all that

one sees. The tape that’s stuck to your face.

You say that you are more then just the route

your words do take. But no one can see past 

that tape someone else once stuck in your place.





The notion that foreigners have accents and Americans do not is commonly held.

Shuck 264


If tongues came in colors each one would be tie dyed. Mixtures of rainbow and blacks pronouncing each crevasse holding consonants, vowels. Sticking out your tongue would not be to mock but to mark. Foretell to the world what color you hold. What color would you accent be? Red for the rock colorings in your rural, Nevada dessert? Red for it’s place on your flag that holds a llama, tree, and cornucopia? Red for the wonders of your political aligning? Red for Jesus’ blood you drink on Sunday? To think, in this world of colorful tongues, ‘Americans’ would be pink. How they would ooh and awe at foreign students whose tongues glowed in the dark a myriad of light? How the colors would fade as though they had been painted on the longer they stayed? How they would return home with a pink tongue and become freaks across two continents? How rainbow tongue would be studied as a disease though it did no harm? How Americans would stick out their tongues for ICE to prove citizenship?

No. Every tongue would be colored. Scientists would scrape each one until they turned red.


Kayla Pica Williams is in the fourth year of her English with a creative writing emphasis PhD at ISU. She obtained her masters from CalArts and has published several short pieces in Stirling Lit, Club Plum, and Entropy as well as a novella in Big Fiction Magazine. Kayla enjoys long walks with her King Charles and calls her mom daily.

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