A Common Amnesia
By Alex Cuff
Originally published in Apogee Issue 4
But not yet have we solved the incantation of this whiteness, and learned why it appeals with such power to the soul; and more strange and far more portentous—why, as we have seen, it is at once the most meaning symbol of spiritual things, nay, the very veil of the Christian’s Deity; and yet should be as it is, the intensifying agent in things the most appalling to mankind.
–Herman Melville, Moby Dick, 1851
white butcher paper wrapping the white bagel with the white sesame seeds inside white wax paper white spray paint tagging the framing store on metropolitan before 1691 the word white did not exist white letters of Brooklyn Seoul six white people in the bagel store white napkins the white Nissan sedan parked across the street left over dirty white snow before 1691 the word white did not exist in a legal document the white help wanted sign in the bagel store window me a white girl sitting under the bright white light bulb that many things I do or do not do think or do not think say or do not say are related to this “fact” the pistachio ice cream green even though it is supposed to be white white finding a way a way to be visible or invisible when it needs to be the white coffee mug found on driggs street the white coffee mug taken from leon botstein’s dinner party the white macbook charger soon to be obsolete those fuckers plugged into the white power strip in 1691 the word white was used for the first time in a legal document previously the christian and english indentured servants in jamestown were referred to as christian and english indentured servants but then they were called white the white faux down comforter with ink stains and cat hair the white light on the white windowsill then the other indentured servants who did not have black or brown skin came to be called white white drugs all the white noise all the white pages the white backs of family pictures bayridge 1978 super white whiteness was extended to the poor whites separating their condition from those of african descent encouraging them to hold their heads a little bit higher I’d say it was a pretty successful move even today I see some white folks holding their heads a little bit higher even if they won’t remember why the large white book about the sun the white part of the eye coconut oil white when solid
ALEX CUFF was born in Bay Ridge and grew up in the suburbs of Babylon, Long Island. She currently lives in Brooklyn where she teaches tenth grade at a public school and edits No, Dear magazine. Her writing can be found online in Sink Review, Leveler and Two Serious Ladies; and in print in Diner Journal. She is a graduate of the Milton Avery School of the Arts at Bard College.