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The first time I heard, "They're different than us, don't value human life the way we do," I was in high school in Central Florida. When I was six or eight back in Greenville, South Carolina, I had heard that same matter-of-fact tone of dismissal applied to me. I don't want you talking to them." Me and my family, we had always been they. The rage was a good feeling, stronger and purer than the shame that followed it, the fear and the sudden urge to run and hide, to deny, to pretend I did not know who I was and what the world would do to me. I grew up trying to run away from the fate that destroyed so many of the people I loved, and having learned the habit of hiding, I found I had also learned to hide from myself.
That fact, the inescapable impact of being born in a condition of poverty that this society finds shameful, contemptible, and somehow deserved, has had dominion over me to such an extent that I have spent my life trying to overcome or deny it.
I have learned with great difficulty that the vast majority of people believe that poverty is a voluntary condition.
I tried to become one with the lesbian-feminist community so as to feel real and valuable.
I did not know that I was hiding, blending in for safety just as I had done in high school, in college. I believed that all those things I did not talk about, or even let myself think too much about, were not important, that none of them defined me.
Everyone and everything cooperated with the process.
Our World Dorothy Allison Essay
Everything in our culture—books, television, movies, school, fashion—is presented as if it is being seen by one pair of eyes, shaped by one set of hands, heard by one pair of ears.
Even if you know you are not part of that imaginary creature—if you like country music not symphonies, read books cynically, listen to the news unbelievingly, are lesbian not heterosexual, and surround yourself with your own small deviant community—you are still shaped by that hegemony, or your resistance to it.
The only way I found to resist that homogenized view of the world was to make myself part of something larger than myself.
No, we had been encouraged to destroy ourselves, made invisible because we did not fit the myths of the noble poor generated by the middle class.
Even now, past forty and stubbornly proud of my family, I feel the draw of that mythology, that romanticized, edited version of the poor.