American Arithmetic

Race implies someone will win, /implies I have as good a chance of winning as—/ Who wins the race which isn’t a race?

Filmmaker Mohammed Hammad

American Arithmetic

Native Americans make up less than
one percent of the population of America.
0.8 percent of 100 percent.
O, mine efficient country.
I do not remember the days
before America—I do not remember the days
when we were all here.
Police kill Native Americans more
than any other race. Race is a funny word.
Race implies someone will win,
implies I have as good a chance of winning as—
Who wins the race which isn’t a race?
Native Americans make up 1.9 percent
of all police killings, higher than any race,
and we exist as .8 percent of all Americans.
Sometimes race means run.
We are not good at math,
though we’re fast. Can you blame us?
We’ve had an American education.
We are Americans and we are less than 1 percent
of Americans. We do a better job of dying
by police than we do existing.
When we are dying, who should we call?
The police? Or our senator?
Please, someone, call my mother.
Divisibility has rules—
divide without remainder.
At the National Museum of the American Indian,
68 percent of the collection is from the U.S.
I am doing my best to not become a museum
of myself. I am doing my best to breathe in and out.
I am begging: Let me be lonely but not invisible.
But in this American city with all its people,
I am Native American—less than one, less than
whole—I am less than myself. Only a fraction
of a body, let’s say, I am only a hand—
and when I slip it beneath the shirt of my lover
I disappear completely.
 

From Tales of Two Americas: Stories Of Inequality in a Divided NationEdited by John Freeman. Published by Penguin Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2017 by Natalie Diaz

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