From Portside Culture <[email protected]>
Subject At the Mall, There’s a Machine That Tells You If You Are Racist
Date May 30, 2020 12:00 AM
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[ Racist: takes a machine to know one? Poet Karen Skolfield
parodies the obsession of skin color. ] [[link removed]]

PORTSIDE CULTURE

AT THE MALL, THERE’S A MACHINE THAT TELLS YOU IF YOU ARE RACIST  
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Karen Skolfield
January 1, 2014
Splitthisrock
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_ Racist: takes a machine to know one? Poet Karen Skolfield parodies
the obsession of skin color. _

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At the Mall, There’s a Machine That Tells You If You Are Racist

By Karen Skolfield

It’s right next to a Polaroid booth.

The instructions say the needles are small

and barely felt. The pictures, it explains,

have nudity, but no gratuitous nudity.

Special imaging equipment considers

the color value of your own skin  

and calibrates your reactions

to words shouted in your headphones.

You know what words. Reading the instructions

brings some of these words to mind. You wonder

if this is part of the evaluation, if people

who are not racist think only of beautiful flowers,

or are beautiful flowers the very basis of racism?

Does everyone love the violet equally?

Does everyone think the tulip’s been overdone?

You try to think of a brown flower.

There are some. You’ve seen them in catalogs.

They’re called “chocolate.” Black flowers, too,

with varieties named Nightwatch,

Black Pearl, a lily named Naomi Campbell.

Thinking of this makes you hopeful

the machine will know you’re not a racist.

Or does remembering a black flower was named

Naomi Campbell mean you’re a racist?

The inside of the booth is dimly lit with walls

that look as if they could swiftly close together.

Like a grape, you’d pop right out of your skin.

KAREN SKOLFIELD’S book _Battle Dress_ (W.W. NORTON
[[link removed]], 2019) won the Barnard
Women Poets Prize and her book _Frost in the Low Areas_ (Zone 3
Press, 2013) won the PEN New England Award in poetry. Skolfield is a
U.S. Army veteran and teaches writing to engineers at the University
of Massachusetts Amherst.

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