A Day in The Life of an Anger Translator

Alarm blaring
The day has not even started and I’m already exhausted
Never enough sleep when it’s the soul that’s tired
Ancestral trauma carved in my bones
My existence nourished from the milk of breasts which have suffered centuries of violence
I stand in my closet and stare at my wardrobe
Which neutral colored blazer will I pair with my black pants today?
I switched out my baggy clothes and backwards hats for social worker sweaters
Imposter syndrome at its finest
You can still see my tattoos through the sheer button up shirts
I open my fridge and pack a lunch, remembering how I used to boost sandwiches
Sometimes two because it was easier to steal once than twice
Remembering using the food pantry for canned veggies last year as I put fresh avocado on my toast today
Out of the door on my way to work
I drive through west Oakland
Past a condemned building
I hear my mothers voice “I worked so hard to get us out of the ghetto and you went right back to work there”
I had to momma

I’m a light skinned cis gendered straight passing U.S. born citizen

I hear my grandmas voice scold me in Spanish
“Why do you work with filth?”
Referring to the fact that I work in crisis intervention
When I worked at the domestic violence shelter she used to tell people I worked with homeless people
God forbid we talk about intimate partner violence
Defend machismo til death
Probably a death at the hands of machismo
I work at a rape crisis center now with sexually exploited minors who are criminalized, 90 percent black and Latino

My grandmas voice again

I remind my family no one comes to this work because they’re whole
I was the first one in my family to talk about rape
I remind them I’m a survivor and a womxn
The looks on their faces try to silence me
I’m not afraid of them
I’ll talk about my experiences until I’m blue in the face
I fear no ass whooping, I fear no belt, I fear no Chancla
It’s funny how looking death in the face at the hands of someone else changes the way you see everything

Back to reality

I walk through my office
Peeling paint and bad lighting
Just another cog in the non profit industrial complex
My chosen family is dysfunctional and broken
We’re united in the cause though so I’ll swallow this poison

I sit at my desk doing paperwork
Centering myself
Deep breathing
Grounding exercises
Bracing myself

I leave my office to go into juvenile hall to see clients
They’re all angry black women and feisty latinas
They’ll cry and scream in my arms for an hour and go back to their cells
Then I’ll politely speak in court for them in the afternoon
“If I may, your honor?”
I’ll hope the roughness of my hood doesn’t come through my voice
I’ll try to sound real “American” so my Spanish accent isn’t distracting to the court reporter
My client will remain detained
Her and her family will exchange longing looks with tears in their eyes
I’ll walk out with mom
She’ll thank me for showing up and being there for her daughter
She’ll cry and ask me not to give up on her baby
She’ll tell me I’m sent from heaven
She’ll ask me if I think I’m blessed because I grew up in the hood and now I’m here
She’ll ask me why I chose this job
She’ll say she’s glad I’m here giving back
She says I’m the first one that understands her
I’ve had this same conversation a million times
I’ll walk to my car with my heart full, happy I’m in the position to positively impact lives
In the trenches disrupting the status quo
Then I’ll cry and scream when I get home because I’m an angry feisty Mexican womxn too
I’ll sit on the floor of my room and wonder if I’m even making a difference
I’ll sob about the story my client told about her dad because it’s just like my story about my dad
My soul will be heavy with the story about her rape because it’s just like mine
I’ll curse the fucked up juvenile justice system and failing social services system
My blood will boil about rape culture and racism and classism in our society
I’ll wonder about my clients who are on the run
Are they safe? Are they alive? Why haven’t they called? Am I doing this right? Am I enough?

Anger translators are unique.
We’re like Malintzin, like Malinche, the woman who translated for the Spanish and indigenous people.
She’s hated and called a traitor.
Without her translating then a lot more people would have died.
She was also just trying to get a better life for herself.
The sad truth about anger translators is that we only got here because we know what it’s like
We walk the line
We are intersectionality at its finest
We have privilege and marginalization
No one comes to this work because they’re whole
Everyday I face my triggers
This job gave me joy because I found gratitude
I’m not mad about what I’ve been through anymore
It’s made me able to do my job
My old friends still call me a sellout and a square
I’ll sell my fucking soul if it means ending oppression
I’ll trade one set of shackles for new ones if it means I’m the only one in chains
With every breath we breathe comes years of our own trauma
Like Malintzin, I made a choice:
I stopped drawing on the side of buildings and drew in sketch pads
I stopped stealing sandwiches
I stopped blowing off school
I worked my ass off to be where I am
Because what’s the alternative?
The consequences are beyond me
If I am not here then who is?
Some privileged motherfucker who’s never tasted an ounce of hardship?
To perpetuate the cycles that will impact dozens of lives of black and brown young girls?
No
I’m cool
I’ll be the boxiest square you ever did see if it means that it’s me sitting with my clients and not someone who doesn’t understand
I’ll be the Simon of Cyrene to our Dark Skinned Jesus
Simon helped carry the cross but no one remembers him
So when my clients change the world and they become the Rosa Parks and Bell Hooks and Gloria Anzalduas and Petra Herreras and I’ll be but a distant memory
I’ll be the interpreter that spoke for them when it mattered and fell back when it was time
I’ll grow old and grey as the brown and black girls I empowered take over the world
I’ll sit in my rocking chair and drink my tea as I watch them burn it down
Arieana

 

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