The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio:
The whitest thing I have ever done in my life was not repeatedly trying to get bangs after seeing pictures of Zooey Deschanel. The whitest thing I’ve done in my life was trying to save Flint youth while I was visiting there. At various points when I was in Flint, I did a cowardly thing, which was to try to suggest a trip in which some of the kids would come to New York with me, because I wanted to open a Pandora’s box for them, the view of the city at night. The skyline! The fucking skyline! I asked the teens if they’d seen New York (they hadn’t), and then asked them if they’d like to see New York (they didn’t know), and holy fuck I hadn’t anticipated that. In my mind, the kids would want to get out. They’d had big Broadway dreams. They’d have questions, they’d want answers, we’d talk gypsy cabs and SAT scores and Plan B in both life and in birth control. But what happened instead is that the teens conscientiously ignored me the entire time I was there—they had no intention of talking to me—so I’d eavesdrop on their conversations, and I’d overhear them talking about how they wanted to be waitresses at some local bar because they heard you could earn mad tips that way, and I fucking DIED, because I grew up on my dad’s tips and knew what kind of life that gave you, and I wanted to save them from that. I’d drunk the social mobility Kool-Aid from college prep programs run by white people when I was in high school and didn’t know how to reconcile all that with what I was seeing in Flint. I had created for myself a world in which I could only feel reprieve from panic if my parents were either dead or at peace, preferably both, and if they were to be just at peace, that would be expensive, and I had to work toward that, and I knew to the gram just how much blood they had shed for me over the past thirty years and I had to repay it in gold. And I didn’t understand these kids who didn’t think the same way. I felt like it was out one fucking job—they were alien to me. I didn’t know how to talk to them. So I didn’t.