when white family visits

Poem: When White Family Visits

Written by: Yasmine Badaoui. 


When White Family visits, it’s just shy of unannounced, last minute—

a funeral,

a grievance,


a break from the countryside.


When White Family visits,

mind your manners and as my brother reminds me often;

“Ignore everything they say,”


When White Family visits, keep talk small,

don’t say things in Arabic,

they look at you funny,

and never say “White people”

because Grandma will correct you,

heavy Appalachian twanging

“If you aren’t white, then what are ya, Black?


When White Family visits,

hide the salt because mama will cry that it’s all over the counter,

hide the cookies because Grandpa will eat them and have an episode,

And the parts of yourself they won’t forgive,

But keep your prayer rug where they can see it.


One visit on the veranda,

At high-noon,

Your first cousins from Benin bring over their hookah and playing cards,

And Grandpa gives a sermon

cutting an apple,

“Only some shall be saved,

and the wicked will burn

in the sulfur pits of the burning lake,”

“The righteous attain second life,

while the vile attain second death,”

When he mock motions the knife across his neck,

Your 14-year-old sister squeaks;

“Grandpa its only tobacco,

Granny smokes Winstons.”


When White Family visits, you forget

that Grandma still refers to your mother’s 10-year-old hijab

as a “rag,”

that its blue-eyed Jesus

Trump confederacy

or bust,

that you’re foreign,

but not.


One visit,

around the table,

Everyone gathers

around Chicken Shawarma,

Granny’s favorite,

and mine

Mom recounts the story of the hour,

“We were in line at Walmart,

and you wouldn’t believe

the looks this woman gives us

and Mommy looks right back at her,

mean as a snake,

and announces


she wore that on her head,

you have a problem,


MY daughter”


When White Family visits,

you ride the wave of humanity

through the holler

and buckle your seatbelt until it’s over

with maybe

a fight or two.