Linda Garcia Merchant

Before you speak

Before you speak for me one more time, please don’t.
I didn’t ask you. 

Before you speak for me one more time, please don’t.
Your horrified response is yours, alone. 

Before you speak for me one more time, please don’t.
Speak to me, ask me if I’m okay. 

Before you speak for me one more time, please don’t.
Walk alongside our students on a Saturday night. 

Before you speak for me one more time, please don’t.

Yours is not the number I will call if something happens to me on these streets.

Before you speak for me one more time, please don’t.
Don’t remind me of all those other times you spoke for me in a voice that isn’t mine. 

Before you speak for me one more time, please don’t.
Say their names—not yours and not mine.




Digital Pedagogy Specialist Linda Garcia-Merchant, Ph.D., is the co-founder of the Chicana Por Mi Raza Digital Memory Collection (CPMR), an online repository of Chicana/Latina Second Wave Feminist materials and interviews. With over 10,000 assets and 150 filmed interviews, CPMR is considered one of the largest collections of its kind and is featured in several books, Somos Latinas: Voices of Wisconsin Latina Activists (Wisconsin Press), New Digital Worlds (Northwestern Press) and most recently, Chicana Movidas: New Narratives of Activism and Feminism in the Movement Era (University of Texas Press) co-edited by Maylei Blackwell, Dionne Espinoza and CPMR’s co-founder, Maria Cotera. This Spring Garcia Merchant’s interview with the editors of Chicana Movidas, “Making Chicana Movidas” is featured in the Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies, Spring 2020 special issue on Chicana Feminism. Garcia-Merchant’s research site, Chicana Diasporic: A Nomadic Journey of the Activist Exiled, highlights a political/ideological journey of the women of the Chicana Caucus of the National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC) from 1973 to 1979 alongside the autobiographical experience of living as Mexican and Black during that same period. Garcia-Merchant identifies as bicultural and Chicana, acutely aware of the complexities that continue to present themselves through this identity.

From the artist:  I’m Jessica Thomas, an Iowa based freelance graphic designer, who enjoys designing for print media. I received a BA from Iowa State in graphic design. I believe art and design in any application, should be engaging and incorporate a narrative which is what I strive to do. I primarily design logos, work on building identity systems, as well as designing magazine spreads and promotional materials. In my free time I enjoy digital illustration and creating photographic art with an emphasis on photo surrealism, and portraits.

My website is

Artwork by Jessica Thomas, reprinted with permission from the artist


Wait, that’s not right

Tonight was the night I cried. Until today I have been able to travel a road defined by numbness and the ingrained ritual of survival. Until today I have been able to operate and understand I live in a place that has no clue about the injustices of living brown in a white legal system. But then one more black man has died at the hands/the gun/the rope/the knee of a system that allows this to happen as easily as it allows fireworks and flag waving on a holiday to honor its independence and its illusion of freedom.

A system that says roll through a stop sign and you die. Wait, that’s not right. A system that says the plastic gun you are holding at ten is a threat and you will be killed. A system that says you are threatening with skittles and you should die. A system that says you’re driving down the interstate with a malfunctioning tail light, you will end up in jail with an inclination to kill yourself. A system that says if the search warrant says don’t knock you will be asleep when you die from a bullet meant for someone else in another house/but really do we have to check if this is the right house since actually aren’t all of you doing something notorious because that’s just how you are/is/have been/will continue to be as long as—wait isn’t that? Wait, that’s not. Wait. What? Wait, I can’t breathe. Wait.

I cannot remember a time in my life when I didn’t know someone killed or beaten by the cops. I have always been afraid of the police. In my house there were two talks—one about the birds and bees, the other about cops. I have never known a time where the police cruiser, the paddy wagon, the helicopter didn’t come around to remind me how brown I was—how black I lived—how quickly I could die in the split second of any day. How can I begin to explain this fear? It is a fear that will always make us different — that will keep us different. You will never understand why I am afraid. You will not care that I am afraid, or worse won’t see the point in my fear because it doesn’t happen to you. I will wake in every tomorrow that greets me just as black/brown/queer/woman as I was yesterday and each day that ends where I bested the handcuffs, the scrutiny to my credit, my homeownership, my diploma, my proof of existence because your rules and regulations say I should not mark the spot where I stand. I see your pursed lips that say without saying how much I am overreacting. That was so long ago—the world is different today—the world that presents opportunity to you that reinforces prohibition to me. I go to your grocery store to watch you watching me—waiting, just waiting for me to. Wait, that’s not. No matter how many days I will obey every stop sign, watch every light, stay within the speed limit. Wait that’s not.

Take your finger out of my face—a finger fused to the rest to sign that declaration that made you independent and fused my bond to the shackle you expect is gone. That all I can do is feel and know and wake up to—to make comfortable so as to not to wake me when I dream of the fires and the death and the tapping on my shoulder that shakes me into tomorrow and the cold steel pressed against my skin that you expect to be gone because you shouted it one time, one day, one hundred years ago and like every wrong you wrote into that declaration you think, this has now made it right—now that you amended it. I know you cannot see my anger—a burning spirit fueled by injustice, fanned by the skeptic sporting an AK47 yelling as loud as I do about oppression. Wait, that’s not right.

Today I cannot stand. Today I will kneel in prayer. In a talk with God, the universe, the sky, the air I keep breathing because someone else selling cigarettes, complying with his arrest, buying skittles, walking down the street, playing alone with a toy gun, sitting at home, sleeping in a bed—cannot kneel with me. Today I will cry because of the burden of yesterday and the hundred thousand million yesterdays that cry so loud every time I close my eyes. Today I will cry as I wonder/worry/scream out in the middle of the night for all of my people who have never/will not know/cannot ever know/cannot ever have the officer friendly relationship with johnny law. Today I will fall to my knees begging the universe to still the horror of every given day where death dances in my dreams. Today I will wake up to folks not inclined to justice who chose to burn down our neighborhood businesses—where my friends and neighbors will then show up—masked up, broomed up, shovel up, to clean up, to make right that which has wronged our neighbor. Today I am going to ask for tender mercies for any human that looks at me and says, “I’m willing to listen to what I don’t understand, what I don’t know, what I need to know to move in a direction that doesn’t end with your memory. Tell me how to make my way to a world that lets you and me live next door, down the street, near the park where our kids will play and someday fall in love.” Say this to me once, and I will know we’ve turned a corner. That all the talking heads now a flame will be doused one day because you and I and 340 million other landlords will post the eviction notice on the door of that most important house, that says, “hate can have no place in this land.”

© The Acentos Review 2020