There is a certain moral dubiety to patronizing the “cool” coffee shop in my historically Latinx neighborhood. At least, I certainly think there is. To the outside eye, I may be just another generationally wealthy white person gentrifying a neighborhood or at least being complicit in the colonial process of community displacement. And if you think that, then I’ve got you right where I want you, because this routine isn’t a passive act at all. In fact, my $7 iced oat milk latte purchase has and continues to be a performance art piece interrogating whiteness.
Yeah. Hi. Welcome to the show.
When I first conceived of this piece I was still at university, completing my studies in a self-made concentration on fabrication and the semiotics of movement. I was asking myself important questions like: does the world need my voice? How can I be of service to my community? Am I lactose intolerant? Soon I realized the answers were: yes, you’ll see, and not really but I just feel like oat milk is healthier.
A lot of people move through this world uncritically. There are those who think their whiteness is a free pass to be apolitical, unmarked. But I know the opposite is true, and that’s why I am constantly forcing those around me to confront the uncomfortable reality of society by living and breathing performance art that forces whiteness into the harsh illumination of the spotlight, where it belongs.
At first, when I bought a $7 beverage from a business that primarily serves recent transplants to the neighborhood who have more social mobility and capital than its historical inhabitants, I felt a twinge of guilt. I thought, should I patronize a business with deeper roots in the community? If I have the disposable income to buy such an expensive coffee, should I be giving more of my money away? But ultimately, this isn’t about being a consumer, it’s about being a creator of provocative, abject, visceral performance art that demands white people think more about themselves.
Also, I don’t know if the Latinx run businesses have oat milk, and I don’t want to be, like, that white girl asking.
So I’ll keep buying my oat milk lattes, iced dirty chais, and lavender matchas in the name of art. That’s my contribution to the world; what’s yours?