A friend calls
White, blond, Iowa bred
‘Can I ask you something political?’
She tells how her
a picture on Facebook.
“She does not understand how one shooting
causes riots. She calls me “liberal”
What do I say? How do I get her to understand?”
The pause is ache.
“I know from college that to shop
while black, to drive while black,
to live while black is hard.
What do I say? I am so angry with her.”
The silence covers the years of no
conversations on race.
A nation inflamed -
Hands up, don’t shoot
erupts like a pimple that ached for weeks
on the tender skin that is the American soul.
We don’t talk about it.
We cover it over with accomplishments.
We are post-racial
(Thanks to a black President
who is really bi-racial for those who care and black for those who don’t.)
Yet, upstate New York conservatives don’t
get why one shooting
brings out what brown skinned folks have known
Life while black
from birth to death.
We are one of two nations with race on the birth certificate.
Marked from the womb to the tomb
You are black whether rich or poor.
The darker the skin, the more easily marked
Yet light skin does not help
When the cop stops you for driving a
car that is “too good” for you.
“How I got over” – Clara Ward
Three women in a Cadillac in Georgia
White men who didn’t like it
Fake possession to avoid
the lynching, killing, robbing
of what was theirs.
Oprah knew this
from Swiss sellers
who thought she could not afford
the bag, maybe $10,000
A worldwide phenom billionaire
with smooth mocha skin
supporting her sister Tina’s wedding
Apologies don’t cover
the race realty for living while black.
No one mentions how media
makes living black hard,
even among other brown skins that are black
but not born in America.
I tell my friend this.
She knows she has privilege,
that no one will follow her out of fear,
but only out of lust or desire.
She has a kind heart and empathy.
It is a hard conversation to have at 9:30 in the morning
when you been up every 90 minutes since 3am
and sleep has granted you reprieve for another 85 minutes
before the phone rings.
How to convey a lifetime of blackness
in twenty minutes before she has to go.
How to say – give your sister-in-law-to-be Peggy McIntosh,
tell her to read W.E.B. Dubois,
the story of Matthew Perry,
Benjamin Baneker, Madame CJ Walker,
knowing that until she has lived as black
she can never know the true depths of
why Ferguson was not a wake up call
but a reminder of what we fear most:
walking down the street unarmed
and being killed outright for who we are
not what we have done.
We know that if Michael Brown were white
“unrest” would be short
Darren Wilson would have been named in the first 12 hours
exposed as killer
Not revered as a hero in hiding
Facebook posts asking for protection of his family
as though he is a victim.
We know that if Darren Wilson was black
someone would have taken care of him
and his family
and the media would say nothing
the law would do little
and upstate New York sister-in-law-to-be would say
justice has been served.