Ferguson, MO by Clio Ajana

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

A friend calls

White, blond, Iowa bred

‘Can I ask you something political?’

She tells how her 

sister-in-law-to-be posts

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 

for years:

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

knew this.

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

shut out.

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.

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