Obama was crap
Oprah was crap
Rap was crap
Hyper-glamourized gospel choir was crap
Black men were crap
North Minneapolis was crap
Fried chicken was good
Along with hot-dish
Along with suburbs
Along with mega-churches
Along with eating out
Along with Johnny Cash
Along with Chuck Norris
Along with blond-hair, blue-eyed Jesus
Or Family Matters
Or The Cosby Show
Or Kirk Franklin
Or spoken word
Or box braids
Or laughing with your whole body
Or telling the same stories over and over trying to find a different ending —
Reader, I was raised by a white man.
And if you're unaware, I'm a yellow -
I mean negro -
I mean colored -
I mean black...
Ugh, no I mean gal
No, no I mean lady
I mean, woman.
Born in the thick of stereotype and baby mama drama,
I was destined for setback
She was trying
Succeeding, rather; doing well
Single mom, homeowner, early twenties —
On her way.
That is, until, my 6-year old cries for ‘daddy’ became more than her melanin wrapped bones could bear
That is, until, my 6-year old cries for ‘father’ became more than seeing a man -
I mean guy -
I mean boy -
I mean, person...
once a week.
That is, until, my 6 year-old cries for ‘family’ became ghost and haunted her dreams until she could figure out a way for them to become framed on living room walls, and then --
She met him.
Pale skinned —
A 2005 conversation with my aunt would leave me forever scarred:
I asked her for something to drink
Water, she said, from the kitchen
Ooo.. with a snarky face, I made; “I don’t drink tap”
I’ll never forget the way she looked me up and down, did that laugh that wasn’t a laugh, and declared:
You’re becoming like them
My 8 year old self found that to be inconsiderate, and, frankly, rude.
Almost 15 years later I’m scared to admit she was telling the truth:
In more ways than the one.
I was raised by a white man; not inherently bad, but, let’s consider:
I transitioned within weeks from seeing black faces left and right
In church, school, playground and family
To being the only face within miles -
And suddenly -- progressively, rather
Melanin became curse
I hated defending the dignity of my skin and upholding an entire race at the age of 10
So when that country boy looked me in the eyes and declared, nigger, I laughed a laugh that wasn’t a laugh and kept on my way
Or at my first day
At an all-white school
When that one kid on the playground asked if I minded racist jokes;
(Reader, I’d heard stories of being the piece of poop in a field of snow. Speaking up doesn't end well. So I bit my tongue.)
No, in fact I like making them myself
I spent the next year listening to their jokes
'How many white people does it take to screw in a lightbulb?'
I don't know, how many?
'None! They get a nigger to do it!'
Hahaha good one, I laughed a laugh that wasn’t a laugh and, biting my tongue, went on my way
Within a few years, I became immune to ignorance
I learned to walk past micro aggressions
And not think twice about racism as ‘historic’ and ‘non existent’.
Not only did I become immune, I became, in the realest sense,
To protect myself
To fit in
To have a decent chance at being invited to that party
(I never was)
So I’d let them pour literal shit in my water bottle
And make fun of the ghetto blacks we were playing against
All to be patted on the back and be reaffirmed that you're not really black, though. You're just like us!
So I'd laugh a laugh that wasn't a laugh and, biting my tongue, go on my way
So to this white man that led me into adulthood,
I wish you’d taught me that my blackness was not curse
That pastors can exist as more than that of Caucasian men
That its inhumane and wrong to deem black men Satan
That Obama’s presidency was and is and will forever be a crazy insane landmark that we ought have celebrated, not mourned
That my hair was beautiful and didn’t need to be straightened
That women can exist as more than their husbands’ submissive
That when Trayvon Martin died, a part of you did too
But you didn't,
Because it didn't
When I wasn’t asked to prom, I wish you’d have said nothing.
That you’d known 'its probably because you’re too tall and dark'
But, to this white man that led me into adulthood, let me say:
By knowing you I've beaten teenage pregnancy
By knowing you I've graduated high school and am traveling the world
By knowing you I’ve seen 50 year marriages, Swedish museums and recipes from small-town Lutheran Church cookbooks
There's plenty for which to be grateful.
But, truly, I need you to know one thing:
You didn’t save me.
Kept quiet throughout this poem was a woman standing next to you.
It was hard for her, albeit, as I found your words Gospel.
After all, you reflected the hero in my history books.
So to this black woman that, too, led me into adulthood,
The reason I’ve beaten teenage pregnancy
The reason I’ve graduated high school and am traveling the world
The reason I’ve heard 50 year old stories, secrets while braiding on the stoop and memorized recipes from grandma’s kitchen
Know that you’re the reason I’m standing.
and a dented backbone, but
Being a black woman, wife and mother, I saw
That presenting an image of strength became habit
That suppressing emotions became expectation
That needing help from others led you to feel weak
That you were always motivated to succeed even when resources said otherwise
That caring for yourself before others screamed selfish
I'm not sure these are always good things
Truth is I’m confused; a mixed identity inside a yellow -
I mean negro -
I mean colored -
Dammit I mean black
But I’m learning.
I guess sometimes my story feels like an unknown scar
But I’m slowly realizing: