Friday Nite Poetry: Welcome to Black History Month

English: Black History Mural, Reading This sho...

English: Black History Mural, Reading This shows about half the mural which is on the side of the Central Club in London Street. It was painted in 1990 by Alan Howard and members of the club. The building behind, now the Great Expectations Hotel, is the former Everyman Theatre. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Five hundred years have gone by. Five hundred years of chattel slavery followed by brutal discrimination and demonizing. Half a millenia of erasure, excuses, hand wringing, and self-righteous, selfish argument. After all that, so many white people, not just in America, but around the world think wishing it all away is enough. We clap our hands and mouth “we love our black brothers and sisters” and think that does away with the systemic barriers created by five centuries of abuse.
Even among those of us who know better there is an often patronizing sort of tone to our efforts to “save” our non white neighbors. We think we can speak for their experiences, or we pat ourselves on our backs for wanting it to be better while never calling ourselves or our families out. This is, of course, not counting those who are quite happy with the status quo.
I cannot pretend to know what it is like to be a PoC. I am not one, so how could I? What I can know is we dominate the dialogue far too much. We act like any attempt, however small, on our part, should be acknowledged as a Herculean effort or sacrifice. We act like the story is ours to write. Which is why I wrote this weeks poem.
It is a small thing. I hope I do not overstep myself with it. There is an inherent irony in just writing this piece that cannot be escaped. I hope it resonates, I truly hope it does not insult those with whom it is intended to empathize. Fellow whiteys, we gotta back off and listen a bit, and one month a year is frankly too little to ask.

 

February

 

We give you back your history
as if it were ours to take
to begin with.

 

“Have your icons”
we tell you,
“take back your heroes,
“sufferers
“strugglers
“and leaders.”

 

We say all this
with authority
and overweening
pride at our own development.

 

Are we not so generous?
Are we not so kind?
Are we not the best kind
of beneficiaries
and arbiters
of what has been
and what will be?

 

We allow you
all you have been
all you have traveled
all you have carried
and all we have forced
on your backs.

 

Then we pat you on the back
and say
“here, have this one on us.”
Just don’t mind
the rest of the year.

 

Don’t mind
that you are still carrying.
Don’t mind
that history
is still now.
Don’t mind
that your story
is still
by our leave.

 

Or better yet,
say
“to hell with you white girl.”
Say:
“this is our story,
“these are our lives
“these are our struggles
“and you have no place here.
“even with your high-minded,
“self serving,
“generosity.”

 

Tell me,
tell us,
to get bent
to get in line
and to shut up,
and listen,
if only for twenty-eight days.

 

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