Sunday, August 24, 2014

What's Up With That? (Performance Poem)

I am not black.
Now, this means alotta things, and I’d like to think
That the only one of those that really matters
Is that I’ve got less melatonin in my epidermis than some.
I’ve got more than others, too, enough so’s I can pass for a few different races,
But I’m not.
I’m white.
And if you know anything about the world at all, you know
That that means more terrible things than just
The physical chemistry of my skin
It means more than just
What kind of places I can blend in;
it means I’m a circle confronted by a brick wall full of circle holes
it means I’ll never know what it’s like to know
that one day I’ll be stopped by the police,
and if I reach for my wallet just a little too fast
if I show any fear for what’s happened in the past
More circle holes, this time in my skin.

I’m not black, but I am a woman,
and although at first the two might seem categories so
Yawningly different they don’t even relate as opposites,
I’m a woman. I know what it’s like to know
that every move you make can be interpreted
in a hundred thousand million billion trillion
ways more than you intended.
I know what it’s like to stand military-stiff with alertness as
The possibilities of the game flash through your mind,
If I do this, will they think that?
If I do that, will they think this?
If I
move my arm, if I
flick my hair, if I
shift my weight, if I
frown, if I
meet their gaze, if I
ignore their eyes, if I
put my head up head down shoulder straight shoulders round
my heels on the pavement clicking out the sound
of judgement
feather-light on me compared
to the gallows-weight of some
but judgement falling
Girls read body language well, not
because we’re wired differently, but
because it can be a matter of life and death.
Black boys
Read body language well
Not because they’re guilty,
But because it 
a matter of life and death.

So when people ask me, Hey. You’re white,
and privileged, and
you ain’t never been the subject of direct discrimination,
you’ve only met men twice who feared no recrimination,
you know good people, you have the right skin,
you’re part of a legacy, you’re cashing in
Why do you rant about injustice? What’s up with that?
I say, Yes. Yes I am. I fit through all the white holes in a wall that blocks the road to luxury
(and if it doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about this that freedom of choice is on the other side of that wall, that respect is on the other side of that wall, that peace from harassment and freedom from poverty, sound education and critical skills are on the other side of that wall, then really, I’ve nothing more to say here)
but I’m also a woman, and I don’t fit through male-shaped holes
and I’m privileged, and I’m lucky,
but I’m not stupid.
I can read the shape of the writing on that wall
I see the multitudes of people it reduces.
And I say
It’s not strange that I care about injustice.
It’s stranger that you don’t.
So what’s up with that?

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