Remember sitting at the cafeteria table and one person would leap up announcing that they had a joke to share. That person might have said something along the lines of “you’ll get a kick out of this” and “you guys,this is hilarious” while following with a rebuttal that they in fact are not racist.
We sat side by side in many classrooms; homeroom, math and biology. I looked at you with my eyebrows tightened. In one minute, I would have to decide whether or not I would look past your “indiscretions” or retaliate that I was anything but amused. The jokes ranged from how we never saw black guys in the dark but when they smiled we saw their flashlight teeth. There were jokes that said the lawnmower crooned “run n**** run n*****” and each time you told it people slapped their knees how funny it was. Outnumbered and alone, I laughed falsely not because I wanted to. The need to feel safe lodged a sword in my esophagus and I said nothing then.
Remember tracing the binds of books with your fingers and wondering if there were places where racism did not exist. The quaint bookstore with wire mannequins wearing wool shelves could not be untainted. In fact, men who are indeed average bloat themselves to be larger than life. He stood close and I remember feeling crowded and cornered. Out in the open, my mother side steps closer to his other side because she knows of men like him. The many fathers and mothers with black skin know him too. As the children grow up, prejudices are born alongside of them. As our people give birth, as the doctor pulls out the placenta, out comes the stigmatization that again we must say we have worth.
Blood ran through the streets. Bullets laced the sidewalk. Evidence began to disappear when it was there before. The eyes of witnesses were plucked out. The eyes of witnesses silently strained with pain with reddish clouds.
Before I took a secondary education course, I knew psychology. Children, do not touch the shelves. Do not longingly look at things that are not meant for you and nor should you ever need them. Your worth. Your compassion. Your softness. Your entity.
Remember the women who wore fabricated ambition, stringing fake pearls above you when they looked down at you. As fast as you run-chasing a life that is pulled away from you, remember who they call fast. “Do you want to know why racism does not matter” they utter yanking you by your hair. “That was a long time ago but it’s over now.” I stood in a house where the water gushed in from every side and seeped through the windows. I stood there hoisting my dress up so I could wade through murky waters but when I did they said I was fast.
Remember how you thought love could be bought and you tried your hardest to become what everyone wanted and needed. You contorted in all sorts of ways and every night to undo all of it was a chore. Remember sitting in the classroom, and the people who had snares in their mouth too said anyone could say n***a as long as it meant paying an ode to hip hop. Yet, what is an ode if uttered with false pretense that the lash has whipped you. The searing gaze has pushed you into the corner. The red hot stove is a gigantic furnace and you’re handed a tong to keep the fire burning. The pushback when going forward. The stance where both of your fists are up, but you’ve been taught to be the bigger person-so you do not swing but block reverberating blows. The ode to hip hop of I won’t take it anymore, but I must leave where I am now and go where the birds who have trackers hooked to their leg are. I must go where a bird once caged sung, and ask myself too if I carry a tune.
Remember sitting where you are now, and recalling countless times how you gave yourself the short end of the stick. Remember getting up from that good, old, dependable chair and saying “I have waited for peace but now I will claim it for myself. I have waited to be treated right, respectfully, while speaking of past scars. But now I swing with a closed right hook and swiftly fly with my wings over hot coals of fire.”