Because in this so-called “post-racial society” my oldest son, who’s working on his music degree at the University of Memphis, was walking to a benefit dinner for his fraternity and a woman who didn’t know him told him, “I don’t have anything you can use.” And, he, the wonderful young man that he is, kept walking and allowed her words to miss him. And because my youngest daughter was verbally assaulted because of her blackness. And because post-racial is a figment of the imagination.
I wear the color black
like a thick, heavy fog
that covers me. Only
I’m not really black, more
like caramel-colored or paper bag
brown, but when he told me
I was a fool for believing
racism still exists, I folded up
my bag, wrinkled from overuse,
and shoved it under my bed.
That corner closest to the wall
where forgotten dust and secrets lie.
I do hate you, he spat, but
it’s not because you’re black.
It’s because you’re a nigger.
Your ape-like children won’t
stay in the zoo where they
belong. I can’t find work
cause your nigger ass
took a job that should be mine.
And you people always asking
for something – clean water,
healthy food, a decent education.
You see, he assured me, I’m color blind.
I don’t see caramel or cinnamon or
toffee or a creamy shade of coffee
with the right amount of cream. All he saw
was a nigger and to him
that wasn’t racism. Excuse me
while I take a deep breath —
that word is heavy with history.
It keeps me from breathing
normally, especially when I’m
sitting in a restaurant with my family
and I suddenly feel the brush
of a whisper beside my ear.
You don’t belong here. Go back
to where you belong. And why you
people always make everything about
race, you ape in high heels?
My God, I can’t breathe. And, God,
can I ask you a question?
Where are you? I mean, where you
been? ‘Cuz my people been praying
to you for hundreds of years.
We been pleading with you
to lift the burdens we been
carrying around, dragging behind us
like too small, overpriced luggage
we never could afford. We daydream
in color, longing for blackness that
doesn’t smell like rotten fruit or
the decaying flesh of deferred
dreams. Carrying around my blackness
is suffocating me. Asphyxiation.
My God, my God. I can’t breathe.
And I really don’t understand
why you won’t save me. Why
must I continue to daydream
a blackness that’s no longer a sin?
Is your silence a sign you’re in
agreement with them, that you
want to see me forever be a slave
to the color of my skin?
Peace & Love,
- Note: The title was inspired by the phrase “daydream blackness,” which I read in Paul Beatty’s novel The Sellout.