Mom would say, “Your dad has friends,
Black friends on the police force, of course
We don’t set down to eat with them.
It wasn’t safe to say to her, “Ahem.
Did you hear what you just said?”
She’d swing one upside my head
And it would be like a garden gate
But with the weight of her stout arm
And the harm she could do with that
Sat me back down on my bony butt.
I wrote “black friends” but that is because
That was not the word she used, applause,
Applause. Clean it up for the publishment,
Don’t cause a resentment for the wrong reason.
It is never the season because I am white
And it’s never right for me to say the N word,
Haven’t you heard? They can, and I can’t
Even in a rant that describes the horror
Of living in a half right, all white world.
My fingers permanently curled into fists
So hard to resist saying to my parents
“You daren’t speak like that to the preacher
Or half of my teachers because they’d see
Just how deeply grained racism can be."
And both sides would take it out on me,
Just a kid, so I agree to hide what you did.
I agree to pretend you aren’t part of the problem;
Another prejudiced person, training me
Explaining to me how life really is right now.
You saying to me “Don’t put your lips there
On that fountain. Some N person might have, too!
And that made sense to you. Perfect sense.
You were that dense, that unquestioning, too.
Ready to do what your white society dictates
And making me into a swinging garden gate
If I don’t toe the line, and hold my confusion
While I pray for no contusion from the slap.
I hold hands in my lap and act submissive.
And I act like I accept all this as right
Because I am white. But, even though I won’t
Say a word at ten years of age, I don’t.