Wednesday, August 12, 2009

twenty two years

Twenty two years I was alive
Before I realized I was a white guy
No one said I had ethnicity
A cultural identity
"Ethnic" just meant food
Coming from another country
That's not me

I grew up in the 'burbs
Went to a church and a school
Where everybody pretty much looked like me
Oh, there were a few minorities
Black folks, Asian folks,
Indians, Hispanic folks
But there were no white folks
We're all just plain folks
If you were called "white"
You were also "trash"
But I still don't got it right
Cause there was always a "they"
But never a "we"
I'm individual me

If one black man's lazy
They all must be
But that red-handed white guy
Don't reflect on me
Sixteen Arabs hijack four planes
And they're all terrorists
But we don't accuse every white man
of a pipe bomb since Atlanta '96
I'm white and I'm a Christian
But you don't associate me
With one-twenty vigilantes
Who killed doctors
Cause they killed babies
That's for crazies

And then there's history
We've got nine months of class
And one for blacks.
We got eight white history months
We just don't call it that
Cause "history" means white history
And "literature" means white literature
And flesh colored crayons look
A lot like me.

See, I didn't even know I was white
But I have ethnicity
I like paying too much for burnt coffee
I have a cultural identity
I didn't ask for this skin
I was born into it
Born into a privilege of which
I was ignorant
Cause I was taught the lie
And bought the lie
That it's good to be color blind
I caught the lie and swallowed it
That hate was dead in '65
I ate that racism virus
With every sip of water
And breath of air
Cause it's everywhere
It filled up my lungs
Seeped into my blood
Screamed through my pores
Still ignored
Cause I was blind to it
Blinded by the silence of
White moderates

Then I wonder why
We're still talking about slavery.
Ain't that so 1860s?
It's not my fault her
Grandma's grandma's grandma
Was my great-great-great-
Great-granddaddy's slave
I didn't start that fire
But I'm quick to ignore that
I was born into
A post-apartheid state.
By law my grandpa
Had to discriminate
So I inherit a structure
Founded on hate
Y'all know why I relate to Billy Joel
Trying to fight that fire
That I didn't light
And I don't like
Cause it's not my fault
But it is my problem.

If we let that flame smoulder
In our divided nation
We'll watch rage burst
Into conflagration.
Then you'll wonder what they mad about.
In a land where the white ex-con
Gets a job
Before the clean black man
Is there really any doubt?

But what can I do?
Can't change the air I'm breathing
But I can unpack
This privilege knapsack I'm carrying

Watch out now, y'all

Cause I can cruise through the 'burbs
At ten over the limit
And not be pulled over
For the skin that I'm in.
When I walk into the store
It's no guarantee
But the manager probably
Looks a lot like me.
And if I excel
Ain't no one surprised
Not a "credit to my race"
In majority eyes.
When I misuse grammar
And I can't spell right
Ain't nobody thinking
It's probably cause I'm white.
Now I've said my piece
I'll make my appeal
Whites gotta stop denying
Racism is real.
I'll stay on this mic
And I will write a sequel
Every black man knows
We're still separate not equal.
But if he stands up
You'll say he's playing cards
I'm not playing now, y'all.
And I know it's hard
To open your eyes
I didn't realize I was white
'Til I was twenty two
I had to go to Egypt
To discover the truth
But now it's known to you
What are you gonna do?
Don't look in this mirror
And forget your face
If you know
Then you speak
Let's talk about race.


jonts said...

That was really good. It definitely struck some sort of chord in me.

Chops said...

Sweet rhymes, man!

R N W said...

hmm I guess I never really realized I was white either. Not sure what I'm gonna do about it but that's eye opening.

moses said...

You should perform this as a spoken word poem.

inos said...

I did perform it at an open mic in Detroit.

dtomlinson said...

Now this is poetry I can appreciate and understand! I liked it