Some of us felt patriotic pride
In the election of a black man.
Perhaps we sighed as if from climbing
We did not climb.
We claimed, “We won the war!”
As if non-combatants are colonels.
Some of us holding a headline or two of history
Say, “The Egyptians had slaves.”
And leave it at that.
And others with eyes blunted for truth-telling
“They sold their own people!”
As if marketing humans were mandatory.
Some of us who knew better before
We moved to the suburbs
Boast about our own discomfort
As if burdened down
“My kid didn’t get in because of these quotas!”
As if we have nowhere else to go
As if we had no choices.
We think the playing fields are level
The referees impartial
Ignoring or scorning the scales of history
On which our own ascension hangs high
On the burdens weighing down the other
The years of cotton, Jim Crow, lynchings,
Judicial equivocations like separate but equal —
and the bodies of
And so many —
How many more?
As if history cleans itself
As if our own absence from the past makes
History not happen
Some of us who think we are the
Only law-abiding ones
Line up behind law enforcement
As if the guys with guns are sacrosanct
Proceeding only on proud principles
As if none equate the black man
With some idea
That he can walk around the universe, our universe
With guns drawn
They kill with the confidence
We gave them
Who see them as the last
Line of defense between disorder
And a good white sleep.
Some of us really wonder why
They won’t accept what white D.A.’s and
White grand juries
We complaisantly conclude
“That’s what thugs do!”
As if we were forced to swallow the bitter pill
We prescribe them
As if we were the ones expected to confess
“My son must be killed for stealing a cigar, for smoking weed,
For running, for playing, for driving, for being…”
Not worried that when we say goodbye to our sons
We forgot to give them
The DO’s and DON’Ts list
So they do not die at the
Mercy of a traffic stop.
Some of us claim
They play the race card
We invented the game
We stacked the deck
We deal the cards
The same ones our forefathers dealt.
At our local pubs where it’s safe
We swap Hate and Race:
“What do they want?”
“When will they stop?”
“Who do they think they are?”
“Why is this our problem?”
As if I ever did anything to right
Which in my unholy
I find no time to atone for