American, We

My Dear American Family,

Since it is our national identity that you cite
when trying to convince me of the privileges
I have as a person born and living in the United States,
it is this identity to which I hope to appeal.

Since it is our national identity that you cite
when you explain to me that I should accept
your forefathers as my forefathers,
your language as my language,
your culture as my culture
it is this identity to which I hope to appeal.

Since it is our national identity that you cite
when you inform me of how my critique of holidays
for individuals who colonized, stole, raped, enslaved and oppressed
indigenous people, African people
makes me less of an American
it is this identity to which I hope to appeal.

Since it is our national identity that you cite
when you tell me that I should move elsewhere
if I cannot sing the praises of our country without hesitation,
if I cannot ignore that our lived experiences are so vastly different,
it is this identity to which I hope to appeal.

Since it is our national identity that you cite
when you tell me that we must come together
to pray and push legislation for victims and survivors of mass shootings
of White children at schools or White folks in movie theaters
or on campuses
it is this identity to which I hope to appeal.

Since it is our national identity that you cite
as the alleged tie that binds us together,
the commonality that makes my skin as valued as yours
it is this identity to which I hope to appeal.

I come to you as an American.

And coming to you in this manner, I will, for the time being,
package myself in your excuses.
I will be the
non-threatening, calm, intellectual,
pants-pulled-up, music turned down,
non-hoodie wearing, non-cigarette smoking or selling,
not asking for help, hands free of CDs or toy guns,
eyes empty of threat.
I will not even blink.
Though I know docile negro narratives
have never saved Black lives.

I come to you as an American,
heart full of numbness.

I come to you in this skin, as an American,
walking tempestuously, speaking softly
and ask:

Why are you so quiet? Where is your outrage?

Are you not outraged that we, your American family,
are being brutalized simply for trying to breathe the same air of freedom
that you do?

Are you not outraged that we, your American family,
are being murdered by a flawed system,
our bodies used for target practice?

I am raged.
And, as American family, you must be, too.
if you love me.

You must be as fearful and overcome
with grief as I am.

I know you must, because we’re family,
worry about me and pray for me and speak up for me
and protest for me and
call out state sanctioned violence
for me.

American me.

But can you speak louder, work harder?

Or have you not heard my pleas?
For I have told you this was happening to me.
For centuries, I’ve told you.

And now, they show you.

They show you video and pictures of me,
with blood, red like yours, oozing from my body.

And I know you are outraged
because we are all human,
all American, right?

In public lynchings I am posted and reposted and
left as a spectacle, a reminder to my children
of what is possible.

And you don’t even cover my body.

Maybe you haven’t heard me.

I screamed and cried and buried
my brother, sister, husband, wife
mother, father.
my child.
I remained calm,
I prayed, turned cheeks.
then I looked to you, American family,
to see if you were crying, too.
And you were quiet.

With white silence to comfort the triggers pulled
releasing a hail of bullets – four, five, six shots
when they kill me.

And I must laugh somewhere in frantic delirium.
Trying to find some escape
and become numb on the inside.
To keep from going crazy on the outside.

Because if I go crazy,
and act all angry.Black.person
They’ll still kill me.

And you won’t even cover my body.

But it is our national identity that you cite
when you tell me I should be proud
to be an American.

Yet, when they kill me
for being Black,
how American am I then?

And still, you won’t even cover my body.

 

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2 responses to “American, We

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