Friday, April 20, 2018

Entitled, empathetic, clueless

Inspired by a news story about a black legislator who called Barbara Bush racist. I didn’t necessarily like her politics or her husband, but I admired Barbara Bush. And at first glance, I was offended by the legislator’s remark. But then I thought about it, woke up the next morning, and this poem came out.

Hey white people,
What right do you have to respond
to a black person calling someone a racist?
And before you start calling me names,
or making judgements about my parentage
or social or political background,
I am white, too.
And I have finally realized
that just because I think a white person
isn’t saying or doing something racist,
I am not the person being offended.
And there is no way I can ever fully put myself in their shoes.
I am white,
There is no way I can understand racism based on skin color.
I am, however, aware of how comments, body language, and actions
can hurt.
How words and behavior can be chosen deliberately
yo taunt, to put down, to put me in my place.
Prejudice based on religion,
Based on age,
Based on sex.
Sex and age are visible.
Religion is not.
As bad as those hurt,
as obvious as those barbs and taunts sometimes are,
They still aren’t
as frightening
and pervasive
as racism,
Skin color.
So, I will ask again,
If you are not black
who are you to judge when a Black person
calls a non-black person
Who are you to judge when a Hispanic or Latina person
calls a non-Hispanic/Latina person
If you aren’t in their skin,
As much as you can empathize,
You can’t ever fully know
the fear,
the shame,
the pride,
The extent to which racism exists.