Friday, July 08, 2011

white - a poem

I was born white
the daughter of two middle class Americans
with the blood of Germany, Hungary, France, a Canadian tracker
and maybe a little slave girl and a Mexican farm worker tossed in for color.

I chose this life
as you did yours
long before the coupling which brought about my birth
chose this life of privilege
where there is no worry about getting killed on my street
And I ate purple popsicles from the front porch of a white house
with a lush lawn
and petunias planted down the walk

And I do not apologize to you for my white life

I cannot feel the shackles that rub your ankles raw
and bind your wrists
I cannot feel the pain of your multicolored soul
growing up in the middle of a war zone
streets painted with blood and graffiti
while I finger-painted flowers and rainbows at my mamma’s kitchen table

I do not know the struggles you faced just getting by
while your daddies and brothers were rounded up by white cops
for the color of their skin and being in the wrong place at the wrong time
My daddy drove his truck home every day at five

And I am not sorry

I did not hear gunshots in the street over the songs my mother sang to me in my cradle
I listened to the creek water trickle over rocks
while dogs barked and the wind brushed across my face

And I am not sorry

What do you want from me black man? Latino woman? Navajo child?

You do not want my skin – pale and freckling, burning in the sun
You do not want my sympathy – the struggle has made you strong enough to reject my well-intentioned overtures
You do not want my money – you are proud and independent
You do not want my history – yours is rich and all your own

What do you want from this white girl?

You say “nothing” and I don’t believe you as you look at me with suspicious eyes

I think you want me to pay for the sins of my father, and his father before
And I hope that I’m wrong, because I cannot fix your history, mend the rent fabric of your tattered blanket or glue together the pieces of your wounded soul.

There is no band-aid to heal the wounds left on the red skin of the natives or on the land stolen and scarred with skyscrapers and mini malls

And that’s the problem – you have to live with it and I have to live with it
Your blood boils and I can’t cool it off – not with a smile or a loving embrace or even an acknowledgement.

I want to will the injustice of the past away and share my purple popsicle, but it’s too late and your daddy didn’t live on my street.

All I can do is tell the children, the young and color blind
Teach them that graffiti and finger-painting are good for the soul
Teach them to share their purple popsicles ‘til the world runs out

And no one has to be sorry

Melissa Bachara Rohwedder - May 2003

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White by Melissa Bachara Rohwedder is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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