2 April 2012 Hanoi
The real Blackface that’s the weapon is the minstrel show,
The Blackface that labeled me out,
Showing people a side of me never seen
But projected onto me,
Such that when so many see my own Blackface,
They see that other
They see that other one.
The one told to them over their kitchen tables.
The one sold to them at the movie show –
Holla dolla-dolla bill, y’all.
‘Cause we also know that there are real Black faces
That see those minstrel black faces
Staring them back in the face,
So blinded by the light that they cannot see their own.
That’s one side of Trayvon’s story-
Then we all know how precious of a story this really is
That a mother lost her darling son
That a grandmother lost the one who used to babysit for the other gran’kids
That the little cousins are still unclear about where that dear boy is.
Blackface means that as soon as your voice starts to drop
As soon as that fuzzy hair starts to sprout all over
As soon as your knock knees start to look bold
You’re no longer a kid
Your childhood is lost
And you must learn to act in ways that would make most sane adults stumble
You learn how not to offend white people
How to speak in a soft voice
How to walk slowly, with an unassuming gate
Lest you appear as a threat
With the knowledge that any of these threatened folks can annihilate you
Wipe you from this earth
Where only a generation or two ago
Men hanged like tree-ripened fruit
Aged on a rope in an instant
From kid prankster
To adult menace in a matter of moments
We’ve all seen that photo of one of America’s last lynchings
Not nearly the first
Not nearly the haste, carnage and human waste that made people cease.
In 1930, not in anywhere near the deep south
Not from one of our southern willows that sway
But in the mid-west
In Indiana, less than a 150 miles from where Michael Jackson was born
And less than 30 years before he came to be,
So that years later when he sings about hate in our multicultural hearts
Or smashes a window in the video
Enraged with anger
Mad from hypocrisy
The sort that we all know all too well
The gap between the promise and dream.
The reality versus the verses etched all around the capital,
Versus the slave hands that laid those very stones.
The women folk whose very gender made them slaves
And the Black women whose faces made them chattel –
But exploitation of a sexual kind
Yes, we all know too well
What a Blackface can do
How a Blackface can scare you
Even when it’s yours.
So, we now the rage Michael felt,
The hate he seemed to have fought though lost,
Internalized but never giving up.
Yet he was born into a world that hated Blackfaces
Where his was a real threat,
Lest he learn to sing and dance.
The hate is real life minstrelsy.
It’s that same song and dance that we as boys learn to perform
And I am tired of dancing
Trying to make nice when people approach me as cold as ice
Smiling and trying to behave
While all their body language tells me that they are scared to death of me
And that they see my Blackface as chilling.
We all know that all the Trayvons in this place
Learn from an age too early to have to teach kids such harsh cruelties of life
That by 13, he could be nearly 6 feet tall and that factor alone endangers his life
Were he to play sports and his body develop.
He would stand no chance of being treated like anything other than a gladiator.
So it’s even more ironic that Trayvon was a scrawny boy they called “Slim”
Seems there’s no real way to win
Though I think that if we as a people can get through this
If we as a nation can have this conversation
The one mothers like Trayvon’s have with their sons
For we all know how people react to Black