To My People


So often, we measure others by our measuring stick. (Incidentally, we often measure ourselves by others' but that's neither here nor there).

What frustrates me is that, while many people of color are angered by the consistent stereotypes hurled onto us by a majority-white society, we tend to do the very same thing to ourselves.

Last week, The Echoes Blog featured a post by Mandish Kalsi: an Indian-Australian woman constantly defending her individuality as it compares to her Indian roots and Australian upbringing.

As people of color in countries dominated by white men, we have to walk a line that is acceptable to the majority i.e. muting our accents, changing our speech and vernacular, and more. Sometimes, to those whose race and/or culture we share, walking that line appears to be a betrayal. The problem is, sometimes there are bits of that line that are simply who we are. And constantly having to defend our race/culture from being placed in stereotypical roles while being attacked by the same race/culture, is tiring.

The following poem is a piece I published in my book of poetry, Mosaic: Pieces in Poetry. Although some of the brand names may be a bit dated, the feeling is still something I unfortunately always wear.

October 2, 2004

So what?

I’m not good enough for you?

I’m not black enough for you?

Ethnic enough for you?

Because I don’t use words like “ain’t”

And I speak correct English

I don’t snap my fingers and smack my lips

Roll my neck and then my hips

Because my voice doesn’t precede me

You question my ethnicity?

My skin color’s not dark enough for you

My clothes aren’t always Baby Phat and FUBU

Because I don’t listen to the same music you do

Then I must not be as black as you

Because I enjoy going different places

And congregate with people who have different faces

I make education my personal duty

And I don’t look like I came straight from a hip hop video or movie

Because I make it my quest

To be the best

Because I’m confident and have pride

Then I must be acting white

Like we didn’t come from the same heritage

As if I don’t know my history

You think racial slurs and white supremacy

Don’t offend me?

You spend a great deal of time

Blaming oppression for your neglecting to try

Looking down at me

As if you’re more aware of our ancestry

But I’ve risen above

What we were expected to become

I’ve ascended past the ignorance of many

And the stupidity of some

So you say I’m not urban enough

Or black enough for you?

Well allow me to set the record straight

And tell you the truth

I can’t be defined

You can’t explain me

I exceed my gender

And surpass my nationality

I am the person racism’s ignorance is afraid of

And the person you’re scared to be

You thought I sold out

But truth be told, you’ve become what we were thought to be

Education insufficient

Simple minded and class deficient

Ill mannered and dim witted

Lazy and illiterate

Incompetent and insignificant

Irrelevant and impertinent

You resent me

For the intelligence you see

I read too much

I think too hard

I’m not quick to play the race card

I don’t give up

I don’t give in

I try even harder

When I think prejudice will win

I don’t just complain when I’ve been wronged

I stand up for what I think is right

When someone takes what should be mine

I don’t give in without a fight

So what makes you blacker than me?

Is it my hopes, my aspirations, my dreams?

What exactly makes me “white?”

Is it because I don’t fit in the stereotype?

Our people fought for us to be free

To have our own goals and make our own destiny

To own our opinions and have our own thoughts

Now what would they say

If they saw you in that box

For years they took away our pride

And our integrity

Belittled our intelligence

And subjected us to conformity

Determined to keep us simple

And deny our strengths and abilities

Aware of the power in our unity

And here you test

The concept we were denied

The chance to uplift each other

And sing a song of united black pride

You’ve become the enemy

You’re like the tool they used during slavery

Expected to put others down

To get recognition

Unaware of integrity’s attrition

But I’m not mad

Because I know what it’s like

So afraid to fail

So you refuse to try

You see, the truth is

What makes me black

Is my ability to stand on my ancestors' backs

To allow their injustice to be my drive

And the results of their struggle

To mold my life

To mimic their perseverance

And intensity

To get to the place in life

Where I need to be

Don’t fault me for my individuality

My fearlessness and multifaceted personality

My pride and my intellect were gifts given me

Through my forefathers and foremothers need to be free

So you can say I’m uppity

Because of where I grew up

But I definitely don’t need you, or anyone, to tell me

I’m black enough

Mosaic: Pieces in Poetry available for purchase here or available in iBooks here.

#poetry #mypeople #blackidentity

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