White People Only Come Out When the Torches Do

Yesterday in Virginia

It once again became easy to talk about

White supremacy.

 

Flag-bearing

Helmet-wearing

Shaved-head hatred

Embodied

Everything I claim
I am not.

 

The governor of the Old Dominion

Told those who were Swatstika-adorned,

And Confederate-flag-waving

To “go home.”

Does he not know that home

Is in a place

And with people

You feel most comfortable?

 

Does he not know

That they were home?

 

When I taught my students

About the Holocaust

We began with the quote that says:

“The sad truth is that most evil

Is done by people who never make up their minds

To be good or evil.”

 

Taking a hard line stance

Was never meant to be a cushioned ride

And here’s to making up our minds

Here’s to not pretending

That when a black man is beaten in the street

My taxes

And my interest

Did not pour the asphalt upon which he lays

Did not paint the white lines

That have the power

To send some in a specific direction

While I head the other way.

 

Here’s to making up our minds

Here’s to knowing rubber bullets

Are also called baton rounds

And no officers were charged

In Baton Rouge

For the murder of Alton Sterling

 

So here’s to holding up our sterling silver platters

As mirrors to our own complicit faces

Here’s to learning awkward silence

When we ask our friends

When we ask our family

To take a look.

 

Here’s to not pretending

That I have willingly not gone to demonstrations

In favor of a more relaxing Sunday afternoon

 

But yesterday in the Old Dominion

Politicians were quick to call it evil

And evil holds a special place in our minds

Keeps it out of reach

Out of my home

And away from my mirror

Tells me that turning my face from the light

Is not made of the same stuff

That “those guys” are.

 

Even mirrors

Are a permanent arm’s length away

From everything I claim

I am.

 

Read this poem

And look at my timing.

 

White people are quick to speak

When the torches come out

It gives me something to point to

Away from my body

Away from all the things I think I am not

And all of the things I know I am.

 

But we make our minds up to be good

When we make our minds up that

Turning our faces to the light

Is not just saved for our sparklers on the Fourth

 

When turning our faces to the light

Means staring down a tiki torch

Means turning in

Means turning towards

Means getting burned

Means understanding that light

Has set churches

And bodies

And crosses

On fire

 

And privilege

Is choosing whether I call it light

Or call it fire.

 

Photo courtesy of JLDMPhoto, Flickr Creative Commons.

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