Dear America

by Arciene Bonner

Dear America,

We are descendants of the Motherland who knew triangles before any other shape, who knew chains before ever committing a crime, who knew code-switching before ebonics was even a thing, who knew hatred before even knowing its cause.

We are rappers who utter absolute bullshit and it’ll be eaten up; we are reformers, but when we ask for reform we are mocked.

We are performers who can have a muscle spasm and it’ll become a dance trend; we are protesters, but when we march we are blocked.

We are singers who can hum a tune and it’ll span decades; we are speakers, but when we speak we are silenced.

We are New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Huston, Memphis, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Dallas, and many more; we are a compass going North, South, East, and West.

Some of us sag and wear durags while others wear belts a little too high and chunky glasses. And when we do so, don’t say “you don’t act black” or “you’re not like all the other black people I know”—it just adds to the other insults of “you act white”—as though race defines behavior.

Some of us frame our faces with afros while others sit for hours for individual braids that lock our hair. And when we straighten, perm, or flat-iron our hair please don’t say “your hair looks so much better like that, you should wear it down more”—it’s irritating and just plain rude.

 

Some of us are fatherless, pining for a father figure in any man we meet and hoping they can fill the void our fathers left behind when they so cowardly walked out the door. But not all of us are. Some of us have brave fathers who, although realizing fatherhood is a struggle against raging hormones, decide to learn from trial and error,

Some of us are children of crackhead mothers, who we sometimes forget are mothers as they have a closer resemblance to a hospital patient with the infinite scars of needles in their forever outstretched arms, especially when we look in the barren fridge, the money having been spent on their sickening addiction. But not all of us are. Some of us have self-sacrificing mothers who surrender the purchase of that designer handbag they so desire to make sure there'll be food on the table.

Some of us are drug dealers, selling drugs even though knowing what they'll do; I mean heck, some of us are the sons and daughters of those crackhead mothers. But not all of us are. Most of us have never been to rehab, never felt the excruciating pain of withdrawal, and never asked “hey, can I use your pee?” to take this drug test.

Some of us are gangbangers, who would rather do life than be labeled a snitch, living by snitches get stitches, knowing that silence is life with a promise of food and snitching is a bullet to the head. But not all of us are. Most of us don’t fear snitching as to us being labeled a snitch isn’t a death sentence but rather an unfortunate annoyance of telling the truth.

Some of us are killers, who take pride in the black teardrops that fall from their eyes, blackened by the lack of remorse, sometimes competing to see who gets the most. But not all of us are. Most of us wouldn’t even hurt a fly as its splattered guts are a disgusting constant reminder of the life that we have thoughtlessly stolen; I mean heck, they only live for about a month.

Some of us are these things but not all of us are, we aren’t confined to these roles and we refuse to be confined, we will break down any statistic that wishes to do so and will refute any argument that says so. I’m sure you know and I’m sure you’ve heard. I know you’ve seen it. The things we'll do to tear down those walls.

We have...

              refused to give up our seat

              marched across bridges

              asked to be served

              rioted in the streets

              hashtagged #blacklivesmatter

And we will continue to do so, as it is all we know how to do.

It's pretty simple, we are just unapologetically defiant.

Because, we are who we are. WE ARE BLACK.

About the Author

Arciene writes to invite an array of preconceived notions of first encounters.