High Alert

Dear President Trump,

We did one more writing exercise in the Saturday allyship class. It was to write a first person poem from the perspective of someone we conjured whose life is directly affected by the ‘ism we chose to write a letter to in the previous exercise (see 8/13/18 letter). Several of us read our poems aloud and it was clear that some of us (though not all of us) are gifted poets. One poem, in particular, stood out. Maybe it’s because I got to hear the backstory when we were paired off and asked to talk about a time we failed to be good allies, or maybe it’s because I knew this person was in the morning poetry class with our instructor, or maybe it’s because he was the only male student in the class and I’m giving him some conditioned positive bias, but the poem he wrote in five-ish minutes from the point of view of the only black person on his college baseball team seemed pretty incredible to me. Other poems were heartfelt and angry and some were meandering and pretty hard to follow. I think mine was overly dramatic and stilted, but as you would know if you were reading my letters to you, this is rather par for the course with me. I’m going to share it with you anyway as it’s a way of officially documenting where I was at that time and in that place. I also hope it serves as a tiny counterbalance to the weight of the deplorable name-calling you’ve been visiting on so many African American people lately.

High Alert

I’m feeling scared
I’m not sure who I can trust
I’m worried that if I speak up and say anything,
no matter how I say it,
no matter how nicely I smile,
they will slot whatever I say
into that little pigeon hole
oh, that’s what the black girl thinks
oh, that’s what black girls think
did she say something?
I spaced out, oh well.

I’m feeling scared
I’m not sure who I can trust
I’m worried that if I don’t speak up and say something,
no matter how interested I appear,
no matter how friendly I look,
they will slot my silence
into that little pigeon hole
oh, she must not care
oh, she must be angry
why is she even here?

I’m feeling scared
I’m not sure who I can trust.

May we all be safe to speak up or be quiet, as we choose.
May we all be happy to truly listen to each and every one.
May we all cultivate healthy ways of being quiet and still with one another.
May we all strive to be trustworthy havens for those of us who are scared.

Tracy Simpson

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