Our Innocence

You’ve probably cringed
Once or twice
At the sight of a
Black man with a
Gun held to his face, as
He sits in his car
Unable to reach for his license because the
Barrel threatens to launch the
Taking of his soul
Should he dare to
Comply with the officer who at once
Demands hands to be seen, and a
Wallet to be retrieved from a pocket
Both demands must be complied
Unless the man behind the wheel
Someone’s father and son
Is willing to die

You probably tell your friends
You just can’t understand how
People can be so hateful
What is wrong with them, though?
How can someone be
That cowardly
That ugly
That inhumane?
You shake your head
Light a cigarette, or
Throw one away
Whatever you do to accentuate
Your anger and dismay

You wish you could just
Not go to your uncle’s house
On Thanksgiving
Because of the holocaust of the
Real Americans
Because if your family really wanted to
Make America great
They’d first understand that
They wouldn’t be doing it again
But for the very first time
How could they have voted us
Out of any hope for any kind of change?
What is wrong with these people?
But you go to the dinner
Because they’re your family
Because you’re grateful for
All they’ve done
For you

Or maybe this is the day you
Make yourself a hero
Send a message saying
You won’t be coming to
Thanksgiving dinner
You’re grateful for your principles
You join the family of a friend for
Collard greens, and
Mac and cheese, and
Corn bread, and the
Grandmother’s sweet potato pie
They’d voted for the woman
They shake their heads now
But there’s laughter, and
Warmth, and
Even singing, and
You’re truly grateful for
Where you are
Until your mother calls you
Late at night to
Shame you for
Having forgotten
Where you come from
Family is family
Don’t you dare forget
You want to feel indignant
But what you feel is ashamed

But what can you do?
You are only one
You are part of a family
Part of a history
It’s not your fault
Things are as they are
You didn’t ask to be born white
You never hurt anyone
You don’t even understand how
This kind of hate is possible
You don’t even want to try because
You have nothing to do with any of
This ugliness

To understand the innocence we
Dare to claim, and to
Defend, as if it is
Our honor that’s at stake
To see this innocence for the
Weapon it has been, the
Mass destruction it has wrought
To dismantle the walls
This innocence has erected
Barricading souls we claim to love from
Ever reaching freedom
Let’s start by reading
Baldwin’s truths about
This world, with whose creation
We claim to have had
Nothing to do

Let’s listen
Without defending ourselves
Let’s dare to acknowledge, to
Understand that in
A country where
One is innocent
Until proven guilty
The system hands out
Vicious sentences to
Millions of black brothers and sisters
While their white brothers and sisters
Make it our calling to proclaim
Our own innocence
The work we claim to be
Ready and willing to do
Cannot begin until
We put down this weapon of
Mass destruction that is
Our innocence

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