What a Time to Be Alive


For the injustices being committed across this country


 

 

What a Time to Be Alive
And be Young, Gifted, and Black

 

Sometimes people ask me:
“What does it feel like to be black?”

I:
“What do you mean?”

They:
“How does it feel to deal with prejudice in America?”

“Well,”
I pause and pretend to think, as if my answer takes thought.
As if
I’m able to ignore the issues unless asked.
it cripples me
As if
I don’t see the headlines.
“white policeman kills unarmed black teen”
As if
I don’t see you clutch your purse when you spot my skin.
you don’t think I’m scared too?

I continue:

“When I was a kid, I liked to play on my swing set in the backyard.
One day, a rabbit appeared in the distance.
It positioned itself a stretch of grass away from me.
I had never seen such a creature in the flesh.
what white fur it has
what tall ears
The rabbit interested me.
“what a good friend that rabbit would make,” I thought.
I prepared to dismount the swing set to approach the rabbit.
I wanted to introduce myself.
Upon my first movement, it hopped several feet in the other direction.
By the time I had taken a few steps, it had disappeared into the bushes.
The rabbit was afraid of anything unlike it.
The rabbit had been trained to fear me,
because it had been trained to fear anyone like me.
As a little boy, it broke my heart.
I was confused.
I was sad.
I wept.”

Then:

“As I grew older, I got stronger.
My legs got longer.
My shoulders broader and my voice, deeper.
I would see other rabbits and knowing of their mistrust,
I would run after them.
I wanted to run like the rabbit.

As I grew older, I got stronger.
My legs got longer.
My shoulders broader and my voice, deeper.
My admiration for the rabbit turned into angst.
I had my own skills, but did not yet realize them.
I was a strong boy, but the rabbit was so quick, so sly.
It stopped becoming about admiration or amicability and more about catching up.
I became envious of the rabbit’s advantage-
I wanted to run as fast as the rabbit.

As I grew older, I got stronger.
My legs got longer.
My shoulders broader and my voice, deeper.
But still, I could not catch the rabbit,
and I began to harbor anger for the rabbit.
Why does this rabbit hate me?”

But:

“As I grew older, I got stronger.
My legs got longer.
My shoulders broader and my voice, deeper.
One day, after having learned the rabbit’s cunning ways and misdirection,
I took chase.
And I caught the rabbit.
But as I stand there with my hand wrapped around its ears,
disappointment and dissatisfaction took a hold of me.

All those years of trying to catch up to the rabbit
had put me in the rabbit’s world.
When I would chase the rabbit, it would do what it wanted to do
go in any direction it pleased.
It had freedom.
I had none.
I had spent a part of my life to trying to catch the rabbit,
going where it took me.
I had spent a part of my life trying to become LIKE the rabbit.
During this time, I had began to harbor distrust,
I had become cunning, sly.

And I realized that I didn’t want to be like the rabbit, because it was fearful
and full of hate.
And I realized I had become less human than that little boy I once was.
So I wept.”

But:

“This realization had made me too powerful.
Once I realized that I didn’t have to be like the rabbit,
once I realized I was different than the rabbit,
once I realized that I was admirable in my own respect,
I became angry.
I became angry at the rabbit for changing me.
And I decided that I was going to become a human again.
So the rabbit put 16 shots through my flesh.

And I weep.”

What a Time to Be Alive
And be Young, Gifted, and Black