Poetry - Race and Identity

WHITENESS (part two)

Written by Chloé Sweetlove / Art by Sarah Dahir

 

born without melanin, my first breath in this world was free – unshackled from the pain of grandmothers in chains; ancestors enslaved

the blood of the oppressor pulsing through my veins.

sitting in preschool colouring in reaching for peach and calling it ‘skin’ these are the ways the privilege crept in

everywhere i looked i found reflections of me:
in the babies and barbies and books and screens
in plasters and stockings and ballet shoes that matched feet

it was santa claus on christmas eve
in the milky complexion of imagined fairies in trees
the face of christ staring back at me as i prayed on my knees

born without melanin, i grew up free.

but the world is waking, the cocoon breaking, the very ground beneath us is shaking;

too long have our black brothers and sisters been aching picking white cotton under white whips – backs breaking disenfranchised and incarcerated by white policy making

the revolution has come and the times are changing

yet even now, i see you whiteness… coming to colonise:

you come to me in the darkness of night, disguise yourself as the desire to fight you tell me the ways that you hate being white
and all it has done to deny others their rights;

but whiteness:
you do not get to make this privilege a burden now, acting as though it is weighing you down when all along it has been your power, your crown

but whiteness:
you are not a victim of your race,
you cannot pretend to be ashamed of the colour of your face for when you do so you spit on thousands of graves

but whiteness:
you cannot disown your domination or divorce yourself from authority instead use your power it to dismantle the structures internally

whiteness:
you must be ripped from the root, dug out from the soil of every system and institute weeded from the minds of each one of us you pollute;

let your fall be final and your destruction absolute.

born without melanin, my first breath in this world was free – unshackled from the pain of grandmothers in chains; ancestors enslaved

the blood of the oppressor pulsing through my veins.

my ancestors conquered and colonised –
brutalised, ostracised, paralysed, sanitised, terrorised, traumatised

let me harness them now:
let me conquer the racism and prejudice and ignorance within me so that at long last

melanin can breathe free

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