Conversation with My Nice White Self

I’m not a racist.
I’m a nice person. 

      We know
      a lot of really nice
      racists
      just like us.

But I don’t see race.
I only see people.

      Is that why we’re afraid to be alone
     in an elevator with a black man?

Black people are racist, too.

      Don’t change the subject.
      We’re talking about us.

It’s impolite to notice
the color of someone’s skin.

     It’s impossible not to notice.
     Impolite is pretending
     color doesn’t matter.

Talking about race divides the country.

       Not talking about race divides the country.
      We’ve never learned how to do it.

Being white in this society
doesn’t benefit me one bit.

      Like being a fish in water
      doesn’t help the fish?

That’s just your opinion.     

      Ask any fish.

There’s no such thing as white privilege.

      We’re swimming in it.
      We can only see it
      if we’re brave enough
      to beach ourselves
      on dry land.
      We can only change it
      if we learn how
      to stand up  
      and breathe
      out of water.

Things will get better faster
if we just make nice. 

      History suggests otherwise.

Why don’t they just get over it?

      Maybe because
      it’s far from over.

Everything I say
they take the wrong way.

      Maybe if we talk less
      and listen more?

But you don’t understand.

      What don’t we understand?

I’m a nice person.
I really am.
Isn’t that enough?


Play notes: This poem has a very different style and tone from much of my poetry. I'm not sure it works, but I wanted to try. I believe that along with every other white person in this country, I'm racist. I can't help but be, having been born into a racist society as a member of the dominant caste. Racism isn't everything I am, but it's built in. With effort I can learn to be anti-racist.



 

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