You Act White

You Act White

‘You act white,’ they told me.

‘I don’t know why, maybe it’s the way you talk,’

‘It’s where you live,’

‘You are just so polite,’

‘You are basically a white girl.’

 

That’s what they have told me my whole life.

 

But I look down at myself;

My dark chocolate skin,

The contours of my body

the tapestry my family has woven.

And I don’t see what they see.

 

I see a black girl,

 

Dripping in melanin like rich syrup,

Crying out for the warmth of the sun,

Respecting her past

And the past of the others

who have sacrificed everything for her.

 

I see a rich girl-

 

Not in wealth; but in life,

In love,

In respect,

Rich in culture,

Rich in history.

 

‘You act white.’

 

If it’s the way I talk,

Why is diction and clear speech not black?

The smooth outlines of my voice,

My calm assertiveness?

 

If it’s where I live,

Why is the life my parents worked for, not black?

They worked through prejudice

to give me everything they could.

 

If it’s because I’m polite,

Why is it rude to be black?

The very nature of my skin,

Interrupting your perfect ivory picture.

 

If everything good is white,

 

Every flaw is black;

 

But my black makes me strong,

My black makes me confident,

My black makes me fierce,

And my black scares you.

 

Because if I am strong,

Black can be strong;

 

If I have power,

Black can have power;

 

And if I am good,

Then black can be good.

 

So do not tell me you see white,

 

Because I see black,

 

Dripping in melanin like rich syrup,

Crying out for the warmth of the sun,

Respecting her past

And the past of the others

who have sacrificed everything for her.

 

And if that scares you,

 

Get used to it.

 

Piece by Sydney Gittens