BlackFace Poem

Blackface/What if you were born White? 

What if you were born white? 

What if you wore the colour of accusation every waking day

And you could not wash it off? 

What if you were born white? 

What if you were born white? 

And every day you walked past a beggar in the streets, 

an unemployed young person, 

a 5 year old growing up in a shack whose future is bleak 

because she is unlikely to receive good education 

And yet you knew that all of that could be legitimately traced 

to your white skin 

and you can’t wash it off.

 

What if you were born white? 

What would you do? 

How would you shrug off 

the heavy burden 

of slavery that created the wealth of your forefathers? 

The system they invented so that you and your children could benefit 

for generations, picking continents upon continents in which to live on a whim, 

while others would suffer for generations.

What would you do if you were born white? 

 

I am white

I am 18 years old

So I will paint my face black 

Maybe I will be like you 

I will paint my face black 

Perhaps then the sins of my being born white will be erased 

I will paint my face black 

To identify with the sins of generations created by whites 

I will paint my sins black 

I will look funny and I will laugh 

At my silly attempt to change what I cannot change 

I want to forget my guilt and yet I must not

I must let it go so that it does not make my heart cold

Or drive me to run faraway where I cannot see or feel

I must let it go so that its weight does not crush me

I must let it go so that I can live freely

What would you do if you were born with the colour that created racism 

The colour of denialism 

The colour of privilege 

What if you were born white 

Would that weight cause you to be oblivious to the obvious struggle of blacks 

Would it cause your heart to be cold to it all and deny any responsibility 

Curse the black government every waking day

What would you do if you were born white 

Would you be so appalled by agreeing to apartheid that when asked about it you would swear that you knew nothing about it, even as your tongue has failed to wipe off the sweetness of orchestrated privilege off the corner of your lips

Because stolen bread is so sweet 

Even though yours was not eaten in secret

What would you do if you were white? 

 

© siki dlanga

Feb 2015 

 

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