brown-heavy

Skin thickening;
Melanin to armor.
I see your comment:
it weighs me down.

Back stiffening;
Spine to sword.
I read your silence:
it weighs me down.

Blood boiling;
Heart to stone.
Too brown-heavy,
to carry on.

There’s a joke in the poetry world that, if you feel the need to explain your poem at length, you should just sit down and write a better poem. I think thoughts like that are the reason I find it so easy to qualify myself as a blogger and so difficult to dub myself a poet.

I feel the need to explain everything at length.

Writing poetry doesn’t come easy to me. Full paragraphs pop into my mind when I think about writing.

This poem started there, too.

 

“Melanin poppin'” is an expression used to indicate a pride in darker skin tone, black skin specifically. It’s not a phrase I use, usually, but there’s something that happens to me when I see low-level racism fill my social media thread.

My melanin pops.

I can feel it–snapping in my skin, solidifying, armoring me. It’s a thousand bangsnaps hitting the cement on the Fourth of July, little sparks of gunfire detonating alongside the sounds of America.

It’s a party trick I inherited, one that served a purpose at some point in my ancestry, but I don’t care for it. I don’t want to be weighed down by all that. I don’t want to be armored.

If you’re gonna stab me, I want to feel it.
I want you to feel it.

I want you to know that– for a meme, for a joke, for an advertisement, or as a sign of support to your not-intending-to-be-racist friend– you drew blood from me.  You turned my ancestry into little snaps of light you can walk all over when you’re done with the show.  There’s no residue, no blood, on your hands, so you don’t even wash them when you walk away from the conversation.  It soils the footprints of this country, but the celebration in the sky doesn’t even notice.

.
Metaphors and poetry aside, it hurts.

In this day and age, where you can’t thumb-scroll a half mile without running into a discussion too deep for the internet– it’s almost impossible to avoid.   Someone, somewhere, is saying something racist right now.

And someone, somewhere, is cosigning it:

  • so long as it doesn’t get too racist
  • so long as the racist is actually a nice person who has simply chosen a path of ignorance by accident probably
  • so long as the racism is born from a personal experience
  • so long as we all remember that it wasn’t intended to hurt someone’s feelings and that if someone’s feelings are hurt they’re probably reading too much into it.

The outrageous examples are easy enough to move past.  Outrageous racism is something people who wear my skin color are taught at an early age, for our own safety of mind and body.   It’s something we self-learn at an early age, because children see everything.

I was educated in a soft way, graced with gentle learnings because my skin is not the most dangerous color to wear here.

But I still struggle with low-level racism, and the silence of friends in the face of it.  I don’t know why they hit “like” on a racist joke.  Would you want me to repeat it to Mamasaur? I don’t know why they defend a racist advertisement.  Is a corporation more important than your friends?  I don’t know why they use every word available to avoid saying something is racist, like saying the word makes racism true.

Racism is true, whether you step to or not.

I worry that I don’t present as brown enough. That, maybe, everyone simply forgets that my skin is often the darkest in a room.  That, maybe, this is how everyone talks, all the time, when melanin levels are low.

I wish I could explain how physically I feel the hurt.  I wish I could show you how my face moves away from the screen, how my spine stiffens, how I scroll past name after name of endorsement, and how my heart scratches those names off the list of people I can trust.  My world shrinks in the worst way possible– a t-shirt in hot water, my arms fit through the sleeves somehow but my belly is exposed.  My belly is exposed so my body protects me, my skin turning to armor, flipping over to the ancient side with a thousand tiny explosions.

My melanin is poppin’, but not in the good way.  My brown is heavy, but my brown is safe.

There seems to be a thousand articles on how to be a good ally and I know my friends want to be that.  When an Uber driver refuses to pick me up, when a clerk refuses to sell  to my kind, when dating profiles say no curry-skinned girls, when the world pushes me out– my friends always say they wish they were there to help me hold my ground.

But my ground isn’t really just my ground.  It’s littered with the shadows of explosions past– so much popped melanin that you can feel the bumps and imprints under your feet if you’re paying attention… but it’s hard to pay attention.

There’s so much commotion in the sky, and I get it.  I love the show, too.

I carry explosions of color and light in my skin every day.  It lives on the backside of my skin cells, a built-in shield, a gift from my ancestors.  I call it my heritage, my inheritance, my brown. I call it my melanin.  I call it my American skin.

And when someone hates it just because it is different– even if that hatred is housed in a meme or wearing a joke– I call that racism, and I call it out.

I wish my allies did, too.

19 Comments

  1. I hope you will call me out if you catch me participating in racism. I work to be self-aware, to think about the seeds planted in me by southern parents and grandparents, and yank any weeds I see growing out by the roots, but it is a work in progress.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I will. I really value friends who I can reach out to when I see something upsetting, and know I will not risk our friendship. I count you amongst those friends. 💕♥️

      Like

  2. Sorry if I have ever been at fault for this. I know I have been indirectly, passively, just because I am white in a world where it is still prized beyond all reason 😔 it gives me privileges I am still learning about.

    I hope I don’t have to sap your energy by needing to be called out, but if I do, I hope you will feel able.

    I am glad you do have some very good allies around you. I hope for a future where you need less armour. 😘

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I will continue.
        I haven’t the words for how much I want to live in a world where people see each other as humans first, then judge them by their behaviour and no other characteristics at all.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve never thought of you in terms of color just a dear wonderful strong and loving person. I suppose that is my bad because it assumes everyone thinks like me. They don’t unfortunately. I’m sorry for not remembering and I’m sorry for all of them. ❤
    Di

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Moving back east and living with my family, it’s been quite distressing to me to realize just how racist and closed minded almost all of them are. My Grandpa is the worst, but just about all of them are absolutely clueless as to just how biased they are. I’m walking a fine line between trying to point out how wrong their thinking is and not getting into a conflict that might cost me roof over my head. I’m afraid that my anxiety makes me a pretty poor ally… I’m sorry.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Controlled Chaos: Maybe we who know people like you’ve described should try and think of a way to tell them how what they say makes us feel. That way we are saying it, and owning it, and someday there’s a chance they just MIGHT reflect on what we had to say. Hope I don’t sound preachy! I’m just an ally wannabe … looking for ways to become a better one.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I am speechless. What can I say about the fact I didn’t ask to be born the colour I am. Everything I say or do is loaded to someone who feels the way you do. Three days ago I lay on an airport floor concussed and everyone walked past me thinking I was a drunk. I know what rejection feels like . I know what unkindness feels like. I know what fear feels like. But I can never dare to say I know what you feel like because I am white.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Even when you write paragraphs, you write poetry.

    The world has moved on a lot, but it’s not enough. I fear it will never be enough. I fear that people will always be bigoted and unable to see it for themselves. I fear that I might be one of those bigots. I try my best to just see the person in front of me, not the labels that society gives us. I fear that I often fail, because I don’t always see the labels that the person has given themself, which they feel are important to them.

    Ra, please accept some love from this flawed white girl. ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I lost a twenty year long friendship because I got into an argument with his wife about racism. Isn’t it funny how the one good thing the internet did was weed out the people that you want in your life and the people that you don’t.

    Liked by 1 person

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