This is a poem for all the people who have ever sat in a desk
I pledge allegiance to the flag
of the United States of America,
and to the republic for which it stands,
one nation under God, indivisible,
with liberty and justice for some
October 26, 2015 Spring Valley High School, Colombia, South Carolina
You refusing to get off your
Cell phone while in class
Posed a threat
Not only to “the authority”
But to all this
Profit based on oppression.
You are a child,
You are a criminal,
Or at least that’s what they see when they
And so you were body-slammed
For the sake of the status quo,
Made an example of,
Your worth assigned to you
Reinforced as you were flung
To the ground
While all around you, people sat
Unfreeze our hearts and hands and mouths.
The lie we are living CANNOT get any bigger than this.
This brutality that erases humanity.
God, it has happened again
And now I see this is not the exception,
It is the rule.
The rule of centuries of slavery, rape,
Lynching, segregation, Jim Crow,
colored only, redlining,
This is how black people
Are treated daily.
Day in and day out
For twenty years
I have sat in a school desk
And have never
Considered it to be a place
That holds the possibility
My white skin blinds people with my
But maybe today, this desk connects me to you
You who aren’t safe even in a classroom
Who sits in a desk hearing about how God loves the world.
And now I know what I have to do.
Open my eyes. To my privilege, and your pain.
I have to ask forgiveness.
But I know forgiveness is dangerous
Because I know it will change me,
And I won’t be able to just sit silently in my desk
And pretend like you are not beaten down
Forgiveness forces me to look
Into your eyes and see the centuries of
Pain under which you live
Opens my ear to hear your story
Then turns my head to look into
The mirror and see the layer,
A shield of invisibility
My white protection,
My instant “in”
But there is something else.
I reach up and feel the wet cross on my forehead and know
We belong to each other.
Forgive me for not knowing until now.