I Didn’t Know

What do you do when your understanding of your life shatters like a Corelle plate hitting a tile floor just at that right angle: there’s no point in thinking about putting it back together? You take what is happening, you read and learn and try not to implode. You start to say difficult thing out loud. You own your truth, even as you are discovering your truth with each step. You write the next chapter of your story. Soon, I shall begin working on the next chapter of my story but right now I’m going to continue to unravel the events of the last 50+ years.

I Didn’t Know

it feels right now as though I’ve been living a lie my entire life,
and I didn’t know

when I look at how I was raised, where I was raised,
the answer about my racial identity is clear to me;
as I look through a different lens at photos of my family, my people,
the answer about my racial identity should have been very clear,
and I didn’t know

my parents moved us out of the inner city when I was three,
we moved to lily white suburbia in 1965;
here I was called a nigger in school and I had no idea what that meant;
I learned they wanted to put me in my place, to make me think that I was less than,
and it didn’t work because i didn’t know

we were always exceedingly polite in public, we didn’t ask for too much
we’d never make a stink over any situation,
we were almost apologetically thankful for what we got;
I figured it was because we were New Englanders
no one ever expressed their true feelings,
and I didn’t know

growing up my brother and I were told to put our hands in our pockets
when we went into stores;
I thought it was because she didn’t want us to break anything
(which, knowing us, was always a very real possibility),
apparently black children around the country were told the same thing,
lest anyone think you stole something
and didn’t know

my brother and I were told that we would have to be twice as good,
and work twice as hard, to get half as much in life,
and I didn’t know

all of my close friends are white, my close friends have always been white,
I’ve never felt out of place but always felt there was a difference I couldn’t put my finger on,
and I didn’t know

listening to the voices of the people participating in “Hard Conversations,”
the words, the feelings, the hope, the despair, the rawness of their truths;
they are saying the same things I heard growing up,
and I just did not know

my brain is filled with white privilege and racist thoughts,
and look at the colour of my skin;
I don’t know what this awakening means at this point in my life,
that chapter is yet to be written,
where will it lead me,
I do not know