The Politeness of Whiteness



          I had a colleague once who got mad at me

          because I told him he was White.

          He got so mad that he wanted to fight me.

          But that wouldn’t do so he walked away to spite me.

          So I followed him to enlighten him, ever so lightly.

          But he couldn’t quite say what had frightened him and turned him so red.

          So he invited me to rewrite what I had said.

          Instead, I led with, "No need to get contrite, dude.

          It’s not a plight to be White, like the day done turned to night."

          (He didn’t think that comment was polite).

          So I thought to myself, ‘Sorry, I don’t do polite, when White ain’t actin’ right.

          ‘Cause subtle and kind words to an academic are like gas to ignite

          the right to set the night on fire with their might.


          So I said, “Look-a-here, shall I turn on the light

          so you can see for yourself?

          And put those boxing gloves back on the shelf

          before you get hurt or have to call somebody for help.”


          I dreamt my whole life for this kind of rift.

          For when a colleague would lift up his hand

          to me in thought, word, or deed.

          To put me in my place, just so I could erase

          the years of politeness and slap the taste out

          of his proverbial bootay.

          Enough of the words to say.

          Time for that fast talker to pray that I don’t forget

          what time it is or remember where my secret anger is kept.

          So he said, “I wasn’t trying to fight.

          Just didn’t want to carry the burden of being White.

          All that baggage of years of supremacy, laid on me.

          Took all the trust, sir, I could muster just to stay in your eyesight.

          Can’t we all just get along?”

There he goes, trying to deny the wrong.


          So I thought to myself, “Professors see prose as the doorways to the soul.

          None of us whole anyway, spending most days figuring out something critical to say.”

          So I said, “instead of avoiding the darkness to crawl into the light,

          walk upright in the darkness, don’t be afraid of the night.

          Stop the fight between your denial and your repression,

‘          cause you got the wrong impression about me, dude.

          I didn’t bring up anything you didn’t already know.

          You just didn’t wanna know or show how much smoke you had to blow

          everyday without a care of deed, word or thought,

          pretending you’re not White

          and now your distraught cause you got caught?”


          As for trust, sir, I see it as bluster,

          until you Mister see how the downsize has cut us all down to size.

          And how most of us ain’t ever going to eye the prize.

          And as for the song about getting along?

          You didn’t quote the words of Martin but Rodney,

          who got it all wrong.

          It’s the former King’s words I’d rather sing strong,

          “It won’t be long now. How long, not long?

          The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice”

          and that doesn’t mean just us or just you.

          Brother, if you stay strong,

          we can make it through the night.

          But you GOTS to stop denying the wrong and stop crying about being White.




                                                                                                                                                     Howard Stevenson