How Black?

How Black?

Coincidentally, I am a black girl

who is not black enough unless

the sky gets cloudy

and I become the white girl’s shadow.

She says I talk like her.

Funny how when you’re

born into a system that oppresses you

you pick up the accent of your oppressors.

It’s impressive, isn’t it?

How if you close your eyes

you can’t tell the difference.


I am a black girl who doesn’t “talk black”

and by that she means I don’t talk back.

I use full sentences and proper grammar

because hell if I’ll be caught by

the grammar police.

You won’t catch me trippin.

I walk straight, shoulders back,

and balance books on my head

to get the knowledge back.

Let me tell you, there aren’t

hieroglyphics in Rome for no reason.

Black people are strong.

They build pyramids and revolutions,

both from the ground up.

And when people tore us down

just to hang us

we flew.


In 1882 black people became strange fruit

and best believe they learned how to

haul ass.

That was the first year

an Olympic gold medalist was black.

We adapt to our circumstances.

When people ask

why the chicken crossed the road

we say, “to get to the other side!

Because people were looking back

at him a lot to check if he was still there

and then walking really fast

to get away from him and that made him



My brother crosses the street

so people aren’t uncomfortable,

when he has been uncomfortable

all his life. Always trying to get home

but getting caught in stares that say

“this is his grand plan to rob me!”

It’s not.

He’s just coming home for taco night.

For some reason,

he is always black enough.


And I am just his sister

sick of the same old excuses,

just praying that next year is

the year of no funerals in my family

and my neighborhood

and nobody we know

and nobody.


Coincidentally, I am a black girl who

doesn’t know a nobody yet.

I know too many names of too many dead.

So I stay cautious

and always buy something

at the convenience store to prove

I’m not stealing.


Try not to look suspicious

when you’re innocent.

Throw away your Nerf guns.

Keep your hands where the whole world

can see them

because one wrong move is all it takes

when a bullet doesn’t care

how black you are.