Stuck in Grey


When I was born, I was white.
So light skinned that my mother maybe wasn’t faithful,
whispered the villagers in spite
only the fact that I was the mirror of my father
darkened the scandalous lightness of my skin in their eyes.
I left the land of my mother, seeking to go farther
properly darkened by the sun of that dark land,
which shone brightly beautiful in my childish remembrance
only to enter a land of albinos, where I stand
apart after just learning what it meant to belong.
Outcasted again by the same curse of color, which I,
in childish remembrance thought beautiful but that didn’t last long.
Children, the cruelest of bullies in their parrot-like innocence
repeating what parents could only whisper in the darkness,
the darkness that only evil inhabits, only savages, you could sense
the fear inherent in the plastered smiles and silent poison
of their overbearing sweetness and carefully chosen phrases.

It was at that moment that I learned what it was to be grey.
Fading from view into the crowd, shedding my color to belong.
I lived and loved in this grey world, wholly unconscious until 2011
when my world ended in an explosion of color and creativity and life
All in the dark land where the sun shines brightly beautiful
just like I remembered from my childhood of chasing cows.
I also remembered the simplicity of wearing a matching shade
and blending into the crowd without fear of offence
and not having to fade in the obscurity of extravagance
loudly proclaiming my presence just to give them time to cross the street.
I was able to run without the weight of an entire race on my shoulders
I made no excuses for my color but simply existed as a part of a whole.
My grey world could not stand the assault of awareness of that bright sun
and my eyes, long blinded to the casual cruelties finally opened, shocked.
Shocked at what I saw and what I remembered, as scenes seen through the
shadowy lenses of my grey existence flushed with color.

Ha. Ha. Hey, Moses, how do you get a nigger down from a tree.
You cut the rope. 6th grade lunch table. I laughed that day.
Surrounded by my white friends. Fitting in and belonging.
I laughed, because after all it was only a joke.
I mean my parents parents weren’t slaves, what did it matter.

Ha. Ha. You’re like an Oreo, black on the outside and white on the inside.
I mean come on, you can’t play basketball. You’re an Honors Student.
You don’t even like Kool-Aid. And like, you don’t even talk ghetto, ya know?

I knew. All too well I knew that I wasn’t black enough,
my parent’s suburbia style upbringing beat the black out of me.
Because I knew that to be black you had to be ghetto,
to be black you had to carry your gat, sag with swag
and say nigger a lot. What’s good, My Nigger!
And honestly, to this day I still am not comfortable saying that word.
But even in my “whiteness” I was too dark to be white,
always careful of where I went and with who.
Always noticing the people crossing the streets
or the fathers pulling their daughters closer if I look their way
the mothers clutching babies who in colorblind curiosity crawl
up to me, smile and ask me if I want to play
the surprise on people’s faces when I speak eloquently
and the overwhelming approval that met my “white” behavior,
like some trained monkey cleverly imitating his masters.

I don’t write this to indict anyone.
I write this to indict myself for my years of blindness,
for forgetting that black is beautiful.

But I’m not the only one that forgot.
No. I am not the only one who forgot.
There are,
Black people calling each other niggers,
as if to express their self hatred which each breath.
As if to say that the worth of a close friend is only
that of cattle or property.
Black people in music glorifying the abuse of our women
in catchy lyrics that three year old repeat
as if to somehow revenge themselves upon the race that bore them
after all we “can’t treat these hoes like ladies, maaan.
Black women plastering their faces with various powders
and spending entire paychecks to look white trying to tell
their daughters that they are beautiful just the way they are
Black men going to jail by mistake, but coming out hardened criminals
ready to hate and hurt and murder, coloring the streets red
with the blood of their brothers and sisters.
Gangs so afraid of their own color that they hide
behind reds and blues and spew self hate in form of bullets

We have forgotten as a race that black is beautiful.
I hope my words can be like the brightly beautiful sun
of our dark land of ancestry and shake you loose
from the past of pain and misery into the future that we can change.


2 thoughts on “Stuck in Grey

  1. Hope

    I love this poem. Love how this poem captures what black people encounter, it’s true that we are not in the slavery days anymore but truth is that stereotypes defined by society classify us as ‘black’ or ‘white’ based on our behavior and mannerism. (when indeed our skin color is clearly black)

    # slavery, colonialism- brainwashed us to believe that we are not beautiful, smart, or capable. Good that those days are gone but sad that we have internalized this concept of being minorities and we consciously or subconsciously pass it down to our children. But we can’t entirely blame them, we continue to carry this stigma in our hearts and in our minds. If only we could wake up and call upon our people to let them know that they are beautiful, they are smart and they are capable.
    Well said Moses. Thank you for reminding me that black is beautiful. Very powerful.

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