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It doesn’t feel like a time to write Nov 18, 2016

by Imana Gunawan



It took a while for me to find the right words to process to Markeith Wiley’s It’s Not Too Late. But watching it, I constantly thought of the poem “It Doesn’t Feel Like A Time to Write” by black poet Danez Smith of St. Paul, Minn. This response is a re-imagining of Smith’s words.

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It doesn’t feel like a time to write 

because I’m watching a black man do jumping jack shits of emotional labor watched by mostly white people many of whom will probably go home and theorize about “race relations in America” 

like it’s something out of a textbook, leisurely read in decades-old lecture halls built by brown hands for white people 

yes, I did assume

but am I still making an ass out of you and me if it’s less a guess and more a prophesy?

 

it doesn’t feel like a time to write

because I have spent years learning a language

to get the grades, get the grants, get that spotlight

get really good at it, too

only to realize this language is not mine

and somewhere along the way, I forgot where I set my own words

 

it doesn’t feel like a time to write

because though I am of color, I am not black

and my communities still enact violence on those whose skins are darker than ours

call it: anti-black racism

while we work to change that

others turn the other, fairer (skinned) way

 

let’s not forget

that it may never feel like the time to write

because white might has always thrived when black and brown bodies fight each other

divide. conquer. repeat.

I crossed oceans only to find more colonies

It’s a tale as old as time

and history has ways of repeating itself

 

it doesn’t feel like a time to write

because as I sit in that room watching this black man work to excellence

I sit amongst white faces

and in this work, created by a black man, a white character who is a producer holds the power over a black character, the talk show host

and I am reminded that that is not just his commentary

it’s a portrait of reality

I am reminded (as if I need to be)

that this space was not built for people like him, or like me

but I see him. up there. thriving.

 

It doesn’t feel like the time to write

because while white faces can read, and watch, and listen

we are in the trenches

and some days can feel like a battle

that maybe we have lost

 

it doesn’t feel like the time to write

because we are scared

that a simple “Excuse me”

can turn to “Go back to your own country!”

and we are scared not only of people

but of unnamed hallways that tell tales of violence

in the name of upholding white power

of buildings haunted by the ghosts of their past lives

that whisper to the men in suits

“divide. conquer. repeat.”

call it: freedom. democracy. justice.

 

It doesn’t feel like a time to write

despite the black and brown and Native backs that have (literally) paved the way for me,

for all of us

these bodies are still getting murdered

in the same streets their ancestors assembled

 

it doesn’t feel like a time to write

because I still have to walk on eggshells

always say “not all white people”

speak their language, like:

De-escalate. Legitimize. Philosophize.

make sure they know that I still believe they can do better (and I do)

despite the words, the vote, the divide, the conquer

but how many more chances do I need to give?

 

it doesn’t feel like a time to write

because I’ve been writing the same things

we’ve been writing the same things

but a skim is the best most can do

 

it doesn’t feel like a time to write

but I am going to keep writing

in a language that is not mine

until they listen;

but I wonder: will they finally listen when

they realize

 

it is too late?

- Imana Gunawan

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